Gerhard Richter’s New Sculpture Puts a Fresh Spin on His Iconic ‘Strip Paintings’

Now 92, the German artist has a been developing an experimental abstract visual language for decades.

Gerhard Richter, Strip-Tower (2023). Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates, courtesy of the artist.

A new public sculpture by Gerhard Richter has been unveiled at Serpentine South in Kensington Gardens. At 92, the celebrated German artist has never stopped experimenting with a range of media and has now created a towering monument based on his Strip Paintings series, which he began in 2010.

Those works played with the possibilities of reproduction by taking a digitally altered photograph of the much earlier Abstract Painting 724-4 (1990) and splicing it into thousands of thin vertical strips that were then reassembled horizontally and placed behind perspex. In this way, the original image is in some sense preserved and yet transformed beyond all recognition.

a blurry figure walks past a long horizontal painting with horizontal stripes running along it in different colours

The painting ‘Strip’ by Gerhard Richter on display at Lenbachhaus in Munich, Germany, 06 May 2013. Photo: Felix Hoerhager/picture alliance via Getty Images.

The idea of continually reflecting, rearranging, and repeating a series of simple units to create an endless array of possible new patterns, most recently explored in Strip-Tower, also defined “4900 Colours,” Richter’s 2008 exhibition at Serpentine. In this case, the artist used elements of chance to compose 25 brightly colored tiles into lively grid formations, of which 49 were exhibited.

a geometric sculpture with lines of color stands in the middle of a grassy park

Gerhard Richter, STRIP-TOWER (2023) © 2024, Gerhard Richter, Prudence Cuming Associates.

The idea has been inspired by Richter’s design for the south transept window of Cologne Cathedral, which was destroyed during World War II and replaced in 2007 with 11,500 squares of glass in 72 colors.

portrait of gerhard richter sitting on a chair infront of his new work titled 4900 colours

German artist Gerhard Richter at the opening of “4900 Colours” at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington, central London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images.

This is not the first time that Serpentine has made use of its verdant surroundings in Kensington Gardens to display public artworks. Just a year after its launch in 1971 it hosted Blow Up ’71, an outdoor exhibition of inflatable and kinetic sculptures. Since then it has continued to present significant works in collaboration with The Royal Parks, like Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirrors in 2010 and The London Mastaba, a mammoth installation by Christo on Serpentine Lake in 2018.

a geometric sculpture with lines of color stands in the middle of a grassy park

Gerhard Richter, STRIP-TOWER (2023) © 2024, Gerhard Richter, Prudence Cuming Associates.

“Strip-Tower is a three-dimensional manifestation of themes and methods that underpin Richter’s historic practice in painting, repetition, improvisation and chance,” said Serpentine’s CEO Bettina Korek and artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist, in a joint press statement.

“Gerhard Richter: Strip-Tower” is on public view in Kensington Gardens until October 27, 2024.

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