Gerhard Richter’s Abstract Alpine Landscapes Will Converge at a Three-Venue Survey in St. Moritz
More than 70 of the artist's works will return to the region that first inspired them.
A new exhibition of works by Gerhard Richter—made in response to Switzerland’s Engadin valley, a prime destination for hiking and skiing in the Alps—is a collaboration between three institutions in the region: Hauser & Wirth St. Moritz, the Segantini Museum, also in St. Moritz, and Nietzsche-Haus, in nearby Sils Maria. With over 70 loans from museums and private collections, “Gerhard Richter: Engadin” brings together a body of work that spans three decades. It opens December 16 and runs through April 13, 2024.
Richter was introduced to the region in 1989 by curator Dieter Schwarz, who initiated the new show. During a trip to Sils Maria, the artist was instantly seduced by its sublime views over the Engadin valley, which rises from dazzling blue lakes into majestic mountain peaks. Richter returned often, going on hikes and documenting each new perspective with a camera so he could transport the landscape back to his studio. There, it informed paintings, overpainted photographs, and drawings that will be included in the survey.
The three exhibition sites are connected by a steel sphere on display in each location. This object is also a portal back in time, having been included in the 1992 debut of Richter’s overpainted photographs of the region at Nietzshe-Haus, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Their matte reflective surfaces capture the surroundings with a softened haze, much like Richter’s own blurry, abstracted landscapes on canvas.
Although the forthcoming exhibition makes use of Hauser & Wirth’s St Moritz location, none of the works are for sale. Last year, Richter made headlines by leaving Marian Goodman Gallery after nearly four decades to join the roster at David Zwirner. He apparently reached out to the German mega-dealer himself, having historically worked with his father Rudolf Zwirner. According to Philipp Kaiser, a partner at Marian Goodman, since the artist’s retirement from painting in 2017, “the Richter market has moved mostly to the secondary market.” In recent years, this already robust market has grown, perhaps because it began to feel for the first time like supply may be limited.
The exclusive representation by David Zwirner was inaugurated earlier this year with a show in New York featuring paintings from before 2017 and new works on paper. (In an email, Hauser & Wirth clarified that David Zwirner was not involved in this latest show.) It appears, however, that Richter has not completely abandoned his painting practice. Last year, he presented 31 new works made with glass paint at Switzerland’s Fondation Beyeler, a welcome surprise. Getting his affairs in order, the artist also arranged the permanent loan of 100 paintings of the Nazi concentration camp Birkenau to Berlin’s National Gallery in 2021. He hopes they will never be traded.
Richter’s paintings of Engadin will go on view at Hauser & Wirth and the Segantini Museum, both in St Moritz. These works are typical of the artist’s landscapes in how they simultaneously evoke age-old Romantic ideals about nature paired with a distinctly contemporary ambiguity thanks to Richter’s gift for building, blending, and scraping layers of pigment. The two venues will also present the artist’s smaller scale overpainted photographs of Engadin, which feature some of the region’s landmarks, such as the mountain Piz Materdell and Lake Sils. These started out as descriptive documents but have, through the application of paint, metamorphosed into exquisite abstract impressions.
“The Engadin has long been a centre of creativity and holds great significance for generations of artists who, like Richter, have been captivated by its breathtaking natural beauty and longstanding cultural tradition,” commented Iwan Wirth. “He shares with us a deep connection to the region as a gallery with Swiss heritage.”
Additionally, 39 photographs of Sils Maria taken by Richter and included in his book December, which was published by Suhrkamp in 2010, will go on view at Nietzsche-Haus. “Gerhard Richter first exhibited overpainted photographs at the Nietzsche-Haus 31 years ago,” said Mirella Carbone, who is artistic director of the Segantini Museum and a member of the Nietzsche-Haus’s board. “Since then, there has been a wonderful relationship between the artist and the museum, which will be further strengthened by this exhibition.”
“Gerhard Richter: Engadin,” curated by Dieter Schwarz, is on view at Nietzsche-Haus, Segantini Museum and Hauser & Wirth St. Moritz from 16 December 2023 through 13 April 2024. The show will be accompanied by a catalogue by Hauser & Wirth Publishers produced in collaboration with Nietzsche-Haus and the Segantini Museum and featuring an essay from Dieter Schwarz.
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