Gerhard Richter Says He’s Shocked by the State of the Art Market

He even claims his own works are overpriced.

German star artists such as Gerhard Richter showed their compassionate side by donating works to the benefit auction. Photo: Deutsch-Perfekt

The most expensive living artist in Europe, Gerhard Richter, criticized the art market and denounced the hype surrounding contemporary artists, including himself, as a “cult of personality.”

Speaking to the German weekly Die Zeit, the 83-year-old painter said the exorbitant prices his artworks achieve at auction were proof of how “insanely the art market has developed,” and how the prices have nothing to do with the work.

He expressed his disbelief at the fact that even his signed postcards were being sold on the market and fetching high prices, calling it a “frightening development.”

Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild (1986) Photo: Sotheby's

Gerhard Richter Abstraktes Bild (1986)
Photo: Sotheby’s

In a previous interview with Die Zeit in March, Richter spoke about the record-breaking $46.3 million sale of his painting Abstraktes Bild (1986), making him one of the most expensive European artists of 2015.

“I am startled [by record prices] even though it’s nice, good news. The sum however has something shocking. You know the whole art market is hopelessly excessive […] it is incomprehensible, as incomprehensible to me as Chinese or physics.”

He explained that there was a large disparity between quality and price in the art market, citing the $31.7 million sale of his own painting Domplatz, Mailand (1968) as an example.

Gerhard Richter, Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) (1968). Image courtesy Sotheby's

Gerhard Richter, Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) (1968). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

“I found it odd,” he said. “I don’t think it’s so great, although it inspired me to make many other city pictures. When I heard how much it cost at auction, I thought, oh, that is totally overpriced.”

He went on to label the increasing importance of auctions in the art market as “pretty shocking.”

Richter said “When you look at the catalogs which are becoming increasingly terrible you wouldn’t believe what nonsense is being offered at prices that continue to climb upwards. For serious galleries the business is consequently becoming even more difficult.”

The artist also had something to say about Germany’s controversial cultural protection legislation amendment. “The idea of holding on to [important artworks] is nice, but completely outdated,” Richter said. “It really doesn’t matter whether the Mona Lisa hangs in Paris or in Rome as long as it can be viewed by the public and everything possible is done to preserve it.”

Richter has been a vocal critic of the German government’s plans and even joined fellow artist and compatriot Georg Baselitz in threatening to pull his loaned works from German museums should the government go ahead with the plans.

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