Gerhard Richter Triumphs at Marian Goodman London
The much-hyped inauguration was well worth the wait.
The Gerhard Richter show inaugurating Marian Goodman‘s heavily anticipated London gallery is nothing short of superb. Curated by the artist, it showcases Richter’s recent experiments with abstraction, while subtly inscribing these within the history of his practice. The exhibition is not—as some might have feared—the “greatest hits” of an auction favorite (see “artnet News’ Top 10 Most Expensive Living German Artists“). It represents a thoughtful presentation of an artistic mind at work. And it shows that mind as alert to the yet-untapped potential of the pictorial medium as when Richter first rose to fame a half-century ago.
Spread over two floors of the Victorian-era warehouse—tastefully refurbished by David Adjaye Associates—the exhibition features three bodies of work: “Strip,” “Flow,” and a series of painted photographs, which Richter initiated in 1986. It opens with gray monochromes painted on glass. The paintings reflect a monumental assemblage of glass panels, 7 Scheiben (Kartenhaus) 932-2 (2013), which rises from the floor. A rare example of Richter’s three-dimensional work, the piece refracts light and fragments the space, teasing out the near-sculptural quality of the glass works on the wall—and that of Richter’s oeuvre at large.
But little prepares the visitor for the riot of colors unleashed in the other rooms. The “Flow” series captures paint in all its raw splendor. Richter creates the works by pouring different hues of enamel in a tray and freezing the transient composition by laying a glass panel on top. Frank Stella’s famous attempt to “keep the paint as good as it is in the can” comes to mind. In places, the color feels freshly-spilled smooth. Where it was a little dryer when the glass panel was laid down, it ripples and wrinkles, unraveling the chronology of the piece’s making. The immediacy of the material is negated by the glass panel’s cold presence, which renders the paint remote, inaccessible, almost theoretical.
The underlying push-and-pull between choice and chance in the “Flow” works also governs Richter’s “Strip” series, which takes over most of the first floor. The entire series is based on just one of his abstract oil on canvas works from 1990. The painting was digitally photographed and split into thin stripes of colors, the stripes themselves stretched horizontally, printed, and mounted between Alu Dibond and Perspex. Each of the resulting lines is thus the abstracted memory of an abstract brushstroke. Richter’s artistic legacy is also his source material, allowing for a “meta” practice of abstraction.
Marian Goodman is the latest foreign blue chip gallery to secure a Central London spot. The New York grande dame’s arrival in Soho continues a trend started in the early noughties, when the Swiss gallery Hauser & Wirth opened its first London gallery on Piccadilly. Since then, the traditionally-significant-yet-sleepy art hub has become a market powerhouse. Goodman’s move surprised some. The dealer has had a Paris gallery since the mid-1990s, and the logic of running two European spaces a two-hour train ride apart isn’t immediately obvious. But her decision to cross the Channel only reaffirms the place of London on the global art map. Richter’s quietly confident exhibition—his first commercial show in the British capital in over 20 years—has already turned the gallery into a London institution.
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