Berlin • Paintings from the Birkenau series on display at the Nationalgalerie
He imposes on his painting resonances with history, national identity and the universal collective memory
To threaten the proper enjoyment of the exhibition events of Gerard Richter’s works, we always find the syndrome of the double concept of master and masterpiece. Two nouns, by now adjectival, that impose on the spectator a prejudicial interpretation and prevent in-depth analysis and reflection, as happens for some geniuses of the history of Western art. Behind the title “Reflection on Gerard Richter’s Birkenau Series at Nationalgalerie” four largeformat abstract paintings are the result of the German artist’s long and in-depth reflection on the Holocaust.
On display four large-format abstract paintings the result of his long reflection on the Holocaust
The paintings on display at the Nationalgalerie through Oct. 21, made in 2014, represent Richter’s relentless research into the limits of the representable in relation to the horrendous genocide, with which Germany first and all humanity later, must confront. The four large paintings dedicated to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, on display during 2020 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, are based on photos taken in secret by an inmate.
In the beginning, Richter faithfully painted the images taken by the makeshift camera on the canvas; not satisfied with his work, he painted the images on the canvas; not satisfied with the result, he began a long and meticulous work of analysis and deconstruction of the image, with successive layers of color and glazes, obtaining a result that approaches abstraction. From an expressive point of view, the canvases occupy a borderline space between showing and hiding, documenting and commemorating a dialectic that responds directly to Richter’s poetics, which imposes on his painting resonances and links with history, national identity and universal collective memory.
In 2023, 100 paintings donated by the artist will become part of the permanent collection of the Kulturforum in Berlin
The exhibition is also the first initiative in the program sanctioned by the long-term collaboration agreement between the Richter Kunststiftung and the Nationalgalerie, which will result in 100 paintings donated by the German artist joining the permanent collection of the new building in 2023 housed in the Kulturforum, the 20th Century Museum. With this exhibition, the artist once again reveals the true subject, the ultimate protagonist of his works and of his expressive research: painting, understood as a form of expression able to serve at the same time as a device of reflection which imposes on the viewer attitude and as a language proves to be able to stimulate relentlessly the innate drive proper to every human being.