Images of the exhibition in the media database
Videos of the exhibition on YouTube
Vienna – Despite all adverse circumstances the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien resolved to keep to its exhibition programme. Not least, because the autumn exhibition planned for many years is bringing a very special and rare guest into the exhibition house on Freyung: Gerhard Richter (born in 1932 in Dresden, lives and works in Cologne), renowned as the world’s most important living painter, is showing a retrospective of his landscapes in the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien. Hardly any other subject has engaged Richter’s artistic interest as much as the landscape, continually spurring him on to new pictorial inventions: the exhibition ‘Gerhard Richter: Landscape’ is a compilation of more than 130 paintings, drawings, printed graphics, photography, artist’s books and objects loaned from fifty international sources. The project spotlights the importance of this genre for the German artist, who celebrated his 88th birthday this year. It is the most extensive exhibition worldwide that is exclusively devoted to Richter’s landscapes – a genre that has preoccupied him continually since 1963. Several of the exhibits in the Bank Austria Kunstorum Wien have never been on show to the public before.
Landscapes – photographic, romanticising, abstract
Richter’s complete oeuvre is renowned among other things for its heterogeneity, so accordingly this is also reflected in the pictorial genre of the landscape: the exhibition is organised into five thematic sections, which individually but also as a totality present an impressive panorama of Richter’s ‘work on reality’. The paintings, drawings and printed graphics are not directly based on nature, but mostly on photographic sources and are thus ‘second-hand landscapes’, as is evident in their sectional character, their blurred effects, occasionally also in writing within a picture. Landscapes with low placed horizon and brooding atmosphere shift Richter into the vicinity of German Romanticism, which he does indeed evoke but has frequently talked about in a critical and sceptical vein: he thinks it is possible to paint like Caspar David Friedrich, but only without the potential of alluding to the intellectual tradition of the Romantics. Accordingly, Richter designates these romanticising pictures as ‘cuckoo’s eggs’ – a whole room is devoted to them in the exhibition. Another room in the exhibition focuses on the importance of Richter’s abstracted and abstract landscapes for the development of his painting. Numerous pictures have for the first time left their public and private collections for this exhibition section – including the monumental, 6.8 metres-wide painting ‘St. Gallen’.
Landscapes – fictional and overpainted
Construed and manipulated landscapes make up a further high spot of the exhibition – Richter’s sea pieces, for instance, in which, collage-like, he frequently assembles the photographic sources of areas of water and sky autonomously together, in no way ‘true to life’. Many re-worked landscapes are placed at the end of the exhibition: overpainted photographs, most of which he himself made available to the exhibition as loans, also landscape paintings, their realism relativised by Richter with abstract colour structures.
Landscape as longing
‘Gerhard Richter: Landscape’ also offers something more and not least against the backdrop of current discussions in autumn 2020 that range from pandemic to climate crisis: the opportunity of a contemplative observation of ‘nature’ and ‘landscape’. Produced in close cooperation with Atelier Gerhard Richter in Cologne and organised in cooperation with the Kunsthaus Zurich, the exhibition enables an encounter with the artist’s key works and for the first time a retrospective view of a genre described by Richter in 1981 thus: ‘If the “abstract pictures” show my reality, then the landscapes or still life motifs show my longing.’
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