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Gerhard Richter: Eight Grey

”What, you don’t have any colored glass, no pink, no red, no blue? No magic panes, no panes from Paradise? Scoundrel, what are you thinking, going into the poor district without a single pane of glass to make life more beautiful?”Charles Baudelaire, ”The Bad Glass Blower,” Paris Spleen, 1869

With the exhibition Gerhard Richter: Eight Grey, the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin will be presenting the eighth and most recent commissioned work made especially for the exhibition space at Unter den Linden. Following the much-acclaimed retrospective in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (now in San Francisco's MoMA) in the spring of this year celebrating Richter’s seventieth birthday, the exhibition in the Deutsche Guggenheim, which runs from October 11, 2002, to January 5, 2003 will now be paying tribute to the artist here in Germany.

Over the past four decades, Gerhard Richter has advanced to become one of the most influential artists of our time. Interestingly enough, he attained this status without having to limit himself to a single style. His broad spectrum encompasses mainly landscapes, multi-colored abstractions, grey monochromes, and a number of sculptural objects.


Richter takes pictorial traditions and distorts them in order to inquire into the act of seeing, into the patterns of perception our ideas of the world are based upon. Always resisting the temptation to posit a particular mode of representation or style as absolute or dominant, he’s never articulated himself with a subjective, authoritarian voice. This distance is the thread that follows throughout Richter’s work, from the photographs that he found by chance and based a number of paintings on to the usage of a putty knife in many of the abstract works in order to eliminate the traces of an individual hand, to the Readymade quality of his glass and mirror works.

In his most recent work Eight Grey, Richter once again takes up a theme of his oeuvre that already found its inception in the mid-sixties with the monochromes and works on glass. The 1967 installation 4 Panes of Glass could serve as a precursor: through a vertical rotation, four window-like elements modify spacial perspectives.

In a similar manner, the mirrors of Eight Grey can also be tilted into various positions. ”Yet it is only in the work Eight Grey that the transition from painterly object to architectonic dimension actually takes place; it confronts us with a difficult question: whether and how monochrome painting and the architectural dimension of space can be communicated.” (Benjamin H.D. Buchloh).

Using steel beams, the eight enameled sheets of glass have been mounted twenty inches from the wall. They appear as many-faceted objects on the boundary between painting, sculpture, and architecture. For Eight Grey, it was Richter’s wish to replace the translucent glass of the Deutsche Guggenheim on the side opening onto the boulevard Unter den Linden with transparent panes. Thus, the grey enameled sheets of glass not only reflect and incorporate the interior space and the visitors, but the world outside, as well.

Although this ”non-color,” equivalent to nothing, negates any possibility of association, differentiation, or interpretation, Richter avers: ”I’ve never seen a painting that isn’t illusionist,” coming to the conclusion that ”the [grey paintings] evince the most rigorous illusion of all.” Eight Grey brings this paradox to a head: the viewer stands in front of a monochrome field that casts back a likeness of himself and his surroundings. The viewer’s movements replicate the accidental crops of snapshots. Instead of dictating a conformist way of seeing, the monumental sequence of identical planes spreads out into a prism of fragmented and possible views that reflect our real relationship to reality.

Gerhard Richter: Eight Grey will be accompanied by an extensive program, including guided tours, lunch lectures, and special events. More here.

The exhibition was curated by Benjamin Buchloh, freelance curator and professor at Columbia University. An extensive essay can be found in the exhibition catalogue, in which Buchloh places Eight Grey into the context of the artist’s oeuvre and in relation to other glass and monochrome works.

Gerhard Richter has designed a glass prism (6.5 x 2 x 2 x 2 inches) as Edition Number 21of the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin; it can be obtained in the museum’s shop.