For its second exhibition, the Espace Louis Vuitton Osaka presents Abstrakt, a show dedicated to German artist Gerhard Richter. The works, selected from the Collection, are presented within the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s “Hors-les-murs” programme which unfolds at the Espaces Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice, Beijing, Seoul and Osaka, carrying out the Fondation’s mission to reach a broader international public through exclusive international projects.
Gerhard Richter was born in Neustadt, near Dresden, a part of the former German Democratic Republic. He grew up and lived through World War II in Reichenau (now Bogatynia, a part of Poland) and then moved to Waltersdorf, near the Czech border. After working as a theatre painter, he began attending the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Dresden in 1951. There, he received a very academic education under the control of the cultural authorities of the time. Specialising in mural painting (for which he received several orders), he finished his training in 1956 and fled East Germany five years later for Düsseldorf. While studying there under abstract painter Karl Otto Götz at Kunstakademie, he struck up a friendship with Sigmar Polke and Konrad Lueg, with whom he organised a first exhibition at an abandoned store in 1963. That was followed up by a second show, Living with Pop: A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism.
Richter took on photography in the early 1960s and began using it to question painting and the purpose of art in the spirit of Capitalist Realism that he asserted in his initial exhibitions. The experience of WWII left an impression on him, and photography seemed to offer the necessary distance to address subjects where politics and history have a direct effect on the personal sphere. Throughout his career he has copied photographs from magazines and newspapers, as well as his own photographs, including images of his loved ones and family photos. In parallel, he has developed a form of abstraction mingling colourful grids, action painting and monochromes.
His first abstract works date back to the mid-1960s, and he continues to alternate them with figurative pieces to this day. Until 1971, his use of colour was rare or discreet; but beginning in 1979, it became generous, striking, and obviously driven by a pleasure principle that emerged more clearly throughout the 1980s. He has also developed various textures using a variety of tools (paint brushes, spatulas and brushes of different sizes). While this gives off a first impression of profusion, it doesn’t take long to identify the rigorous structure in each one. For example, in Möhre [Carrot] (1984), the composition revolves around a central axis delineated by a bright yellow line underscored in grey. Surrounding it are three chromatic zones (grey, red and yellow), each with its own distinctive texture.
Richter actively revisits his early career, as well as – and not without ironic distance – the history of painting, romantic and sublime themes, and geometrical and lyrical abstraction. More than a parallel approach, the coexistence between figuration and abstraction he cherishes emerges as a mise en abyme. Material depth reverberates through the scratched surface and photographed elements glimpsed through transparent layers, while mental depth is materialised through titles that suggest atmospheres, natural elements or first names. Far from being simplistic and conceptual, this research of a lifetime reaches its extreme in its hesitation between erasure and unveiling.
For the Espace Louis Vuitton Osaka, the Fondation Louis Vuitton has specifically chosen 18 abstract pieces by Richter from the Collection, retracing more than 30 years of creation. Two of these artworks, 940-4 Abstraktes Bild and 941-7 Abstraktes Bild (2015), are presented for the first time. This exhibition thus pays tribute to one of the most prolific and iconic painters of our contemporary era.
About the artists
Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 in Dresden (Germany), where he lived until 1961. He first studied at Kunstakademie Dresden from 1951 to 1956, then at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1961 to 1963.
Considered one of the most important painters working today, Richter has gained international renown for his compositions in the last five decades and has influenced several generations. He has won several prizes, including the State Prize of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) in 2000; the Praemium Imperiale award (Japan) in 1997; the Golden Lion at the 47th Venice Biennale (Italy) in 1997; the Kaiserring-Kunstpreis der Stadt Goslar (Germany) in 1988; and the Oskar Kokoschka Award (Austria) in 1985.
Several retrospectives have been dedicated to his work, beginning with Forty Years of Painting at the Museum of Modern Art of New York City (USA) in 2002. Three European museums featured a Panorama of his works in 2011-2012: Tate Modern (London, United Kingdom), Neue Nationalgalerie (Berlin, Germany), and Musée national d’art moderne - Centre Pompidou (Paris, France).
About the Fondation Louis Vuitton
The Fondation Louis Vuitton serves the public interest and is exclusively dedicated to contemporary art and artists, as well as 20th-century works to which their inspirations can be traced. The Collection and the exhibitions it organises seek to engage a broad public. The magnificent building created by the Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and already recognized as an emblematic example of the 21st-century architecture, constitutes the Fondation’s seminal artistic statement. Since its opening in October 2014, the Fondation has welcomed more than six million visitors from France and around the world.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton commits to engage in international initiatives, both at the Fondation and in partnership with public and private institutions, including other foundations and museums such as the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg (Icons of Modern Art: The Shchukin Collection in 2016 and The Morozov Collection in 2021), the MoMA in New York (Being Modern: MoMA in Paris), and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London (The Courtauld Collection. A Vision for Impressionism) among others. The artistic direction also developed a specific “Hors-les-murs” programme taking place within the Espaces Louis Vuitton in Tokyo, Munich, Venice, Beijing, Seoul and Osaka, which are exclusively devoted to exhibitions of works from the Collection. These exhibitions are open to the public free of charge and promoted through specific cultural communication.