15. September 2022
Carina Krause

The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo is currently hosting the exhibition “Gerhard Richter”. The show includes well over 100 works, all presented in a fascinating, richly illustrated catalogue.

In addition to works from the genres of Grey Pictures, Mirrors and Abstract Pictures, there are also examples of Richter’s so-called Photo Paintings, which are based on private photographs or images from newspapers and magazines.

The earliest work in the exhibition is “Motorboat” (79a) from 1965, whose motif is based on an advertisement. Far more personal are pictures such as “Kleine Badende” (815-1), “Moritz” (863-3) and “Ella” (903-1), which show Sabine Moritz, as well as two of their children.
The multifaceted overpainted photographs also have a very private character, featuring family members and friends but also landscapes or architecture.

“Abstract Paintings” from all phases of his career show Richter’s exploration of the limits of painterly representation, non-traditional painting techniques and, time and again, chance, which had a significant influence on the creation of the paintings. This becomes clear, among other things, in the colourful reverse glass paintings from the series “Aladin”, which were created by Richter letting paints flow together or disturbing their flow and finally fixing the result on a glass plate.

The most recent works in the exhibition are 25 abstract drawings dating from 2021. This creates an arc from the 1960s to the present day, allowing the viewers to immerse themselves in Richter’s oeuvre, which now spans 60 years.

It is worth noting that a large number of the works on show belong to the collection of the Gerhard Richter Art Foundation, which was launched in 2019.
As the Berlin National Gallery announced in November 2021, the Foundation will give a group of 100 works on permanent loan to the Museum of the 20th Century of the National Gallery. These works, all of which are currently on view in Japan, will initially be on display in the rooms of the Neue Nationalgalerie, built by Mies van der Rohe, from 2023 onwards, before moving to the Museum of the 20th Century by architects Herzog & de Meuron at the Kulturforum after its completion.

An art foundation proved to be the ideal solution. Richter was always extremely dismissive of proposals to set up a museum dedicated to his work. “A museum would have seemed like a tomb to him, (…) too static. The foundation is more dynamic, allows loans and encourages engagement with the work.” [1]

In addition, the foundation withdraws the works from the art market, thereby preventing them from disappearing into private collections and thus no longer being accessible to the public.

The body of work that will go to Berlin includes 40 paintings, glass and mirror works as well as 60 overpainted photographs.
So far, 127 works have been incorporated into the foundation itself. These include several of Richter’s Grey Paintings, a selection of mirrors, abstract paintings from various decades, the large-format work “4900 Farben” (901), reverse glass paintings from 2010 and examples of his strip paintings.

The presentation at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, which also integrates works from other collections, will be on view until 2 October 2022. After that, it will be shown at the Municipal Museum of Art in Toyota until the end of January 2023, before at least some of the works will travel to Berlin.