Gerhard Richter, Haggadah (P2), 2014. Courtesy of David Benrimon Fine Art.

Gerhard Richter: Abstractions

In 1986, Gerhard Richter discovered a new way to create abstractions. Instead of using paintbrushes, the German artist would use a janitorial squeegee to drag, smear, and scrape layers of wet paint across the canvas. “With a brush you have control,” Richter once explained. “The paint goes on the brush and you make the mark...with the squeegee you lose control.” The radical technique inspired filmmaker Corinna Belz to create her fly-on-the-wall documentary Gerhard Richter Painting (2011), combining three years of studio footage to capture the creation of these squeegee canvases. Among the artist’s most iconic series, Richter’s squeegee paintings have reached record sums at auction. In 2015, Richter earned the title of most expensive living European artist when his squeegee painting Abstraktes Bild (599) (1986) sold for over $46 million with fees at a Sotheby’s auction. Richter’s innovations in abstract art—from his early gridded paintings and color charts to his recent squeegee paintings and flowing compositions—have even inspired museum exhibitions, such as “Gerhard Richter: Abstraction” at Germany’s Museum Barberini in 2018.

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