February 27 to May 18, 2003
This 40-year survey of works by influential German artist Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) was the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s paintings seen to date in North America. The show presented more than 120 examples spanning Richter’s entire career. Included were paintings executed in a realistic yet blurred style – landscapes, portraits, and other representational paintings based on photographs – as well as abstractions constructed with layered and scraped paint. The subjects of the artist’s work range from World War II-era military scenes and a Titian masterpiece to mundane household objects. Newspaper headlines of both horrific and trivial events and intimate views of family members are also recurrent imagery.
Born and first trained as an artist in East Germany, Richter moved west in the 1960s, when he was associated with a group of Düsseldorf artists influenced by American Pop. He distinguished himself by mastering both abstract and depictive genres while subtly commenting on the power of mass media and the prevalence of photography in contemporary visual culture. Celebrated as an artist who has revitalized painting, Richter uses a traditional medium to examine today’s issues.
Organized by Robert Storr, the show came to the Hirshhorn, its final venue, after stops in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting was organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and made possible by Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder with generous support from Mimi and Peter Haas. An indemnity was granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional funding was provided by Leila and Melville Straus and The Contemporary Arts Council and The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art.
The Washington, DC, presentation was made possible by a generous grant from Neuberger Berman Foundation.
Additional support was provided by the Holenia Trust in memory of Joseph H. Hirshhorn.
Coordinating curator for the Washington, DC, presentation was Phyllis Rosenzweig, Curator of Works on Paper. A 336-page hardback catalogue with over 200 color and duotone reproductions was published to accompany the exhibition.