In celebration of Gerhard Richters 80th birthday, the Gerhard Richter Archive of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
presents the ATLAS of the artist in the Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau. The ATLAS takes a prominent role in the oeuvre of Gerhard Richter. It is the basis of many of his paintings just as it is an artwork in its own right. The ATLAS consists of approximately 800 framed panels with more than 15.000 photographs, newspaper clippings, sketches and designs, which Richter had accumulated for work in his studio from the early 1960s onwards. In 1972, he ordered and arranged the collection on boards and presented it under the title ATLAS for the first time. Ever since then, he has continuously added new material. The conceptual character of the ATLAS offers unique insights into the mindset of the artist, into the development of some ideas for works as well as into the creational process of several of his paintings.
Gerhard Richters ATLAS merits a special place within his oeuvre as a whole. It not only forms the basis of his entire work as a painter but is also an autonomous artwork in its own right. Born in Dresden on 9th February 1932, Richter has been constantly revising and augmenting this work in progress for more than four decades.
ATLAS may be seen as an accompaniment, commentary and extension of the entire oeuvre of Gerhard Richter, for it also develops its own perspectives and poses its own questions. ATLAS is Richters reflection not only on his own work but also on the everyday world of images that he himself has documented photographically in their thousands. I see countless landscapes, photograph barely one in 100,000, and paint barely 1 in 100 of those that I photograph, Richter wrote in 1986. This photographed, yet and seemingly inexhaustible flood of images has afforded Richter a concentrated, ready accessibility of motifs for his future works. Indeed, for some of his paintings, he has been able to draw upon old motifs in his ATLAS, some of them dating back more than a decade.
The accompanying artists book ATLAS is not just intended as a means of documenting the exhibition. Gerhard Richter sees it as an alternative presentation to the exhibited panels, one that permits an additional, different, non-linear approach to the material.
By 1964, Richter had collected a vast amount of pictorial source material for his painting, first keeping it in drawers and portfolios. Five years later he began to sift through this material with a critical eye, grouping the individual photographs, reproductions and sketches into different themes and pasting them onto separate panels. Richter then soon recognized the intrinsic artistic quality of these collections of source material and, in 1972, framed the panels and exhibited them at the Museum Hedendaagse Kunst in Utrecht under the title ATLAS. Meanwhile this repository of source material has grown from its original 343 panels to its present 783, with more than 8,000 individual motifs.
The exhibition was curated in close cooperation with the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München that preserves the ATLAS in its collection. We have to thank the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe for supporting the exhibition.