PRAGUE.- On April 26, the National Gallery in Prague opened the first retrospective of Gerhard Richter in Central and Eastern Europe, bringing together more than seventy of his works. The exhibition has been prepared in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, and is part of the Czech-German Cultural Spring 2017. Gerhard Richter is one of the most widely recognized artists of the past decades. His works are also among the most highly prized by international auction houses.
Many art critics acknowledge Gerhard Richter as the greatest living artist. The exhibition at Kinsky Palace and the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia in Prague will survey his nearly sixty-year-long artistic career. Visitors will see his iconic works, ranging from photo-realistic paintings to expressive and geometric abstract compositions, says Jiří Fajt, General Director of the National Gallery in Prague and curator of the exhibition.
Born in 1932 in Dresden, Gerhard Richter became one of the first German artists of his generation, who assumed a stance on his countrys Nazi history in his art. Richter was closely confronted with Nazism in his own family. However, Richter himself does not see, nor does he want his work to refer to, German history as a subject matter. Nor does he want his work to be interpreted didactically or be dramatized in any way, explains Jiří Fajt.
The post-war years spent in East Germany prepared Richter for his life-long commitment: the infinite testing of the discipline of painting. The discovery of post-war Western artists, such as Jackson Pollock, opened up for him the wide horizons of free artistic expression, and led to his resolute rejection of the dire reality of life in the Eastern bloc, which was reinforced by his trip to Moscow in 1961. Afterwards, Gerhard Richter immigrated to West Germany and now he lives in Cologne.
The purpose of the exhibition is to present Richters extraordinarily broad palette of artistic means of expression and to show visitors a manifold collection of his crucial works of art that were selected and installed in close collaboration with the artist, adds Jiří Fajt. Gerhard Richter is in no way an artist who can be easily classified. He finds inspiration in a broad range of historical influences, from realism to naturalism, from Impressionism to Pop-Art, from Conceptual Art to Abstract Expressionism.
The exhibition presents all facets of Richters oeuvre: the iconic portraits of his daughters Betty and Ella painted from photographs, paintings that reflect everyday life as well as historical and topical social issues, mountain- and seascapes, monochrome grey paintings, expressive abstract compositions, a series of computer-processed geometric Strips, and his famous Colour Charts that inspired the assignment of the monumental stained-glass windows for the Gothic Cathedral in Cologne. The Uncle Rudi painting, portraying Richters uncle as a Nazi soldier, which the artist donated to Lidice half a century ago, has been loaned to the exhibition from the Lidice Collection of Fine Arts. Also on view are sheets from his legendary Atlas a collection of photographs he made, newspaper clippings and drawings that Richter systematically collected as preparatory material from the 1960s.
The main part of the exhibition has been installed in Kinsky Palace. The buildings ground floor, with a new visitors area, ticket counter, information centre and art shop, has been refurbished to accommodate this exhibition project. The palace courtyard acquaints visitors with the timeline of Richters life and guide them to the former horse stables on the ground floor, where the artists self-made film and documentary films about Richters oeuvre are being shown, such as the celebrated feature film Painting. The key works of art are being exhibited on the second floor. The nearby Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia hosts the second, more modest, part of the exhibition, showing the artists series of paintings entitled Birkenau that reflect the suffering and horrors of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, and a monumental glass object capturing an interplay of light reflection and refraction.