Gerhard Richter: Art tames chaos – FINISHED!

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Reviewed on 06/6/2012 | 1 Review

Photo: © Betty 1977, © Gerhard Richter, 2012 & AFP, François Guillot

When it comes to art, you might often ask yourself : What is it that makes the difference? Have a look at the exhibition with which the Centre Pompidou pays tribute to Gerhard Richter – and you’ll get the answer. “Panorama” is the title of this impressive retrospective that brings together a selection of 150 major works by the German artist covering six decades of creativity and constant reinvention.

“Panorama” is exactly the right word here. And it is vast, this panorama. The exhibition, on the occasion of Richter’s 80s birthday, shows the whole spectrum of his work: from the photo-paintings of the sixties to his late abstract paintings and up to his reinvention of historical genres and landscapes, those misty, diaphanous and opaque sceneries.

No system, no tendency

Richter has always been reinventing himself. “I pursue no objectives, no system, no tendency; I have no programme, no style, no direction. I like the indefinite, the boundless. I like continual uncertainty.”

Betty 1988 - © Gerhard Richter, 2012

Walking through the ten thematic rooms, you immediately understand that there is a common thread throughout. I would call it an enigma. Whether you’re in front of one of his pure abstract paintings or of one of the late blurred landscapes, there is something intriguing about his paintings. Something that pulls you inside, that captures you. Enigma in this case means: you enter into a relationship with his work, you start to ask questions, questions with sometimes no answer at all.


Richter sees himself as “the heir to a vast, great, rich culture of painting which we have lost”. He always believed in painting, and this even when it was much more fashionable to put a video-installation in an empty space. This belief finally paid off. Whether you take his famous “cloud” paintings, the black-and-white paintings around the German RAF or his much more intimate paintings of members of his family: Richter proves that painting has never come to an end and that it’s always possible to develop new ways of expressions and a new pictorial language.

Interestingly enough, Richter never felt ashamed to keep to the classical: “The classical is what holds me together”, he says. “It is what gives me form. It is the order that I do not have to attack. It is something that tames my chaos or holds it together so that I can continue to exist. That was never a question for me. That is essential for life.”

Seen all together in this panoramic way, Richter’s work is of a seldom strength and beauty.

Gerhard Richter: Panorama – UNTIL 24 SEPTEMBRE 2012 – FINISHED!!
Centre Pompidou
Place Georges Pompidou
75004 Paris
Métro: Rambuteau  
Open every day from 11am-9pm, closed on Tuesdays
Buy your ticket on-line and print it at home
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Gerhard Richter: Art tames chaos - FINISHED!, 3.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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  1. Robert 20 July 2012 Reply

    Painting is not dead, and the fact that Is painting dead? qustieon still circulates merely means that painting has been dwarfed by the recent advance and explosion of different kinds of other mediums and techniques the artistic community is and was picking up on and exploring: from Pollock`s spilled paint over canvas to today`s ephemeral digital art.Art is experiencing a free age. I wouldn’t call it Renaissance, but in the same time, there is no one absolute, influential and autocratic dogma out there that would have sufficient social, political and economical power to limit the creative spirit world wide. We have been democratizing the art so to speak for the past decades. Everybody can contribute to the mutation of art and artistic forms, now more than ever. In this context, it looks like painting might appear as dying but it is not. You can say painting was kind of an orphan all this time and one day this orphan child finds out that there is a huge family out there of close relatives as well as distant folk with which, after centuries of singularity, it fits and sinks in. The instinct to stick your finger in some colourful mass and smear it over a surface is part of us, humans exploring the world, and on this base, it is right at the origins and, in the worst case scenario, we will always start with it.Thanks Kirstie for posing such a thought provoking question.

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