Gerhard Richter to lend works from the Holocaust – which he has vowed never to sell – to the new Berlin museum


Gerhard Richter, Birkenau (2014)
© Gerhard Richter 2021

Gerhard Richter has agreed to loan more than 100 works, including a four-piece work dealing with the Holocaust which he has pledged never to sell, to a new 20th century art museum under construction in Berlin.

The museum will be built by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, next to the Neue Nationalgalerie by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It is intended to house the city’s vast 20th-century art store, which has considerably exceeded the Neue Nationalgalerie.

The Gerhard Richter Art Foundation will soon sign a cooperation agreement with the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK), which manages the museums in Berlin, according to a press release from the SPK. the richter series Birkenau, the result of a decades-long quest for a creative response to the Holocaust, has already been suspended in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

“The fourth Birkenau the images, which I never wanted to put on the art market, were the reason for creating a foundation, ”Richter said in the release. “I’m glad these photos are coming to Berlin. “

Produced in 2014, the series is inspired by documentary photographs of prisoners secretly captured by a Jewish captive in 1944 in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp. The photographs showed prisoners burning corpses. “In the fall of 2014, I started transferring these images to canvas and realized that it wasn’t working at all,” the artist said. “So I scraped it off and repainted until I had four abstract images. It is not uncommon for me to start from the figurative and end up with something abstract.

Birkenau will be on display at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin from today until October 3, with the four original photographs, placed in front of a four-part mirror.

The loan, which is due to take effect from 2023, encompasses works from various phases of Richter’s career, ranging from 1989 House of Besetztes (Occupied house) with recent abstract works. Until the completion of the new museum, they will be on display in the Neue Nationalgalerie, SPK said. When the new museum opens, the works will be exhibited in a dedicated Richter room on the upper floor.

“The work of Gerhard Richter is unthinkable without German history,” said Hermann Parzinger, chairman of the SPK. “His images offer many of us a way to deal with the turbulence of the 20th century. “

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