beirut art center is proud to present a solo exhibition by the acclaimed german artist gerhard richter. the exhibition, gerhard richter · beirut, is organized in collaboration with achim borchardt-hume, a german-born curator and art historian based in london, and has been developed in close dialogue with the artist.
gerhard richter · beirut presents a significant number of overpainted photographs, together with a selection of editions after some of richter’s most iconic paintings.
richter’s overpainted photographs are small-scale works produced by smearing paint onto the surface of photographs he keeps in his studio. the artist first made use of this technique in the 1980s when he began to put paint left over on the large spatulas, or squeegees he uses to make his abstract paintings, onto a seemingly random selection of photographs. the process directly connects the photographic images, which are mostly snapshots taken by richter himself, with his paintings. this act places the two media in dialogue, and is a subversion of dogmatic categories – painting and photography, abstraction and figuration – that is a key feature of richter’s work. the exhibition includes his single largest body of overpainted photographs to date, museum visit(2011). the photographs were taken in and around tate modern and its turbine hall in the run-up to his major 2011 retrospective, panorama, at the museum. ordered into a cinematic sequence, the photographic tour documents a visit to one of the world’s most popular museums, leading richter to reflect on the encounter between art and a mass audience at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
gerhard richter’s editions are photographs taken of his paintings, a process he began to employ early in his career. in 1978 he took 128 photographs of his small abstract painting, halifax (1978), each from a different angle, distance and under varying light conditions, amounting to what resembles a scientific study of the surface of the painting. the resulting work, 128 details from a picture (halifax 1978), is presented in the exhibition along with editions of some of richter’s most famous works, such as betty, mustang squadron and eight student nurses. editions are an important part of the artist’s practice: by taking photographs of his own paintings, richter underlines his rejection of hierarchy between the two media, placing the two in equal consideration without downplaying their differences.
in war cut, richter uses the same process of photographing one of his paintings, and presents 216 details of abstract painting (1987) in dialogue with press coverage of the 2003 invasion of iraq. the edition premiering at beirut art center is an english language version using excerpts from the new york times, and was made specifically for the exhibition.
throughout his career, richter has queried the nature and production of images, from their sources to their relationship with history, and as media. from snapshots of intimate moments to images gleaned from the media, he connects the personal and mundane aspects of private life with the grand flow of history and dramatic events that belong to the collective memory. although very much grounded in the context of germany, from the aftermath of the second world war until the present day, the significance of his work extends far beyond these geographical and historical confines. richter’s method for translating history resonates in a country like lebanon.