Thursday, May 23, 2013

King hit

Art museums often complain that prices have pushed them out of the room as collectors. The other day we saw the other end of this story. Walking into Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts we were stopped in our tracks by a truly great painting by Gerhard Richter. Very impressively it was purchased by the Museum the first time it was exhibited back in 1987, long before Richter was established as one of the most important artists of our time. Even to pay what has been described elsewhere as “significantly less than US$100,000” for a Richter back in 1987 would have required steady nerves. It was his first show in the United States and many years before the 2002 retrospective at MoMA that confirmed his reputation. Now over half of Richter’s abstract paintings are in public collections.

And how the marketplace loves Gerhard Richter. Even Richter thinks it's on another planet when it comes to his work. "It's just as absurd as the banking crisis. It's impossible to understand and it's daft.” Last year Eric Clapton sold one for $33.4 million making Richter at the time the world’s highest priced living artist. It’s big business the Richter business with total sales for the 30 years leading up to 2010 at $538,118,111, with the single boom year 2010 accounting for $76.9million of that total. So great call by whoever was in charge of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the late eighties.

Image: details from Gerhard Richter’s diptych AB Mediation 1986