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Digital Print, 2013
Signed Print Edition of 32
H 50cm x W 40cm
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Joe Syer, Head of Urban & Contemporary Art
This signed digital print from world-famous German artist Gerhard Richter was issued in an edition of 32 in 2013. Entitled Babette, the work is part of the artist’s Atlas series. Made after a painterly work completed by Richter in the same year, it is a standout example of the artist’s signature ‘blur’ effect, itself an important part of his artistic goal of challenging the relationship between painting and photography.
Reminiscent of the iconic Richter painting, Betty (1991), Babette sees Richter return to a universal interest of art the world over: the human face. The face in question is that of Richter’s daughter, Betty Richter, who wears a red-coloured top and stares concentratedly at the assumed onlooker - the camera lens. Obfuscating the young girl’s features, Richter imbues the artwork with a sense of memory and time; challenging the limitations of our vision, Richter asks us to look beyond the confines of canonical art historical representation, and towards the possibilities afforded by deconstruction and abstraction.
Richter’s Atlas makes reference to two central figures in European art history: Aby Warburg and Erwin Panofsky. Born in the late 19th century, Warburg invented a new way of looking at art and images, which he dubbed ‘iconology’. Panofsky, an academic who settled in the USA following the rise of the Nazi regime, developed Warburg’s new method. Like Richter himself, he was particularly interested in the relationship between art and history. Of great importance to both figures of the art historical world was Warburg’s ‘Mnemosyne Atlas’: a large-scale study of art consisting of 40 panels, onto which were affixed around 1,000 images from newspapers, magazines, and books. This large-scale ‘atlas’ was arranged thematically in as diverse categories as ‘coordinates of memory’, ‘vehicles of tradition’ and ‘archaeological models’. In his own Atlas, Richter constructs a similar assemblage of images that refer to historical events, such as the rise of Mao in China and the Holocaust, as well as key moments in his personal life.