Gerard Richter Value: Top Prices Paid at Auction

Cage f.ff VI by Gerhard RichterCage f.ff VI © Gerhard Richter 2015
Celine Thompson

Celine Thompson, Post Sales & Logistics Manager[email protected]

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Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter

140 works

Celebrated for his mastery of both photorealism and abstraction, frequently blending these approaches within a single framework, Gerhard Richter stands as a pivotal figure in contemporary art.

Similarly to Andy Warhol, Richter adopted a mechanised approach to art, creating pieces from pre-existing images. Between 2011 and 2018, 23 of Ruscha's artworks individually sold for more than $20million, underscoring his status as one of the most influential painters of his time.

This article explores the 10 most expensive Richter artworks sold at auction to date.

£30.4M for Abstraktes Bild (1986)

(£30389000)

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, depicting abstract smears of green, blue, red and yellow paint.Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild © Gerhard Richter 1986

When Abstraktes Bild (1986) sold for £30,389,000 at Sotheby's London in 2015, it set the record for highest sale price achieved by a living European artist. The painting soared above its £14–£20million estimate.

Richter created the piece by heavily layering oil paints on canvas and then dragging excess paint away using a wooden board and a homemade wooden squeegee. The artwork was known for being one of Richter’s personal favourites, which added to its collectability. It is also one of Richter’s largest abstract works, measuring 9ft 10in by 8ft 2in.

£29.6M for Abstraktes Bild (1994)

(US$36500000)

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, featuring smears of red, mustard yellow, navy blue, lemon yellow and mid-green.Image © Christie's / Abstraktes Bild © Gerhard Richter 1994

Despite the vast array of subjects his art touches upon, Richter confessed to being fond of painting abstract canvases, which are renowned for their use of colour and depiction of movement. The same fondness for colourful abstraction seems to be also true for Richter’s collectors, as several artworks from his Abstrakte Bilder collection fetched some of highest prices of all his artworks.

Such was the case for Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (1994). On 10 May 2022 at Christies New York, the painting sold for a staggering US$36,500,000 (£29,646,394), securing its position as Richter's second highest sale price to date.

£27.9M for Abstraktes Bild (636) (1987)

(US$34,800,000 )

Painting by Gerhard Richter covering two panels, featuring abstract forms in red, yellow, black, blue, and white, which trace the artist's movement in the production of the artwork.Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild (636) © Gerhard Richter 1987

Richter's 1987 Abstraktes Bild, composed of two brightly coloured panels joined together, stands as a quintessential example of his most celebrated series. It is among the mere five pieces by Richter of its substantial size, over 102 by 157 inches, still held privately. Having sold for $32million in November 2018, the artwork appreciated in value by 8.75%, commanding a staggering $34.8million at Phillips New York in November 2023.

This painting's exceptional exhibition history underscores its pivotal role in the artist's body of work. Initially presented at Durand-Dessert in Paris in 1988, it subsequently featured in the esteemed Carnegie International, underscoring the piece's quintessential representation of Richter’s work from the 1980s, a decade considered to be the zenith of his career.

£27.3M for A B, Still (1986)

(US$33,987,500)

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, depicting abstract forms in red, blue, crimson, yellow, green and grey. These shapes trace the artist's movement during the production of the artwork.Image © Sotheby's / A B, Still © Gerhard Richter 1986

A B, Still was the standout sale of the evening at Sotheby’s Post War and Contemporary Art sale, selling for almost $34million. It was one of seven Richter paintings to sell on the night, all of which came from the private collection of Steven Ames, partner at Oppenheimer & Co., who originally purchased the work for just US$264,000 in 1991. A B, Still was not the largest Richter work to sell on the night (a title taken by the 8.5ft tall A.B. St. James), but stands at more than 7ft tall and features Richter’s distinctive layered abstract oil paint.

£25.7M for Abstraktes Bild (1997)

(US$31,932,000)

Large-scale abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, with crimson and purple horizontal streaks dominating the work. Poking through from underneath the reddish tones are blues and greens.Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild © Gerhard Richter 1997

On 15th November 2023, Richter's Abstraktes Bild (1997) sold for $31,932,000 (£25,706,857) including fees at Sotheby's New York. With a hammer price of $27,500,000 (£22,138,875), the painting set a new record as the fifth highest price ever fetched by a Richter painting.

The Abstraktes Bild series by Richter has performed consistently well at auction. This painting is a masterpiece of the series which envelops the viewer in an emotive expanse of colour and movement. Crimson and purples dominate the artwork, but are punctuated by crevices of blues and greens which Richter has layered underneath. Abstraktes Bild (1997) is prominent in the market because it is immensely physical and acts as a powerful visual documentation of Ruscha’s intricate movements, innovative use of tools, and involved process.

£24.6M for Seestück (Seascape) (1975)

($30,198,500)

Painting by Gerhard Richter depicting a cloudy, blurred seascape. A pale blue sky pokes through behind the grey clouds.Seestück (Seascape) © Gerhard Richter 1975

From his very first Seestück (Seascape) painting in 1968, Richter's extensive portfolio of panoramic seascape artworks has amounted to nearly 25 pieces. Measuring 200x300cm, his 1975 Seestück (Seascape) has seen considerable success at auction for £24.6million in The Macklowe Collection at Sotheby's in New York on 16 May 2022. This oil on canvas depicts a tranquil view of the sea, hints of the vivid blue sky peeking through the dense cloud cover, and the horizon blending seamlessly with the sea in a profusion of greyish hues. Due to its spectacular scale and immersive depiction of beauty, Seestück is definitive of Richter's revolutionary oeuvre.

£24.6M for Abstraktes Bild (797-2) (1993)

(US$33,010,500)

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, featuring dragged smears of red, orange, blue and green.Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild 797-2 © Gerhard Richter 1993

Abstraktes Bild (797-2) sold as part of the most expensive single-owner sale in auction history at Sotheby’s New York in 2021. The Macklowe Collection white-glove sale featured 35 artworks from artists across America and Europe, which realised a total of US$676,055,00.

Abstraktes Bild (797-2) was purchased by private London collector for a staggering $33,010,500, exceeding its estimate of US$20-30million. The mixed red, yellow, and blue tones featured in the painting are exemplary of Richter’s abstract works and contributed to its popularity; as did its notable 240x240cm scale.

£24.2M for Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) (1968)

(US$37,125,000)

Photorealistic painting by Gerhard Richter, featuring a blurred black and white depiction of Milan's Cathedral Square between the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele and the Milan Cathedral.Image © Sotheby's / Domplatz, Mailand © Gerhard Richter 1998

Richter’s Domplatz, Mailand (Cathedral Square, Milan) set a new auction record for living artists when it sold for $37,125,000 (including fees) to a Napa Valley vineyard owner in 2013.

Domplatz, Mailand, originally commissioned for an office space by Siemens, is a perfect example of Richter’s 1960s photo-painting technique, with blurred black and white detail on a large canvas of almost three squared metres.

£24.2M for Abstraktes Bild (596) (1986)

(£24179000)

Abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, featuring abstract smears of red, green, blue pink and grey.Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild © Gerhard Richter 1986

On 1 March 2023 at Sotheby's London, Richter's Abstraktes Bild (596)(1986) old for an impressive £24,179,000, securing its position as Richter’s ninth highest sale price to date. Monumental in scale, the painting is one of 24 paintings the artist has produced which measures over 150 inches in width.

Made in 1986, a pivotal year in his career, the piece showcases a vivid abstract landscape where contrasting colours collide and harmonise within a dynamic visual field. On the left, strokes of blue-green and purple evoke imagery similar to Monet’s waterlilies, bridging a connection to the Orangerie Museum's panoramas. Absktraktes Bild (596) thus engages in a profound dialogue with the annals of painting, referencing the influence of Abstract Expressionism that Richter admired in his early years, the innovations of the Impressionists, and the tradition of Romantic landscapes. This work stands as a testament to painting's enduring capacity to reflect on its own history.

£23.0M for Abstraktes Bild (725-1) (1990)

(HK$200,443,000)

Painting by Gerhard Richter, depicting streaks of white, pale blue, green and grey over a deep red background.Image © Sotheby's / Abstraktes Bild (725-1) © Gerhard Richter 1990

On 7 October 2022 in Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (725-1) sold for HK$200,443,000 (£23,005,244) including fees.

Created in 1990, the artwork stands as a remarkable piece within Richter's acclaimed Abstraktes Bild series which began in the 1980s. As part of the limited 725 series, which comprises only five pieces, this artwork exemplifies Richter's captivating abstract style. Distinguished by its impressive stylistic beauty and measuring more than two metres in both dimensions, it operates on a grand scale, compellingly drawing the viewer into its vast chromatic realm.

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