October 16, 2012 Repository 21: Doing the Numbers with Gerhard Richter Posted In: art practice, contemporary art

After learning that Gerhard Richter’s painting fetched $34.2 million at auction at London’s Sotheby’s last Friday (over twice the amount estimated), I couldn’t help but run some numbers in my head. Thanks to his meticulous catalog on his web site, which includes a searchable database of works and selling prices for certain pieces, I was able to further fathom the painting machine that Richter is. Love it or hate it about him, he’s a force.

Firstly, it’s important to note that auction results do not benefit the artist in any direct way, it’s simply a tangential benefit that will increase his available market worth. So the $34.2 million will benefit Eric Clapton, the previous owner, in a direct monetary sense.

There is no question that Richter’s prolific practice has brought him tremendous wealth. So in case you are a painter reading this, here is a slice of a year in the life (produce wise):

At age 36 in 1968, Richter produced 95 consumable paintings in the course of the year. This includes the work in the catalog on his web site and not necessarily the not-approved paintings, the sketches, drawings or photographs that are also part of his practice. That amounts to about one painting every three and a half days or so.

I am humbled and inspired. That’s incredible dedication. I see why his work appeals to so many – it’s sheer work, and sheer work plus the joy of doing what one loves. Now if we all didn’t blog or Internet so much I’m sure our productivity vis a vis studio would improve tremendously:)


From the Collection of Eric Clapton, Gerhard Richter, ‘ABSTRAKTES BILD.’ Estimate: 9,000,000-12,000,000 GBP. Sold at Sotheby’s London on Oct. 12, 2012 for 21,321,250 GBP / $34.2 million. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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