A Berlin museum is set to host over 100 paintings by renowned German artist Gerhard Richter, including his four-part monumental 2014 work Birkenau, based on photos secretly taken in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by a Jewish prisoner during the Holocaust in 1944.
Richter has in effect donated the works in a long-term loan to the museum via a foundation he established, having vowed never to sell the 2014 paintings to avoid seeing them on the art market.
The donation by the 89-year-old Richter, one of the highest-paid living artists, is meant for the Museum der Moderne, currently under construction in Berlin. The museum is expected to open in 2027. The paintings will find a temporary home in the Neue Nationalgalerie in the German capital in the meantime, beginning in 2023.
“It was clear to me that I cannot sell the Birkenau paintings, and neither do I want to,” Richter told the broadcaster Deutschlandfunk (DLF), the Guardian reported last week. “Then I had the idea of creating a foundation which would take in additional works.”
In those four 2.6 by 2 meter paintings, the artist “confronts the question of whether — and how — art is able to address the history of the Holocaust,” the Met has described.
The series “encapsulates his long-standing interest in art’s ability to reckon with issues of identity and collective memory, particularly in the context of post–World War II Germany,” the museum said.
The paintings are currently on temporary display at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin, alongside the four original photographs, reflected in a mirror.
Richter is the recipient of the 1994-1995 Wolf Prize, an international award granted by Israel to living scientists and artists. The Wolf Foundation wrote at the time that Richter was “reinventing painting for today, transcending its very laws in order to dare to impose beauty.”