The Financial Question

..Richter and the Art Scene

Highest prices realized by Richter's paintings at auctions
Except as noted all were sold for the first time

The success of a painter at international auctions is - however laced with fads and follies - a measure of public acceptance and understanding of his work. The latter is the purpose of this compilation of Richter's sales over the years, all except one were first sales. Any well-known painter can sell his work in the $100,000 range and have it displayed in museums, a few achieve prices above $ 1,000,000. In the end the price of a painting is only of relative importance, but what is bought is revealing of the vagaries of the art scene.

It is seen that Richter had to wait twenty years before in 2001 one of his paintings broke the one -million-dollar barrier - and then it was the sentimental CR 531-1 “Three Candles”! Meanwhile his Abstract Paintings sold at most in the $500,000 range, until in 2004 CR 350-1, “4096 Colors”, sold after 30 years of wandering from one exhibition to another. So it appears that abstraction was not the reason for the failure of selling his Abstract Paintings - as long as they had structure. Thereafter the rich patrons - often individuals - flocked to acquire his “baffling”, large Abstracts at higher and higher prices. After reaching the $10,000,000 level in 2008 the prices dropped in the wake of the $-crisis.

Richter is a shrewd man. The initial success of “Three Candles” prompted him to paint a number of similarly innocuous candle pictures. In fact the candle-pictures added up to $11,000,000 and were only surpassed by the total for all sold “Color Charts”: $22,000,000. Good for Richter - who, of course, earned only a fraction of these record sales - and a poor testimony to the courage and vision of the rich buyers.

A sad side-effect of these high auction prices is that nobody can afford an entire set of his abstracts. They are with two notable exceptions bound to be dispersed. The exceptions are the “Cage” set which was bought by the Tate Modern and the individual parts of “Forest”, which though sold seperately, will eventually revert to MOMA, New York.

CR: 531-1
oil on canvas, 125x150 cm, 1982

Sotheby, New York, 2001

CR: 809 (3 Parts)
oil on canvas, 225x200 cm each, 1994

Sotheby, New York, 2001

CR: 350-1, “4096 Farben”
enamel on canvas, 250x250 cm, 1974

Christie's New York, 2004

CR: 780-4
oil on canvas, 250x200cm, 1992

Christie's New York, 2005

CR: 822
oil on canvas, 200x320 cm, 1995

Christie's New York, 2006

CR: 747-1
oil on canvas, 200x200cm, 1991

Sotheby's London, 2007

CR: 770
oil on canvas, 250x250 cm, 1992

Christie's New York, 2007
This painting was sold twice before
1999 and 2005

CR: 643-5
oil on canvas, 200x140 xm, 1987

Sotheby's London, 2008

CR: 710
oil on canvas, 260x200 cm, 1989

Christie's New York, 2008

CR: 722-2
oil on canvas, 200x180 cm, 1990

Sotheby's New York, 2008

CR: 690-1
oil on canvas, 225x200 cm, 1989

Sotheby's, London, 2008

CR: 831-1, “Hay”
oil on canvas, 200x140cm, 1995

$ 3,600,000
Sotheby's Doha(!), 2009