Gerhard Richter Painting Sets Record Auction Price For Living Artist

Abstraktes Bild (809-4), one of Gerhard Richter’s abstract canvases from 1994, sold in mid-October at Sotheby’s in London to an anonymous telephone bidder for $34.2 million.

Estimated to bring $14.1 million to $18.8 million, the sale of the painting after five minutes of bidding set a new record for the price paid at auction for the work of a living artist—a distinction previously held by a Jasper Johns Flag painting from the 1960s that sold for $28.6 million in May 2010 at Christie’s in New York.

Sotheby’s described the painting, previously owned by rock guitarist Eric Clapton, as a “masterpiece of calculated chaos” and a “paradigm of Gerhard Richter’s mature artistic and philosophical achievement.” Whoever bought Abstraktes Bild (809-4) paid more than 30 times what Clapton did in 2001 when he bought it at Sotheby’s in New York.

Richter, 80, who lives in Cologne, was born in Dresden and grew up in communist East Germany. His work includes both abstract and figurative paintings as well as photographs.

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