Gerhard Richter says art is the highest form of hope

In a rare new interview the painter reasserts the solace and comfort that fine art can offer humanity
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Gerhard Richter during his Louisiana Museum interview, 2016
Gerhard Richter during his Louisiana Museum interview, 2016

“Art is the highest form of hope,” is a line first expressed by the German painter Gerhard Richter in 1982, in the catalogue text for the Documenta 7 exhibition.

It’s so fine a sentiment, that we’ve taken it as the title of our new book Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists.

Yet it’s also heartening to see that, over thirty years since he first uttered that statement, Richter still believes in art’s place within human optimism and endeavour. In this video interview with Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, conducted following its acquisition of one of Richter’s huge stripe paintings, the 84-year-old artist reaffirms art’s intrinsic, human value.

 

 

“Those who take an interest in it find solace in art,” he asserts. “It gives them huge comfort.” Richter offers a personal example, with a widely recognised Christian symbol of sacrifice and hope. Recently he visited the town of Colmar in north-eastern France to view the famous Isenheim Altarpiece by Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald, a 16th century depiction of Christ on the cross.

 

The Isenheim Altarpiece by Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald
The Isenheim Altarpiece by Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald

“It’s such a tragic story,” says Richter. “This tortured man hanging there. It’s a wonderful picture. It is comforting simply because it is beautiful.”

That unadorned appreciation of beauty isn’t something that Richter finds a great deal of within today’s contemporary art world. The painter himself reaches for a quote from the great 19th and 20th century German novelist Thomas Mann to explain this later trend. “He said, ‘Art will change completely. It will shed all its gravity and transform into something merry and democratic.’" Richter says. "A nice quote. We’re actually going beyond that these days. It’s now more than merry. There has never been so much art.”

And, consequently, perhaps there have never been so many sources of solace and hope. For fine-art quotes along these lines, order a copy of Art Is the Highest Form of Hope & Other Quotes by Artists here.


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