Meet the Artist

Daniel Richter on Art, Life & Everything Inbetween

Daniel Richter on Art, Life & Everything Inbetween
Daniel Richter Nehmen Sie die Perücke ab 2023 Oil on canvas 90 1/2 x 66 7/8 inches (230 x 170 cm)

“I find artworks, especially paintings, most interesting when they seek to convey something to the viewer that is not entirely translatable through language, or even reason,” German artist Daniel Richter says.

“When art fulfils its promise, it expands something within us, and it offers some kind of truth – whatever construction that may be.”
Richter’s belief that art comes from a place we can never quite explain is not an uncommon one, however it is one that is particularly pertinent to  his own work.
Richter (no relation to Gerhard) was born in Eutin, a small town in Northern Germany, and rose to prominence in the 1990s when he arrived upon a Berlin fine art scene after fruitful years spent creating posters and record sleeves for a number of bands in his adopted hometown of Hamburg.

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Daniel Richter - Roimetete, 202. Oil on canvas91 3/4 x 68 1/8 x 2 3/8 inches (233 x 173 x 6cm)

“In the early 1980s when I was young, punk was the way out,” he told autre magazine in 2022. “So, I moved to Hamburg. Hamburg was a city with lots of squatters and a red light district with a certain underground appeal. I couldn’t make music and I didn’t want to make music because you have to rehearse with others, which is how I realized I could draw. So that was the natural role the subculture chose for me.”
Those early record covers and posters drew upon the influences of Raymond Pettibon and Charles Burns but also, more interestingly, the Dadaist influences of George Grosz and John Heartfield. To this day Richter often employs musical references to title his exhibitions and paintings and speaks about the space between music and the art he creates.


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Daniel Richter - Ententanz, 2022. Oil on canvas 86 5/8 x 65 inches (220 x 165 cm)

“I don’t care about colors, it’s more like a sound that I think of,” he says. “There can be systematic elements, quiet elements, and variations on a theme.”
His early paintings carried some of the residue of his previous artistic life, dominated as they were by colorful, abstract mixes of graffiti and ornamentation.
Things moved quickly however, and these were augmented in the early noughties by paintings of fragmented, angsty bodies; bright colors set against monochrome backgrounds. Many critics spoke of Francis Bacon when weighing up his canvases. Others  refer to Richter’s work as being influenced by the legacy of Symbolists such as James Ensor and Edvard Munch.


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Daniel Richter - Kopfhosenalarm, 2023. Oil on linen90 1/2 x 67 inches (230 x 170 cm)

Richter himself, meanwhile, claims Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen as key mentors and influences on his work. He studied at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg from 1992–96 under Werner Büttner – one of the flag bearers, along with Kippenberger, in the revival of expressive painting in the 1980s – and later worked as assistant to Oehlen.
Fellow painter, and friend, Tal R, recently described the essence of Richter’s paintings. “The paintings would always try to kill him. He would put in so many details, but the painting would seem to say,  ‘I can take more, is that all you got?’”
As Richter himself explains, “My concern is with the surface, this flat, tangled, never-changing scheme of figure constellations, in and out. The dynamic in my work is mainly based on pushing and shoving, or on elements that are being confronted by each other – mingling, pushing, pulling.”
His time in the studio is similarly watchful. “I nag around; I feel insecure; I hide that; I listen to music again,” he told Artnet in 2023. “I brood a lot; it is an important part of the painterly process. I make mistakes, but the next day, mistakes can be used in other paintings.”


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Daniel Richter - Look At You, 2022. Oil on canvas 90 1/2 x 67 inches (230 x 170 cm)

Comprehensive solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Kunsthalle zu Kiel and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Hamburger Kunsthalle and Kunstmuseum Den Haag; CAC Málaga and Denver Art Museum; and Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover. 
In 2015, the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt hosted a retrospective, while a monographic exhibition travelled to Camden Art Centre, London; 21er Haus, Vienna; and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (2016–17). 

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Daniel Richter - Nehmen Sie die Perücke ab, 202. Oil on canvas90 1/2 x 66 7/8 inches (230 x 170 cm)

Richter’s work was shown in the group exhibition Radical Figures: Painting in the New Millennium at the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2020) and in 2022, a solo exhibition was held at the Ateneo Veneto, Venice, coinciding with the 59th Venice Biennale. There was a retrospective of his work at Kunsthalle Tübingen in 2023. 
You can see more of Richter’s work at Regen Projects and Thaddaeus Ropac. Meanwhile, take a look at Daniel Richter's artist page on Artspace, and sign up to our newsletter or follow Artspace on our socials, to be first to hear about an exciting Artspace edition with Daniel Richter, coming soon.


Daniel richter portrait Daniel Richter photographed by Marlene Gawrisch


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