Gerhard Richter Mural in Germany Will Be Partially Uncovered for the First Time in Decades

Artnews_ In 1956 a young Gerhard Richter painted a mural of more than 645 square feet in the stairwell foyer of the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden. The mural was painted over 23 years later, in 1979.

Soon, sections of the mural will be uncovered and made visible to the public for the first time in decades. They will be shown at the museum this year as part of a special exhibition there.

Museum visitors will be able to see restorer Albrecht Körber remove the white paint covering Richter’s mural starting March 9. “The public might interpret the ongoing restoration work as a metaphor for the process of uncovering layers of history and giving new perspectives on a chapter of East German history,” the museum told theArt Newspaper.

Born in Dresden in 1932, Richter was only 24 years old when he created the Lebensfreude (Joy of Life) mural for his thesis at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. The work shows groups of cheerful and festive figures engaged in everyday and leisure activities, such as dancing, going to a beach, or sitting in a park.

The German Hygiene Museum initially asked Richter if it could expose and display the painting in 1994, but the artist said no, with the reasoning that “the mural is not one of the artworks most worth keeping in the world.”

When the museum asked again in 2022, Richter said yes.

It’s worth noting that Richter has carefully controlled which paintings count as those authored by him. In his online catalogue, the first work is Tisch (Table), from 1961, a full five years after this mural was made. Richter also destroyed most of his earlier works in 1960 in a fire at the Düsseldorf Art Academy after he fled East Germany. This was part of the reason why East German heritage authorities decided to paint over the mural in 1979, according to the Art Newspaper.

The mural’s restoration and public display is a joint project between the German Hygiene Museum and the Wüstenrot Foundation in cooperation with the Dresden University of Fine Arts, which is advising the project. The project’s educational measures are supported through a grant from the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation.