MoMA
Gerhard Richter. October 18, 1977. 1988
Gerhard Richter

October 18, 1977

1988
Not on view
Medium
Oil on canvas, fifteen paintings
Dimensions
Installation variable
Credit
The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection, gift of Philip Johnson, and acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (all by exchange); Enid A. Haupt Fund; Nina and Gordon Bunshaft Bequest Fund; and gift of Emily Rauh Pulitzer
Object number
169.1995.a-o
Copyright
© 2015 Gerhard Richter

The fifteen paintings that compose October 18, 1977 are based on photographs of moments in the lives and deaths of four members of the Red Army Faction (RAF), a German left-wing terrorist group that perpetrated a number of kidnappings and killings throughout the 1970s. Like On Kawara’s date paintings, these paintings have a single date as their title. On this date the bodies of three principal RAF members were found in the cells of the German prison where they were incarcerated. Although the deaths were officially deemed suicides, there was widespread suspicion that the prisoners had been murdered by the German state police. Richter based his paintings on newspaper and police photographs; his reworking of these documentary sources is dark, blurred, and diffuse. Richter hopes that, "by way of reporting," these paintings will "contribute to an appreciation of [our time], to see it as it is."

Gallery label from Out of Time: A Contemporary View, August 30, 2006–April 9, 2007
Additional text

On October 18, 1977, Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe, and Gudrun Ensslin were found dead in their cells in a Stuttgart prison. The three were members of the Red Army Faction, a coalition of young political radicals led by Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, who had earlier hung herself in police custody. Turning to violence in the late 1960s, the Baader-Meinhof group had become Germany's most feared terrorists. Although the prisoners' deaths were pronounced suicides, the authorities were suspected of murder.

The fifteen works in October 18, 1977 evoke fragments from the lives and deaths of the Baader-Meinhof group. Richter has worked in a range of styles over the years, including painterly and geometric abstraction as well as varieties of realism based on photography; the slurred and murky motifs of this work derive from newspaper and police photographs or television images. Shades of gray dominate, the absence of color conveying the way these second-hand images from the mass media sublimate their own emotional content. An almost cinematic repetition gives an impression, as if in slow motion, of the tragedy's inexorable unfolding. Produced during a prosperous, politically conservative era eleven years after the events, and insisting that this painful and controversial subject be remembered, these paintings are widely regarded as among the most challenging works of Richter's career.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 309
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Image permissions

In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

Related links:
Outside North America: Scala Archives
North America: Art Resource