London. At one of those smart dinner parties last night. I should have been warned. "We are rather intellectual," said the hostess with a too silly shrill.
"But I do hope you'll come." In other words I'm not. They are. So why go? I knew one of the diners was about to bid zillions for Indian art and I wanted to find out why. Okay? Nil OK. He didn't show.
So, I'm sitting next to a forty-something acne culture who says he's a poet. I mean, if you have to say you're a poet then at the best you're hoping to be one. Festes on the other side simply has knees trained to lean against my thigh. He thinks he’s one-liner funny. By twelfth night he may get there. He says he's writing his second novel. But of course, he says, no comedy. Comedy does not win book prizes. Everyone seems to know that. Course they do. They're intellectuals.
They're talking about some man's Booker Prize. Rubber knees cannot quite believe he's not short-listed. The Bard's chewing mange tout strained, by the sound of it, through his adenoids. A woman opposite wearing someone else's hair seems to have been a judge last time round. She's quite ugly. The nose has Made in Geneva written all over it. She asks what I'm reading. I say the Tate Modern Gerhard Richter catalogue. She says “How very odd.” The knee rubber leans away. "Oh. Art. I know Tracey quite well - so very good." I remember I'm in Notting Hill. I plead contractions and leave.
They have nearly spoiled my day. But how could they? I've spent the afternoon at the Tate Modern with Gerhard Richter. Everyone should. This is probably the most significant exhibition here in London this century so far. (Gerhard Richter: Panorama) I think Gerhard Richter will be shown to be the most important modern painter of our times.
Go look. Throughout this show you can see progressively how Richter has grappled with the dilemmas facing the modern artists of today and he really has remained committed to the medium of paint throughout his career. From super realism to his large abstract paintings we see how he blurs and questions the reality of what we see. Where does reality end and abstraction begin? All done through the language of paint, not pompous Booker words.
This show is to be a sort of 80th birthday celebration - Richter was born in Dresden in 1932. The challenge of the painter is to express reality. After all, truth is an expression of reality. That’s very dangerous ground to tread. Remember his black and white paintings based on images of the Baader Meinhof gang? Just as he reflected an inescapable reality on canvas, the coming of Hitler, so he does in the last room at this exhibition, exploring a modern disturbing phenomena - 9/11.
Richter's works are executed with exquisite precision and attention to surface quality. This man works in a quiet and persistent way. You need to get on first name terms with it. The exhibition was packed and I had to use both elbows to peer hungrily as close to the images without setting the alarms off. Too much to take in for one visit I left the show salivating. I shall be back. Again. And again. See you there until 8 January.
What counts isn’t being able to do a thing, its seeing what is. Seeing is the decisive act, and ultimately it places the viewer and the seer on the same level. Gehard Richter