Artlyst recently visited the Witworth Gallery in Manchester and attended the premiere of a collaboration between two of the world’s most influential and enduring cultural figures – artist Gerhard Richter and composer Arvo Pärt. This beautiful and solemn work was premièred at the gallery as part of MIF15, where Richter and Pärt were in attendance.
This rare collaboration comprised of a suite of four new works by the German artist, ‘Birkenau’ (2015) refers to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and apparently hidden beneath its painterly surface is a pencil drawing, copied from four photographs depicting piles of bodies.
The second work is ‘Doppelgrau’ (2014) is a selection of the artist’s reflective monochromatic variations. Both multiples are presented with Arvo Pärt’s composition ‘Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima’ which was – at the time – performed live in the gallery by the celebrated Estonian choir Vox Clamantis. The resulting work transforms painting and sound and creates a moving temporal installation, testing the boundaries between image and sound; Pärt’s choral work echoed through the gallery, sung by a choir that stood among us.
The exhibition is curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Alex Poots. In early autumn 2013, super curator Obrist, and Poots introduced Richter and Pärt to each other – surprisingly – for the first time. As a result of that meeting in Dresden, both men made the works inspired by and dedicated to the other. Hans Ulrich Obrist spoke to Artlyst – among others – about the collaboration, including Gerhard Richter’s relationship with music, and being inspired by his first meeting with the artist.
Audio Hans Ulrich Obrist, photos: Paul Black © Artlyst 2015 All rights reserved, additional images courtesy of the gallery.
Richter / Pärt – Manchester International Festival, Whitworth Gallery, Manchester – until 19 July 2015