Ever wonder what can happen if you pick something out of a bin or skip on the way home from work… Well, a German man has been found guilty by a court on charges of stealing discarded works of art from the well-known abstract painter Gerhard Richter. The works on paper were valued at 60,000 euros ($67,000 even though the artist himself deemed them not good enough to keep.
The Cologne district court fined the defendant a 3,150-euro fine for attempting to sell the pieces, which Richter had tossed into a waste bin. They were retrieved from the front of his multimillion-dollar home in July 2016 because he thought they were ‘not good enough’ to keep.
A judge ruled that even though the pieces were unsigned by the artist, and therefore not authorised to be sold in the market place, they were not considered worthless.
The four postcard-sized pieces consisted of photos painted with streaks of oil paint similar to the works now on view at the Gagosian Gallery in London. The price could not be exactly determined, but the court estimated them to be worth around 60,000 euros.
The artworks were removed from an outside bin at Richter’s home in Cologne, the accused contacted a leading Munich auction house, who consigned them but requested a provenance and a certificate of authenticity.
The unemployed 49-year-old defendant had presented three of the pictures to the head of the Gerhard Richter Archive, in the artist’s home city Dresden, who became suspicious.
The court ruled the works were still Richter’s property even though the judge acknowledged “he had the desire to dispose” of them.
The defendant told police that the paper container had fallen over in a storm and he had found them on the street — claims the court rejected.
The pieces have been confiscated and, according to police, Richter just wants to have them destroyed.
“He just wanted his peace. The whole thing seemed to bother him,” a police officer told the court, according to German agency DPA.
Richter, 87, is one of the leading artists of the 20th/21st century. His painting “Abstraktes Bild” sold for a then-record 44.52 million euros in 2015 at Sotheby’s auction house in London.
Mr Richter did not appear in court due to poor health.