Pepe Danquart accompanied the painter Daniel Richter for three years. The result is a veritable artist portrait with studio visits, comments from companions and at the end of a triumphant exhibition with the latest pictures. The highlight is the dinner following the Paris vernissage, where Richter, standing on a bench, congratulates himself. One of the most successful German painters celebrates and can be celebrated – also with Pepe Danquart’s film.
The champagne, the collectors, the plush stuff in the posh restaurant – it’s all laid on a bit thick and yet fits only too well with the paintings, which oscillate between figuration and abstraction and are primarily large and wild. Danquart’s film portrait becomes particularly exciting when the former punk and squatter eloquently tries to locate himself in the capitalist system of the art market.
The star painter counters the fact that his art recently fetched almost a million pounds at a London auction with the comment: it’s better if the buyers invest in pictures than in child porn or the arms trade. Richter is aware that he works in a “luxury goods production” and that the political claim then becomes tricky.
It doesn’t go unnoticed. In the meantime, his painting has acquired an elegance, indeed a delicacy, that the former rebel can hardly be recognized. The common thread of the film is the progress made on his new series, the visits to the Schöneberg studio. Here he is priming, painting and filling on meter-sized canvases, drawing large lines over them with oil pastel, two parrots fluttering around, decoratively perching on the artist’s head or chirping with him. In between, the painter listens to music, argues or does yoga exercises to balance things out.
Only at the very end does the director reveal what Richter used as a template for his latest series: a postcard from the First World War with war invalids on crutches. In his great pictures, however, these injuries remain completely hidden under the radiant colors and abstract forms.
And yet the artist has once again demonstrated a remarkable sense of development. The film portrait was shot long before the outbreak of war in Ukraine. One of his best-known pictures, which shows people huddled together in a rubber dinghy at night, was created long before the refugee crisis. That reconciles with many a vain talk.
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