Thief fined for taking discarded work by German artist Gerhard Richter
A German court fined a thief on Wednesday for taking works discarded in a bin by famed artist Gerhard Richter – yet estimated to be worth €60,000.
Cologne district court slapped the defendant with a €3,150-euro fine for trying to sell the pieces, which Richter had thrown into a wastepaper container in front of his villa in July 2016 because he thought they were not good enough.
The judge ruled that even though the pieces were unsigned by the artist, and therefore not able to be sold on the official art market, they were not worthless.
The exact value of the four postcard-sized pieces – photos painted with oil – could not be determined, but the court estimated them to be worth around €60,000.
Having taken the pieces from the bin at Richter's home in Cologne, the thief contacted a Munich auction house, which initially accepted them but demanded a certificate of authenticity.
The 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 top abstract and photo-realistic artists of his generation and his work has sold for eye-watering prices at auction.
His painting "Abstraktes Bild" sold for a then-record €44.52 million in 2015 at Sotheby's auction house in London.
The artist did not appear in court in Cologne due to fragile health.