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Celestial Mechanics: Form and Future in the Work of Gerhard Richter and Sean Scully

23 March - 15 July



Ben Brown Fine Arts proudly presents Celestial Mechanics: Form and Future in the Work of Gerhard Richter and Sean Scully, an extraordinary exhibition that pays homage to two of the most significant European painters of our time. Curated by esteemed art historian Joachim Pissarro, this groundbreaking exhibition will unfurl in conjunction with Art Basel Hong Kong over two venues: The Asia Society and Ben Brown Fine Arts, both in Hong Kong.

This exhibition will bring together a superlative selection of paintings and works on paper by Scully, thoughtfully selected from his studio to evoke dialogue with the legacy of Gerhard Richter’s ouevre. Stellar examples from Richter’s diverse body of work will be featured, including abstract and photo paintings, overpainted photographs, and works on paper. Together, these visionary artists will ignite a previously uncharted dialogue that addresses their unique biographies and the artistic, political and ideological influences that led them to become two of the most influential and inimitable artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Celestial Mechanics marks an occasion to reflect upon the affinities between these two artists, whose aesthetic and human responses to the many elements of their history place them on a parallel ideological trajectory. At first glance, attention is drawn to their approach to the means of painting, how both handle the material while exploring abstraction, exposing both the divergences and parallels of their practices. Being it Richter’s obscure painted layers, or the inherent sensuality of Scully’s marks, both artists skillfully mix the physical and the metaphysical.

Born and raised during World War II and its immediate aftermath, Richter and Scully were both profoundly shaped by the conflicts of their time, resulting in a shared history of despair and dislocation that fueled their inner creative landscapes. Just as Richter left Communist Germany to capitalist Germany, Scully moved from Ireland to Britain just before Northern Ireland’s constitutional tensions, placing both under the culture of the “other”, familiar yet alien. Richter learnt Russian at school and watched Soviet theater and cinema. Indeed, his first achievement in painting was as a Social Realist artist, which soon led him to the dawn of his photo paintings. Scully went to art school in Britain and eventually reached the United States, where Minimalism was at the peak of its influence, staunchly maintaining his Irish identity and forging his own response to the currents of the art world around him.

Nevertheless, the drama of their life experiences and the sense of bewilderment and consequential introspection did not stop these artists from showing traces of joyful hope in their works. From Scully’s sumptuous planes in Untitled (Landline), 2022, to Richter’s pared-down grey masterpieces like Ohne Titel, 1970, and Ausschnitt (Grün- Grau), 1970, viewers are invited to peer into melancholic vistas, reminiscent of the evocative work of Caspar David Friedrich. Richter’s Sternbild, 1969, was painted at a time when confidence in the future of humanity coincided with man landing on the moon, yet his starry sky, devoid of its transcendental grandeur, is transformed into a painted space, based on the mechanical capture of light. In the same way, during a trip to Yucatan that inspired his Wall of Light series, Scully transformed the Mayan stone walls he encountered into broad, hovering planes of colour, altered by the reflection of ethereal light upon them.

This unprecedented, intelligently curated exhibition offers a fresh perspective and means by which to examine two seemingly disparate abstract masters and their trailblazing paths toward invention and innovation, ultimately finding a powerful rapport in the life trajectory and poignant investigations of these two brilliant minds.


23 March
15 July
Event Category:


Ben Brown Fine Arts
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