The world’s greatest living Artist is also the world’s highest paid artist. This makes sense, of course. It would be a sad state of affairs if the world’s greatest living artist was living under an overpass and standing around with a sign reading “Will Paint for Food.”

Gerhard Richter

His name is Gerhard Richter and he’s an old man, 83 years of age. Despite his age, he still makes great art, whether figurative or abstract. And his paintings continue to sell for mind-boggling sums. Richter is the walking, talking fulfillment of the old adage: if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

For example, his painting "Domplatz, Mailand" sold for $37 million in 2013.

What’s funny is that Richter, like many artists, doesn’t own any art. Richter told the German newspaper Die Zeit, “I don't spend money on art. I like looking at paintings, but I go to a museum to do so. I don't have to own art myself."

Knack for self-promotion

In addition to his other titles – genius and world’s greatest living artist – Richter has another lesser known talent. He has a knack for self-promotion, ingenuous self-promotion. Richter doesn’t brag or behave like a pompous ass or party like a rock star. Instead, he makes outlandish, cryptic statements that cause people to perk up their ears and take note.

For example, “One has to believe in what one is doing, one has to commit oneself inwardly, in order to do painting.

Once obsessed, one ultimately carries it to the point of believing that one might change human beings through painting. But if one lacks this passionate commitment, there is nothing left to do. Then it is best to leave it alone. For basically painting is idiocy.“ This quote was taken from Robert Storr's "Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting."

This is Richter bedizening himself in random and contradictory symbols, a kind of reverse camouflage.

Camouflage that, instead of concealing, provides increased visibility. It’s wonderful stuff and once can only admire it.

Richter's paintings have visceral impact

And speaking of admiring, in November, 2002, San Francisco’s MOMA presented a 40-year retrospective of Richter’s art. The author – yours truly – had the privilege, the good fortune to attend.

In a word, it was glorious. Like being transported to the Empyrean that Aristotle spoke of. Standing before Richter’s "January," a gigantic painting measuring ten feet by thirteen feet, the author physically shivered. Not from awe, although he was awestruck, but because he felt as if he was standing on a street in Germany in the middle of winter, in January. Snow was falling heavily, black ice was forming on the tarmac and a polar chill hung in the air. It was amazingly, astonishingly magnificent.

Miracle worker

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the genius of Gerhard Richter. He smears gallons of thick oil paint on a huge canvas. Then, using squeegees and brushes, he adds layer upon layer of paint until it becomes what he wants it to be.

Paint applied to canvas becomes a teleportation machine capable of transporting the viewer to another time and place. It’s akin to a miracle of Biblical proportion, like Jesus walking on water.

Gerhard Richter is without a doubt the world’s greatest living painter. In fact, when one stops and thinks about it, no matter how much he’s paid, it’s not enough.