It was a bit of a duty trip. I was suffering a Halloween party hangover and the afternoon was not unpleasantly sliding into a sloth-marathon of Deadwood and hummus on the sofa, but I'd made a resolution to see more contemporary art and this was an easy choice: holding strong on the top five must-see lists and in the same building as a members room that serves very good cocktails indeed.
So off it was to Panorama, Tate Modern's blockbuster retrospective spanning nearly five decades of work from a German artist I'd never heard of before the superlative reviews. And as much as I would love to be provocatively contrary (and on that note, I do think We Need To Talk About Kevin is an awful film), I find myself wanting to throw the same solemnly reverent adjectives as everyone else: "dazzlingly beautiful"; "quietly spectacular"; "the world’s most important painter"; "a landmark that will be remembered long after the show closes."
I can add little that is original to the paeans from Waldemar Januszczak and co. Yes, I marvelled at Richter's technical brilliance; his magpie ability to incorporate, interrogate and transform most of the major art movements from the past few centuries, from vanitas still life to surrealism, from pop art to Vermeer; his unique mastery of both the abstract and the figurative; and his insistence that art can confront and contribute to contemporary events.
What really excited me, however, was how intimately relevant his art felt to my experience of life lived today.
His super-sharp photorealism is the perfect mirror for our HD, 3D decade where no detail is too mundane to escape the roving smartphone lens. But so is his love of the blur and the soft-focus wash; used to give a unsettling, elusive edge to his figurative works, but also central to the abstracts, where he uses a squeegee pulled across paint to destroy, dismember and tear. Together, these two qualities - the unflinching objectivity and the indefinable vagueness, the material specificity and the moral ambiguity - uncannily reflect a cyber culture where we fetishise precise, teeming data yet also worship opaque, rather sinister forces of 'the network' and a sort of catch-all positive-psychology spiritualism.
It reminded me of those mobile shots taken of the dead Gaddafi: so shockingly explicit yet so disturbingly, softly indistinct.
The elderflower and lavender martini was excellent.