Why Does Gerhard Richter Destroy His Own Artwork?

German artist, Gerhard Richter, one of the most famous living contemporary artists today, has destroyed over 89 of his own pieces. While it may sound familiar to hear of an artist completing a work and promptly painting over it, Richter destroys works that have already been exhibited and priced in the millions. Richter told Der Spiegel: “cutting up the paintings was always an act of liberation.”

Strangely, Richter takes photo documentation of his works prior to setting them ablaze. He has commented on that process saying “sometimes, when I see one of the photos, I think to myself: That’s too bad; you could have let this one or that one survive.”

Are we missing out on valuable information these destroyed works could offer critics, historians and other artists, or does the destruction itself tell us all we need to know?