Thomas Struth

Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf
21 March – 16 August 2020

For the first time, the exhibition SUBJECT and OBJECT. PHOTO RHINE RUHR will examine the relationships between the different photographic positions that have developed in the cities of the Rhineland as well as the Ruhr and at the regions’ art academies since the 1960s. This unique approach is due to the fact that such a rich photography scene was able to develop in western Germany, which has repeatedly produced new and innovative artistic positions with sometimes very different photographic approaches over the past 70 years. According to the thesis, on the one hand this is due to the density of art academies and trade schools that developed in the Rhine and Ruhr regions after the Second World War. On the other hand, it is also a result of artistic socialization through an intensive art-historical discourse, parallel artistic developments within the visual arts, and the engagement with positions of international art that were shown at the major institutions in Düsseldorf, Essen, Cologne, Krefeld, and Mönchengladbach.

An independent photo class was established in the 1970s at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Bernd and Hilla Becher. At what is now the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen, where a photo class led by Max Burchartz existed as early as the 1920s (parallel to the developments at the Bauhaus in Dessau), photography was once again taught as an independent specialization starting in 1959, initially under Otto Steinert. Thus, two of the most internationally influential schools of photography emerged in close proximity to each other in Germany. In the vicinity of these two cities, there are further influential institutions with earlier art schools in Krefeld and Cologne in the 1960s and 1970s, where Arno Jansen served as head of the art and photography departments. In addition to the Folkwangschule in Essen and the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the Kunsthochschule für Medien, which was founded in the 1990s, is another important site for photography in Cologne, where Beate Gütschow has been teaching artistic photography since 2011, following Jürgen Klauke and Tobias Zielony.

The teachers’ works exhibit different perspectives on the medium of photography, especially in the artistic context. In Essen there was Otto Steinert with his approach of “subjective photography.” In Düsseldorf, Bernd and Hilla Becher, who followed a conceptual approach out of which a photographic practice developed that can also be seen in the tradition of the New Objectivity of the 1920s. In Cologne, in addition to Alfred Will, who was strongly oriented toward the ideas of the German Werkbund and initially trained as a graphic designer, there was Arno Jansen, who dealt with new artistic possibilities of the medium of photography in addition to the traditional genres such as portraits and still lifes. In Krefeld there was Detlef Orlopp, whose work explored abstraction and the process of recognition through the gaze in hyper-precise photographs. The extent to which teachers in the Rhineland and the Ruhr proclaimed their own artistic work and the subjective or objective photographic approach and thus shaped several generations of young photographers to this day will be discussed and highlighted in the exhibition.

The Bechers’ legendary class with now internationally celebrated “students” such as Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff, and Thomas Struth as the Düsseldorf School of Photography is one of the most successful movements in the history of photography. Graduates from Essen with Timm Rautert and Joachim Brohm are known and respected around the world for their documentary and artistic approaches. Jürgen Klauke, Astrid Klein, and Rudolf Bonvie developed independent artistic approaches in Cologne which dealt with issues of identity and gender beginning in the late 1960s. At the same time, Katharina Sieverding created her feminist-influenced art in Düsseldorf.

Central positions from all three generations as well as similarities and differences between the artistic approaches will be presented, but above all also positions that have received less attention will be featured and discussed in this context.

The Kunsthalle Düsseldorf hosted an exhibition by Bernd and Hilla Becher in 1969 under the title Anonymous Sculptures as well as a major solo exhibition with works by Andreas Gursky in 1998. Following in this tradition, and with a clear focus on artistic photography, SUBJECT and OBJECT. PHOTO RHINE RUHR explores the different fields of experimentation in the medium between subject and object.

Since the 1920s, not only in Germany, a visually striking spirit of capturing reality through photography has emerged, in which the elementary questions about the significance and meaning of the supposedly real image continue to be asked—especially with regard to the emergence of digital photography and its possibilities for manipulating the real.

The exhibition SUBJECT and OBJECT. PHOTO RHINE RUHR undertakes a methodological and chronological examination for the first time and is curated by Ralph Goertz with Gregor Jansen and Dana Bergmann.

Kunsthalle Düsseldorf


Thomas Struth

Archive Matrix Assembly: The Photography of Thomas Struth 1978–2018 (publication)

Photo: Kris Graves
Photo: Kris Graves

Archive Matrix Assembly: The Photography of Thomas Struth 1978–2018 presents the first comprehensive, systematic theory of Thomas Struth’s main body of photographic work from its beginnings in the late 1970s until his most recent work in 2018. The book presents a unique, evolutionary understanding of the work, proposing that it has established three stages of production: archive, matrix, and assembly. Together the three stages form a developmental system that characterizes the individual photographs, their relation to their subject matter, and how they form larger, significant collections of images. The book project accomplishes three main goals: it develops a comprehensive critical reading of the work, it serves as a monograph of the artist, and it provides an extensive analysis of the photographs at all stages, including the less discussed, more recent photography, which is placed on par with the earlier work for which Struth first became internationally renowned.

Order a copy here.

Ai Weiwei, Jeff Elrod, Joan Mitchell, Thomas Struth et al.

Inaugural Installations: Kinder Building (group show)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
21 November 2020 – 31 December 2021

Thomas Struth, Full-Scale Mock-up 3, JSC, Houston, 2017, printed 2018, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © 2017 Thomas Struth
Thomas Struth, Full-Scale Mock-up 3, JSC, Houston, 2017, printed 2018, inkjet print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © 2017 Thomas Struth

The Nancy and Rich Kinder Building is dedicated to the Museum’s international collections of modern and contemporary art. The soaring spaces feature displays that span media encompassing painting and sculpture, craft and design, video, and immersive installations. It will open with the first comprehensive installation of these works, drawn from the collections of Latin American and Latino art; photography; prints and drawings; decorative arts, craft, and design; and modern and contemporary art.

These first installations in the Kinder Building are accompanied by eight major site-specific commissioned works that will be inaugurated at the time of the opening. Commissioned artists are El Anatsui, Byung Hoon Choi, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Ólafur Elíasson, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Cristina Iglesias, Jason Salavon, and Ai Weiwei.

Museum of Fine Arts

Vera Lutter, Thomas Struth et al.

Civilization: The Way We Live (group show)
Mucem, Marseille
24 February – 28 June 2021

Thomas Struth, Pergamon Museum 1, Berlin, 2001, 2001, © Thomas Struth
Thomas Struth, Pergamon Museum 1, Berlin, 2001, 2001, © Thomas Struth

Civilization: The Way We Live Now is an international photography exhibition of monumental scale, featuring the work of over 100 contemporary photographers from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe with over 200 original photographs being exhibited.

In this increasingly globalised world, the exhibition explores photographers’ representations of life in cities as its key theme and presents a journey through the shared aspects of life in the urban environment. The selected works create a picture of collective life around the world and document patterns of mass behaviour. The exhibition looks at the phenomenal complexity of life in the twenty-first century and reflects on the ways in which photographers have documented, and held a mirror up, to the world around us.