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Thomas Struth: Making Time

Madrid 2/6/2007 - 5/6/2007

Over the past two decades the renowned German photographer Thomas Struth has devoted his attention to the production of one of his largest series which relates to the public’s daily relationship with works of art in museums around the world. Struth completed this project with images taken in the Prado. As such, the exhibition marks the start of the Museum’s initiative to offer “other viewpoints” on its collection.For more than twenty years, Struth has been interested in representing the social spaces in which art is celebrated: temples, churches and in particular museums.This intention has led him to visit the main cities and museums throughout the world, from the Musée du Louvre in Paris to the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Over this period, Struth has focused his creative activities on portraying the daily life of works of art within the museum space and their relationship with visitors. Conceived as individual works or as larger series devoted to a single institution, Struth’s project was the subject of a travelling exhibition held in the United States in 2002 which concluded in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.The project Making Time held at the Prado consists of 10 photographs. Displayed around the Museum, they illustrate the highly focused work that Struth has realised on the subject of art spaces, starting with Portrait of Giles Robertson of 1987 up to his creations in the Prado. Retrospective photographs such as Dürer’s Self-portrait in Munich, Galleria dell Accademia I (Venice), Liberty leading the People by Delacroix (taken during the time the painting was in the National Museum of Tokyo), and his image of a lone visitor (again in the Tokyo Museum) are displayed alongside with various photographs taken in the Prado itself. The result is a direct dialogue with the most celebrated galleries and works of art in the Museo del Prado.Furthermore, late works by the artist made in the Hermitage Museum, Galleria dell'Academia an the Prado Museum can be seen in the Museum's new extension as an additional part of the Making Time exhibition (28 April - 1 July).Making Time is the result of a collaboration between a living artist and the Museo del Prado. It marks the Museum’s intention to open up a new direction with the aim of establishing “other viewpoints” on its collections and ones which will invite reflection in a way comparable to initiatives at other international, historic museums.

Exhibition

Biography. Thomas Struth

Biography. Thomas Struth
Alte Pinakothek, Self-Portrait Thomas Struth. TS Cat. 7691 (Dürer, Munich). 116,5 x 147 cm (image). Munich 2000

Thomas Struth was born in 1954 in Geldern, (Lower Rhine) Germany. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts Düsseldorf from 1973-1980. In 1978 he was the first artist in residence at P.S. 1 Studios, Long Island City. From 1993 to 1996 he was the first Professor of Photography at the newly founded Hochschule für Gestaltung, Karlsruhe. Struth was awarded the Spectrum International Prize for Photography, Stiftung Niedersachsen, Germany in 1997-1998.

Since the late 1970's, Thomas Struth has been internationally recognized for his photographs of cities, landscapes, portraits and architectural interiors. Struth's work considers how photography can at once engage and challenge the history of the medium and its traditional genres, as well as its role in contemporary art, and its function within a highly mediated , broader cultural context. Trained first in painting, he first took up photography in 1974 while a student at the Düsseldorf Academy where he studied with Gerhard Richter and since 1976 under Bernd Becher. During his studies with the Bechers, Struth was influenced by the idea of using a typological method in the study of the urban environment. However, although rigorous, his method was different from a strictly conceptual method inspired by the idea ofinventory.

First photographing people in the streets of Düsseldorf, and other cities, from 1974 to 1977, he later drew on this experience in an early body of work, the black and white cityscapes, taken with a large-format camera, which he began in 1977. An early example of these urban black and white images, in which architecture becomes the bearer of the world's histories past and present, is Crosby Street, New York, 1978 (Fig. 1). Many New York street scenes followed in 1978 while Struth was living there as an artist in residence.

He used a central point perspective that seems anonymous, as if the pictures arose from the camera's capacity to make clear, detailed records of the world. “I'm interested in photographs that have no personal signature, “ he declared in 1978. Absent of anecdote and incident, each street unfolds in its unique way, the difference between them - in structure, history, texture, and mood - becomes evident.

Photographs of New York were followed by cityscapes taken all over the world: Rome Campo dei Fiori, Rome, 1984, Bruselles, Geneva, Paris Rue de Beaugrenelle, Paris, 1979, Hannover, London, but also Yamaguchi, Tokyo Shinjuku-ku TDK, 1986, (fig. 2), Bejing and Wuhan and, more recently, Dallas Dallas Parking Lot, Dallas, 2001, (fig. 3) and Sao Paolo. Slowly, color was introduced and, starting with the Japanese and Chinese street-scenes in the early 90's, Struth began to allow people to re-appear in his photos, as in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 1991 or inTien An Men, Bejing, 1997.

Early portraits of family and friends, which he began in 1983, launched a series of psychologically oriented (family) portraits in 1986, for example The Bernstein Family, Mündersbach, 1990 (fig. 4) or the later Ma Yue Liang (Seated), Shanghai, 1996. The origin of these portraits is quite unusual as it lies in a collaborative project Struth embarked upon with his friend and analyst, Ingo Hartmann, who encouraged his patients to collect and study family snapshots. Struth wanted to see what meaning could be read from photographs, and how the images conveyed these messages. It followed that the artist began to make his own portraits of families and individuals, sometimes fellow artists - images that emerged from months and sometimes years of on-off discussion in which the artist and subjects he knew well together developed precisely how they wished to be seen.

Struth's practice is essentially an investigative process of trying to comprehend and portray the connections and relationships that condition our experience of viewing the world. His work is characterized by an oblique vantage point and a clarity and neutrality which permits the universal subject to speak. In the past decade, Struth has worked in a variety of genres: flower 'still-lives', his museum pictures (1989-2004), and vast landscapes, including the Paradise pictures (1998-2001)-dense virgin forests in Brazil, Japan, China, Australia, and Germany; and also landscapes of the American West. The Museum photographs were preceded by two images, the portrait of the late Giles Robertson(with book), Edingburgh 1985 and the The Restorers in San Lorenzo, Naples 1988. (fig. 5). This first museum image was smaller in scale than the subsequent museum photographs, which double our own experience in front of the work of art. Since 1989, Struth's museum pictures, such as National Gallery 1, London, 1989, or Art Institute of Chicago II, Chicago 1990 (fig. 6), have depicted architectural monuments and museum interiors – rooms of history - in relation to their audience, in which the subjects themselves become the portrait.

In images like National Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1999 (fig. 7), or the older Stanze di Raffaelo 2, Rome, 1990, he focuses on more evident sites of cultural tourism, and yet the tourists themselves retain their integrity through Struth's characteristically detached and yet somehow symphatetic lens. In one of his newest bodies of work,Pergamon I-VI, 2001, (fig. 8) Struth continued his timeless portraits of human identity in relation to the past and to their places of representation. This was the first extensive series of photographs devoted to a single location, namely the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, which had become accessible again only after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

In contrast, Struth began his landscape photographs in 1991 with a commission for a private hospital in Winterthur, Switzerland, for which he created a series of intimate small-scale photos of flowers of the surrounding landscape, which were placed in the patients' rooms, such as Garten am Lindberg, Winterthur 1991 (fig. 9). From this initial foray, his interest in nature as subject culminated in the Paradise series (1998 - 2001) (fig. 10). These large-scale photos depict aboriginal forests in Australia, Japan and Southwest China - landscapes largely unaltered by human intervention. More recent works present an odd hybrid of nature and culture, taking us into a place where the technology of the present becomes an overall landscape, such as in El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California, 1999 or in the slightly older in Wushan, Yangtse Gorge, China, 2(fig. 11).

Thomas Struth's work has been exhibited widely in Europe and the United States at such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Carré d'Art, Nîmes; Kunstmuseum, Bonn; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; The Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; the Renaissance Society, Chicago; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Portikus, Frankfurt. His work has also been exhibited at Documenta IX, Kassel; the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, and the Skulptur Projecte Münster 87, Münster. In 2000-2001, a retrospective of his work, Thomas Struth: My Portrait, was shown at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and the National Museum of Art, Kyoto, Japan.

Artworks

1

National Museum of Art

Thomas Struth
Tokyo 1999
169,5 x 267 cm (image)
179,5 x 277 cm (including frame)

2

Arms 1

Thomas Struth
Tokyo 1999
134 x 169,1 cm (image)
176 x 209,1 cm (including frame)

3

Galleria dell’Accademia 1

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 4841 (Veronese - Accademia)
Venice 1992
184,5 x 228,3 cm (image)
184,5 x 228,3 cm (including frame)

4

Art Institute of Chicago 1

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 4131 (Chicago - Seurat Grande Jatte)
Chicago 1990
128,6 x 161,4 (image)
179 x 210 x 4,5 cm (including frame)

5

Giles Robertson (with book)

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 3521 (Giles Robertson)
Edinburgh 1987
42 x 58 cm (image)
68 x 86 cm (including frame)

6

National Gallery 2

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 8021 (Vermeer)
London 2001
110 x 134,4 cm (image)
148 x 170,4 cm (including frame)

7

Alte Pinakothek, Self-Portrait

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 7691 (Dürer, Munich)
Munich 2000
116,5 x 147 cm (image)
158,5 x 184 cm (including frame)

8

Restauratoren in San Lorenzo Maggiore

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 3711 (Restorers in Naples)
Naples 1988
90 x 135 cm (image)
119 x 159,5 cm (including frame)

9

Museo del Prado 2

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 9411 (Asian girls with Felipe IV in Hunting Dress)
Madrid 2005
142,0 X 178,7 cm (image)
180,0 X 214,7 cm (including frame)

10

Museo del Prado 3

Thomas Struth
TS Cat. 9421 (small group with Las Hilanderas)
Madrid 2005
158,0 X 203,0 cms (image)
200,0 X 243,0 cms (including frame)

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