Wolfgang Tillmans Shines in Basel With Major Retrospective at Fondation Beyeler

On view during Art Basel, it’s the foundation’s first large-scale show dedicated to the medium of photography.

Installation view of the exhibition “Wolfgang Tillmans
Installation view of the exhibition “Wolfgang Tillmans" at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, May 2017. Photo Mark Niedermann.

Wolfgang Tillmans,” the retrospective of the artist’s work currently on view at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler, is sure to be one of the most visited shows in town this week, when collectors, VIPs, and art lovers from all over the world descend on city for the 2017 of Art Basel.

Gathering 200 works—including some that the foundation recently acquired and a new audiovisual installation—the exhibition spans the artist’s career from 1989 to 2017, from still lifes and portraits, to abstract, non-representational pieces, texture and light studies, photographs manipulated on a xerox, and those made without a camera, using only darkroom developing techniques.

While the photographer was invited to curate a one-room exhibition at the Basel institution in 2014, featuring works from the permanent collection and some of his own, the foundation has never before dedicated an exhibition of this scale to the medium of photography.

The show coincides not only with Art Basel, but also with the tail end of Tillmans’s major survey at Tate Modern, on view until June 11.

A collaboration between the artist and the foundation’s senior curator Dr. Theodora Vischer, the exhibition positions Tillmans’s work as “the creation of imagery,” showing how his techniques differ from photography in a traditional sense. Indeed, the artist has historically explored more than just still images, with ventures into music, video, and installations that combine the two.

“I always saw photography as an object. I never thought of a picture as being bodiless, but rather as existing within a process of transformation from three dimensions to two—a conceptual activity,” the artist told the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist in 2007.

In typical Tillmans style, the works on display at Fondation Beyeler are printed on a variety of large and small formats on different types of paper, some with frames and some without, and hung at different heights in a non-hierarchical manner.

“I try to avoid the terms ‘abstract’ and ‘figurative,'” Tillmans said of his work at a lecture at Munich’s Art Academy in 2011.

“Instead I can actually define a clearer line in terms of ‘made with a lens’ and ‘not made with a lens.’ Because abstract in a sense of ‘to abstract,’ meaning that reality is being transformed, applies to any photo. What you see here is not a sky, but a blue colored surface, making it therefore also an abstraction of the sky,” he added.

View a selection of installation shots and works on display below:

Wolfgang Tillmans, Lutz & Alex on Beach (1992) Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Installation view of the exhibition “Wolfgang Tillmans” at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, May 2017. Photo Mark Niedermann.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Gedser (2014). Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Leaf for Architects (2013). Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Ostgut Freischwimmer, Left (2004)
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel; ©Wolfgang Tillmans.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Palmtrees Caprisun (2014). Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Paper Drop (Reversed) II (2011). Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Wolfgang Tillman, Anders (Brighton Arcimboldo) (2005). Courtesy Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel; ©Wolfgang Tillmans.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Nite Queen (2013). Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Installation view of the exhibition “Wolfgang Tillmans” at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, May 2017. Photo Mark Niedermann.

Wolfgang Tillmans Basel

Wolfgang Tillmans, Night Jam (2013). Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Wolfgang Tillmans Basel

Wolfgang Tillmans, Winter Grime (2014). Courtesy Galerie, Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne, Maureen Paley, London, David Zwirner, New York.

Wolfgang Tillmans” is on view at Fondation Beyeler, Basel, until October 1, 2017.


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