Bernd and Hilla Becher - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, March 7, 2017 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    A combination of conceptual artistic discourse, topological documentation and typological study define the ground-breaking practice of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Upon meeting in 1957, the couple embarked on a life-long exploration into the post-war industrial landscape of Europe and North America, resulting in a highly-prolific and celebrated oeuvre of both a functional and aesthetic value. The coolness of the fifteen black and white photographs in Water Towers, 1965-1997 is a remarkable example of the artists’ lifelong practice.

    Executed over three decades, the present work is a true portrayal of the artists’ laborious and highly-meticulous practice. The carefully composed ensemble of fifteen photographs of towers creates a beautiful rhythm of undulating and intersecting forms. In an effort to accentuate the monumentality of these industrial constructions, a front full-bodied angle is employed, accentuating the objectivity of the camera lens. Works from this lifelong project such as Water Towers, 1965-1997 thus equally bring to light an aesthetic assessment that would not have traditionally been attributed to large industrial constructions.

    Despite its uncontested aesthetic value, the assemblage of Water Towers, 1965-1997 follows a strict traditional methodology for typological documentation, reinforcing the functional aspect of the piece. Devoid of colour and background, the consistency of each composition encourages the viewer to analyse each structure solely on a comparative basis, in turn reiterating the notion of a quasi-scientific documentation of the selected industrial landscape.

    Bernd and Hilla Becher, acquired an international reputation for their unprecedented visual documentation of industrial architecture, executed in a coherent and highly-aesthetic manner. The artistic collaboration between these two artists has created a lasting legacy in younger generations, securing their position as leaders in post-war photography.

  • Artist Biography

    Bernd and Hilla Becher

    German • Bernd 1931-2007 - Hilla 1934-2015

    Husband and wife Bernd and Hilla Becher began photographing buildings and relics of the Industrial Revolution, such as coal mines and cooling towers, in 1959. Like objective scientists removing a specimen from the field, the Bechers framed their subject in a manner that isolated it from its environment. Often, these stark, beautifully detailed prints were then displayed in grid-like structures, forming stunning 'Typologies'.

    By the time Bernd Becher became a professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1976 (policy would not allow Hilla to be a simultaneous appointment), the Bechers' photographs, with their seemingly neutral point of view and serial display, were already being applauded by the international art world as important works of Minimal and Conceptual Art.

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Water Towers

titled, ordered and signed '"Water Towers" 1-15 B + H Becher' on a sheet attached the backing board of part 1; further consecutively numbered '1-15' on the reverse of each sheet
gelatin silver print, in 15 parts
173 x 241 cm (68 1/8 x 94 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1965-1997. This work is a unique typology and is recorded with the inventory number BHB-00944 (15) by Sonnabend Gallery, New York.

£120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for £293,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 8 March 2017 5pm GMT