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  • Provenance

    Victoria Miro Gallery, London

  • Literature

    Schirmer/Mosel, Thomas Demand: Phototrophy, p. 47
    Walther Konig, Thomas Demand: L'Esprit d'Escalier, p. 17

  • Catalogue Essay

    Thomas Demand’s work stands at the intersection of sculpture and photography. As a former student of German sculptor Fritz Schwegler at the fabled Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1989-1992, Demand has been exploring the underlying psychological charge in architecture. Like his photographic counterparts at the academy, including Andreas Gursky (whose work can be seen in lot 203) and Candida Höfer (whose work can be seen in lot 200), many of Demand’s prints are of oversized interiors. However, as opposed to his peers, Demand’s images are all of interiors that he had crafted himself out of paper and cardboard. Each constructed model is a life-size replica based on a veritable place (albeit some spaces no longer exist). And while none of Demand’s interiors feature humans, all present evidence of recent human activity. After photographing the interiors he had constructed, Demand destroys the model, leaving the photograph to act as the sole remnant of the space. Demand’s photographs, therefore, challenge viewers to ponder whether a visual reproduction of an object can assume the place of the object itself once the object has ceased to exist.

    In Büro/ Office, 1996 (lot 209), Demand recreated the East Berlin headquarters of the Stasi secret police after it had been ransacked by protesters following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. By re-fabricating the infamous office and then proceeding to destroy it, Demand assumed control over a space and a situation of which he was not originally a part. His act of appropriation, therefore, at first glance could be seen as an act of empowerment in its willful reclaiming of history. However, the destruction of the model is crucial for the understanding of Demand’s work, for it negates the initial physical control the artist had over the space, leaving him on an equal footing with the viewers of his photograph. In that regard, Demand’s Büro/ Office is about loss and limitations in revisiting history, conceding the frailty of memory.

    Similarly, in the current lot, Abgang/ Exit, 2000, Demand’s work attests to the boundaries of photography. The viewers’ perspective of the construction is from a high vantage point, which allows for a more sweeping vista of the model. However, the overview appears to collide with the title of the image. That is, while the title, exit, alludes to being led out of a given location, the staircase is set amidst a seemingly desolate environment, collapsing viewers’ expectation. As a result, Demand further highlights the limitations of a photograph as an accurate mode of presenting reality to its fullest. It is also noteworthy that while both of Demand’s images at first appear to be of the actual buildings on which they are based, closer and longer inspection of each reveals the construction seams and inconsistencies within each tableau. Indeed, Demand’s works appear to exist in the marginal space between reality and artifice, collectively existing in a gray zone marked by the full set of advantages—and restrictions—of either realm.


Abgang/ Exit

Chromogenic print, Diasec mounted.
61 1/4 x 98 1/2 in. (155.6 x 250.2 cm)
Signed, dated and numbered 5/6 in ink on the reverse of the flush-mount.

$120,000 - 180,000 

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Worldwide Head, Photographs
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New York Auction 1 April 10am & 2pm