Thomas Struth - 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short

    "I wanted to make photographs in which everything was so complex and detailed that you could look at them forever” – Thomas Struth

  • The Sublime of Notre Dame

    Depicting one of the most-visited capitals of Christianity in the world, Notre Dame, Paris is an important example from Thomas Struth's acclaimed series of photographs portraying sacred places of worship across the globe between 1995 and 2003. After his work at Rome’s Pantheon in 1990, Struth began developing an extended body of photographs of cathedrals, churches, temples, and other tourist sites of either religious or cultural importance. These places—spanning the Milan Cathedral to New York’s Time Square—offer what Struth describes as “monumental emotional packages of overwhelming experiences.”[i]

    Redolent of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s documentary approach, Struth’s photographs are a marvel of Western civilization whose architectural and religious significance has been revered for centuries. Notre Dame, Paris harkens back to the experience of the “sublime” that was embraced by both 19th century Romantic painters and Abstract Expressionists. Continuing this longstanding artistic tradition, Struth positions imposing, colossal exteriors before diminutive viewers: in this amplified case of pictorial hierarchy, the artist suggests that architecture can provide a religious experience within itself. 


    Bernd and Hilla Becher, Coal Tipple, Goodspring, Pennsylvania, 1975. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY, Artwork © 2020 Estate of Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher
    Installation view of Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, at Porto Museu de Serralves, 2011. Artworks © 2020 Thomas Struth  

    Born in the lower Rhineland in 1954, Struth’s childhood and adolescence were informed by the reconstruction of Germany following World War II. After the fall of a fascist regime, an undercurrent of distrust caused the artist’s generation to treat strictly-followed ideologies with skepticism, and “Struth, like many others in his generation, felt the need to confront this ‘need to worship,’ to ask some of the difficult questions that had remained unasked during the process of reconstruction, to interrogate idolatry and ideology, to reflect on how people are made into believers.”[ii]

    On April 15, 2019, the Notre-Dame de Paris caught fire; before the flames were extinguished, the cathedral’s roof and historic spire had collapsed and the upper walls were extensively damaged, though the interior was left relatively intact. Though Struth did not intend to capture an image of the past, today his image of Notre-Dame represents an evocative, timeless moment of devotion. 
    Gerhard Richter, September [891-5], 2005. Museum of Modern Art, New York, Artwork © Gerhard Richter 2020 (0096)

    [i] Thomas Struth quoted in Annette Kruszynski, Tobia Bezzola, and James Lingwood, eds., Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, Munich, 2010, p. 204.
    [ii] James Lingwood, Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, Munich, 2010, p. 170.
  • Struth's Places of Worship

    • Provenance

      Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Dallas Museum of Art; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Thomas Struth: 1977-2002, May 12, 2002 – September 28, 2003, pp. 175, 178 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 121; dated 2001)
      Galerie Neue Meister, Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Madonna Meets Mao, October 31, 2008 – January 4, 2009 (another example exhibited)
      Munich, Akademie der Schönen Künste, Düsseldorfer Schule – Photographien von 1970 bis 2008 aus der Sammlung Lothar Schimer, November 12, 2009 – February 14, 2010 (another example exhibited and illustrated on the cover)
      Kunsthaus Zürich; Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen; Porto, Museu de Serralves, Museu de Arte Contemporânea, Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, June 11, 2010 – January 29, 2012, p. 204 (another example exhibited and illustrated, pp. 87, 205)
      Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, Menschen vor Flusslandschaft, April 2 – August 24, 2014 (another example exhibited)
      Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art; Nagoya City Art Museum; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art; Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art, Guess What? Hardcore Contemporary Art's Truly a World Treasure. Selected Works from Yageo Foundation Collection, June 20, 2014 – May 31, 2015
      Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Photography Reinvented: The Collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker, September 30, 2016 – March 5, 2017 (another example exhibited)

    • Literature

      Hans Belting, Walter Grasskamp and Claudia Seidel, eds., Thomas Struth: Museum Photographs, Munich, 2002, pp. 81, 107 (another example illustrated)
      Stefan Gronert, The Düsseldorf School of Photography, London, 2009, p. 37 (another example illustrated, pp. 39, 217; dated 2001)

    • Artist Biography

      Thomas Struth

      Thomas Struth is a German photographer best known for his large-scale, classically composed photos of museum, cityscapes, and family portraits. Struth is a prominent member of the Düsseldorf School of Photography, the group of artists who studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the mid-1970s under influential photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher. Struth’s highly centralized, balanced photos incorporate cutting-edge photographic techniques and the tenets of classical composition to develop the documentarian aims of the Bechers.

      Struth’s work has been widely celebrated by the international art community. He represented Germany at the 44th Venice Biennale in 1990 and has been the subject of major retrospectives including those at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Haus der Kunst, Munich. He lives and works in Berlin and New York.

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Property from an Esteemed Private Collection


Notre Dame, Paris

signed, titled, numbered and dated on the reverse; further signed “Thomas Struth” on a label affixed to the backing board
chromogenic print face-mounted to Diasec, in artist’s frame
image 67 1/4 x 83 3/4 in. (170.7 x 212.6 cm)
overall 71 1/8 x 87 5/8 in. (180.7 x 222.6 cm)

Executed in 2000, this work is number 4 from an edition of 10.

Other examples from the edition are housed in the Lhoist Collection, Limelette and as a promised gift to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $400,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 2 July 2020