Wolfgang Tillmans - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 3, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria S.A.L.E.S., Rome
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 4 March 2011, lot 2

  • Literature

    Taschen, 100 Contemporary Artists L-Z, cover

  • Catalogue Essay

    Over the last three decades, Wolfgang Tillmans has emerged as a groundbreaking artist whose dynamic and diverse body of work ranges from experimental abstractions to intimate portraits and meticulous installations. With an attentive eye to detail, he manipulates with dexterity a complete mastery of the photographic process in a manner that weaves an intricate narrative between photography and contemporary art, challenging viewers’ perceptions and expectations.

    In the introduction to Wolfgang Tillmans: Freischwimmer, the catalogue for the 2004 exhibition organized by the Toyko Opera Cultural Foundation, assistant curator Iida Shihoko writes that Tillmans' photographs “capture the essence of the kind of expression unique to photography.” Indeed, at the core of his work is a keen awareness of the medium’s fluidity, and its ability to capture the real, and to create the abstract. It is how one connects his early portraits—images of his friends imbued with the casual aesthetic of a snapshot—with his subsequent abstractions. The former is a celebration of the medium’s ability to document the world with immediacy; the latter a celebration of its most basic principle—the transformation of light into line.

    Freischwimmer 20 is an exquisite example from Tillmans’ most renowned series of abstractions in which he trades his camera for a light pen, which he then uses to “draw” on photographic paper in the darkroom. Like his predecessors Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy who famously experimented with cameraless photography as one aspect of their wildly diverse oeuvres, Tillmans reduces his practice to the most elementary components of the medium: light, paper and chemistry. A powerful injection of color thrusts his work into the here and now.

    When translated from German, Freischwimmer refers to a specific level of proficiency in swimming, thus guiding our perception of the series from an engagement with a wholly abstracted tableau to associations with water, and its movement across any surface. As Tillmans describes in an interview discussing the Freischwimmer pictures in the British Art Show 7 at the Southbank Centre in 2011, it is only because of our perceived expectations of what a photograph should be, and the inherent components of the medium, that those associations are possible: “The brain seeing this picture, realizing it is photographic adds reality to it and that’s why it’s important for me that it’s not painted… This has some connection to the reality of the world even though it’s not depicting anything.”

    These masterful abstractions both delight the eye and challenge the mind, reframing our contemporary notions of photography while building upon and incorporating the earliest of photographic techniques.

  • Artist Biography

    Wolfgang Tillmans

    German • 1968

    Since the early 1990s, Wolfgang Tillmans has pushed the boundaries of the photographic medium. Challenging the indexical nature traditionally associated with photography, his abstract and representational photographic bodies of work each in their own way put forward the notion of the photograph as object—rather than as a record of reality. While achieving his breakthrough with portraits and lifestyle photographs, documenting celebrity culture as well as LGBTQ communities and club culture, since the turn of the millennium the German photographer has notably created abstract work such as the Freischwimmer series, which is made in the darkroom without a camera.

    Seamlessly integrating genres, subject matters, techniques and exhibition strategies, Tillmans is known for photographs that pair playfulness and intimacy with a persistent questioning of dominant value and hierarchy structures of our image-saturated world. In 2000, Tillmans was the first photographer to receive the prestigious Turner Prize.

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Freischwimmer 20

Inkjet print.
72 x 53 3/4 in. (182.9 x 136.5 cm)
This work is from an edition of one plus one artist’s proof. This work is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity signed by the artist.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $181,250

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New York Auction 4 October 2018