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  • Provenance

    Studio Sales di Norberto Ruggeri, Rome
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Literature

    Dominic Eichler, Wolfgang Tillmans: Abstract Pictures, Ostfildern, 2015, no. 169, n.p (another example illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    paper drop (star II) presents an elegant and organic curl of photographic paper caught in the interplay of light and shadow. Exemplary of gradual natural changes, seen both in nature and in the evolution of Wolfgang Tillmans’ artistic oeuvre, the present work exposes the heart of the photographic process. Through consistent experimentation and nuanced transitions, from still lifes, monochromatic photographs, political campaigns to abstract compositions, Tillmans relentlessly interrogates the boundaries of photography. The artist’s playful, intimate and provocative approach to imagery was last year celebrated in major solo exhibitions at both Tate Modern in London and the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen. A testament to his innovative and seamless productivity, in 2000 the artist was the first photographer to receive the Turner Prize.

    A photograph within a photograph, in Tillmans’ Paper Drop works the sculptural quality of paper is celebrated. In the present composition depicting a thin sheet of curling paper, the artist forges a sculptural impression of space and three dimensional illusion. The cavity at the centre of the image is contrasted with the darker shadows; the contour and the transient diffusion of light asserting the gravitas of the linear form. The hollow shape continues into the boundless depths of the composition, the photographed sheet is unfurling whilst light diffuses at the centre of the picture. Tillmans tests the possibilities of both the theoretical iconography and the physical materiality of photography, challenging the dominant hierarchy of camerawork in our image-saturated society. Through minimal intervention the artist creatively unveils the mystery of the photographic process and transforms the photograph into an object. ‘What intrigues me is the tension of the two key qualities of a photograph: the promise of it being a perfect, controlled object, and the reality of a photographic image being mechanically quite unsophisticated. It creases or buckles when it’s too dry, curls in humidity, becomes rigid and vulnerable when it’s mounted…I choose to reconcile all this and don’t try to pretend that it isn’t happening’ (Wolfgang Tillmans, quoted in Jan Verwoert, Peter Halley and Midori Matsui, Wolfgang Tillmans, London, 2014, p. 29).
    Throughout his experimental oeuvre Tillmans, echoing themes prevalent in process-based art, marries the conceptual with the physical. The artist masterfully exposes the realities of working in a studio and reveals varied components of photographic creation. Tillmans’ works based around the studio are exemplary of his fascination with the process of making, from abstract out-of-camera works - executed by manipulating the chemical and darkroom processes - such as the Freischwimmer series, to his Paper Drops that highlight the vital nature of photographic paper. Here, representing a new form of photographic record, the artist unveils the façade and exposes the materiality of processes in the same way as his artistic forbearers, the likes of Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman and Richard Serra.

    ‘In my lens-based paper drop images I made the photographic paper itself my subject matter, creating images that are figurative and abstract at the same time. I liken them to mathematical functions. I can’t calculate them, but a mathematician could describe exactly how their shapes happened through the tension of the paper and gravity. They are almost like scientific illustrations’ (Wolfgang Tillmans, quoted in Jan Verwoert, Peter Halley and Midori Matsui, Wolfgang Tillmans, London, 2014, n.p.). Similarly in his Lighter series (2005 – on-going), objectifying the photographic process, the artist rejects photography’s innate task of representation and disrupts the plane to present a different perspective; the composition becomes a self-referential object. Commenting on his exploration into and deconstruction of the photographic process Tillmans notes, ‘I think of a sheet of photo-paper as an extension in and of itself, and as an object. This has always been my basic understanding of what photographs are; I never thought of a picture as being bodyless, but rather as existing within a process of transformation from a three-dimensional object into an almost two-dimensional picture object. So, when I realized that really absolutely everything I do is on paper, I transformed this interest into a photo, of a photo' (Wolfgang Tillmans, quoted in Jan Verwoert, Peter Halley and Midori Matsui, Wolfgang Tillmans, London, 2014, p.155).

    Driven by a desire to deconstruct preconceived notions of perception, throughout his oeuvre Tillmans constantly challenges traditional representation. Here, in paper drop (star II), Tillmans explores a new perspective on the materiality of creative processes. Fundamental to the present work is the artist’s understanding of the material qualities of paper; Tillmans presents the viewer with a graceful and almost sculptural photograph.

  • 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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paper drop (star) II

c-print mounted on Forex, in artist's frame
sheet 135 x 203 cm (53 1/8 x 79 7/8 in.)
overall 145.3 x 213.6 cm (57 1/4 x 84 1/8 in.)

Executed in 2007, this work is number 1 from an edition of 1 plus 1 artist's proof.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £200,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 27 June 2018