L13022

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Lot 31
  • 31

Thomas Struth

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 GBP
Sold
818,500 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Thomas Struth
  • Pantheon, Rome
  • signed, numbered and dated 1990 Print: 1992 on the reverse
  • chromogenic print in artist's frame

Provenance

Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne
Sale: Christie's, New York, International Contemporary Art, 16 May 2000, Lot 20
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Boston, The Institute of Contemporary Art; London, Institute of Contemporary Art; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Thomas Struth Strangers and Friends Photographs 1986-1992, 1994-95, pp. 10-11, illustrated in colour
Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Thomas Struth 1977-2002, 2002, p. 119, illustrated in colour

Literature

Exhibition Catalogue, Seattle, University of Washington, Henry Art Gallery, After Art: Rethinking 150 Years of Photography, 1994-95, p. 89, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Bonn, Kunstmuseum, Thomas Struth Straβen Fotografie 1976 bis 1995, 1995, p. 110-11, illustration of another example in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, On the Edge: Contemporary Art from the Werner and Elaine Danheisser Collection, 1997-98, p. 129, illustration of another example in colour
Hans Belting, Walter Grasskamp, et. al., Thomas Struth. Museum Photographs, Munich 2005, p. 119, illustrated in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich; Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung NRW; London, Whitechapel Gallery; Porto, Museo Serralves; Photographs 1978-2010, 2010-2012, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1990, Pantheon, Rome is a hugely significant work in Thomas Struth’s now complete series of Museum Photographs, an inquiry that assiduously occupied his practice for over fifteen years. Widely exhibited as part of this highly celebrated corpus, Pantheon spectacularly extends the artist’s overarching project of capturing tourists viewing iconic works of art in institutions throughout the world. As described by the artist, the latency of museum-going suggested “the potential for including a marriage of a contemporary moment with a historical moment in one photographic plane” (the artist cited in: Annette Kruszynski, Tobia Bezzola, and James Lingwood, Eds., Thomas Struth: Photogarphs 1978-2010, Munich 2010, p. 198). Commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 126 AD as a temple to the Gods of Ancient Rome, the Pantheon is perhaps the best-preserved ancient monument in existence today; its historic pull signifies the very beginning of tourism itself. With this subject, Struth traverses the most incredible arc of human history to powerfully deliver an expression of his critical aim: "In essence I wanted to bring together the time of the picture and the time of the viewer" (the artist cited in: Ibid., p. 138). Crucially linking Struth’s long time photography of architecture with the question of the museum, Pantheon speaks to a spectrum of the artist’s defining concerns.

Above all others in this series, this was the photograph Struth had long wanted to take. In line with Struth’s encompassing concept, a series predominantly dominated by populated museum interiors housing flat works of art, Pantheon sought a specific effect: one in which the historical moment of a famous icon from the past is united with contemporary experience. Distinct however from the constituent works in the greater series of Museum Photographs - whereby chance dispersal of passers-by contemplating and in the company of famous paintings were spontaneously captured - this particular image was carefully conceived and meticulously planned. Working from a black and white photograph taken some time previously, Struth had a particular composition and effect in mind; yet, owing to the low-light conditions and incredible footfall of tourists this was impossible to achieve as an objective observer. With permission to photograph the Pantheon out-of-hours, Struth positioned his visitors like actors on a stage. Illuminated by light emanating from the oculus over-head and engulfed by the Pantheon’s vast sweeping dome, Struth’s archetypal observers stand reverentially subjugated by this ancient marvel of Roman architecture. Herein, Pantheon possesses a particular kind of painterly quality and dialogue with art history divergent from the other examples in this series. With his lens, Struth succeeds in communicating a sense of being engulfed, indeed swallowed, by the sheer vastness of the Pantheon's cavernous interior. Akin to Caspar David Friedrich’s archetype of the Rückenfigur, Struth’s figure in red, standing in awe of the Pantheon’s lofty eaves, acts as the idealising and identificatory human intermediate between the viewer and architectural vastness. Very much attuned to the work of his peer and fellow student of Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Academy, Andreas Gursky, Struth is at once embroiled in the painterly trope of the Sublime whilst also invoking a critique of contemporary tourism.

Recalling the centuries old practice of ‘vista painting’, Struth’s Pantheon invokes a similar effect to the panoramic views of Rome by Eighteenth Century painter and architect Giovanni Paolo Panini. His famous vedute comprised picturesque portrayals of Rome’s antiquities and popular Eighteenth Century tourist attractions: painted around 1730, Interior of the Pantheon expresses the contemporaneous taste for dwarfing depictions of the natural world and overwhelming architectural vistas synonymous with Romanticism and the spirit of the Grand Tour. Our contemporary dialogue with history, however - what visitors seek or expect to experience in famous museums and monuments - is the principal issue at stake in Pantheon. Overall, Struth’s Museum Photographs attempt to "retrieve masterpieces from the fate of fame, to recover them from their status… to remind us that these were works which were created in a contemporary moment, by artists who had everyday lives" (the artist cited in: Annette Kruszynski, Tobia Bezzola, and James Lingwood, Eds., Op. cit., p. 138). In the case of the Pantheon, an architectural paean to ancient Rome almost two thousand years old, Struth imparts myriad interpretative threads, making this perhaps the most evocative image of his production. At once this remarkable work explores the formal kinship between painting and photography, the Eighteenth Century Grand Tour and the power of historical sites in contemporary culture, in a critical commentary on a new-wave of globalised sight-seeing.
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