L13024

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Lot 11
  • 11

Thomas Struth

Estimate
150,000 - 200,000 GBP
Sold
182,500 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Thomas Struth
  • Museo del Prado 4
  • signed, titled, dated Madrid 2005 and print: 2006 and numbered 2/10 on the reverse
  • chromogenic print

Provenance

Galleri K, Oslo

Private Collection, Norway

Literature

Exhibition Catalogue, Berlin, Galerie Max Hetzler; New York, Marian Goodman Gallery; Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, Thomas Struth: Making Time, 2007, pp. 23-25, illustration of another example in colour

Exhibition Catalogue, Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich; Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung NRW; Porto, Museu Serralves, Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978 - 2010, 2010-12, pp. 134 and 221, illustration of another example in colour

Catalogue Note

Forming part of Thomas Struth’s important and internationally renowned series of Museum Photographs in which the artist’s primary concerns and ideals reach an apex of compositional mastery, Museo del Prado 4 is one of the most assured and visually arresting of the entire series. A group of school children and an eclectic mix of museum visitors cluster around two of the most instantly recognisable masterpieces by one of the titans of Spanish painting, Diego Velazquez's Las Meninas (circa 1656) and Mariana of Austria, Queen of Spain (circa 1652). Las Meninas has long held a particular fascination for Struth, as he recalled in an interview in 2008: “I first started taking pictures of people in museums in the early 1990s. I went to the Prado in Madrid and was flabbergasted by one particular painting, Las Meninas by Velazquez. It was so close to my own interests [to look at entrenchment of the individual in history by making new family portraits and working on the museology of pictures]. I thought: ‘Jesus Christ, why did nobody tell me about this?’ And yet I never photographed it until 2005. When I went back to it, it marked a moment of evolution for me. I decided that I had to try something different: I had to stand inside the groups of viewers, creating a greater intimacy between the people viewing the painting and those depicted in it” (the artist in conversation with Leo Benedictus in: ‘Thomas Struth’s Best Shot’, The Guardian, 18 September 2008).

The concept of the connection between viewers and artworks is of crucial significance throughout the series of Museum Photographs. The artist explains: "At the Prado, I was partly interested in the casual presence and behaviour of young students standing just a few feet away from one of the most astonishing paintings in history, yet being largely consumed by themselves. On the other hand, the heightened awareness of each and everybody's role and position is one of the strikingly modern aspects of Las Meninas. By cropping the painting, I attempted to bring the two plains of history even closer together than in my earlier Museum Photographs” (the artist, September 2013). Struth places us in the curious position of gazing at the onlookers whilst they, in turn, examine the paintings in front of them. We are witnesses to the act of looking, able to observe the differing reactions of the crowd as they interact with their rarefied surroundings, their attitudes eternally captured through Struth’s marked framing. Yet Struth introduces yet another layer of complexity into the work: the central subject of Las Meninas seems to gaze down upon the curious onlookers, as we ourselves continue to play the role of viewer, forming a magnificently convoluted tri-partite schema of seeing and being seen.

Within Museo del Prado 4 and Struth’s accompanying images of this particular museum, paintings and viewers are invested with equal importance, an intriguing development from the earlier works within the series in which the artworks frequently took compositional precedence. In order to achieve this complex disposition of light and positioning, Struth employed a tripod mounted on wheels to allow flexible movement amongst the crowds: “I worked [in the Prado] for seven days, eight hours a day, and I noticed how school groups stood very close to the picture, almost touching it with their elbows… I had my tripod mounted on wheels, so I could move it more spontaneously” (the artist cited in: Ibid.) The result is a work of extraordinary visual power: a modern masterpiece that explores the themes of perception, art and the relationship between an artwork and its audience in a profound and subtle manner.

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