Lot 9
  • 9

Thomas Struth

250,000 - 350,000 GBP
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  • Thomas Struth
  • Notre Dame, Paris
  • signed on a label affixed to the backing board
  • chromogenic print in artist's frame
  • image: 170.6 by 214.6cm.; 67 1/4 by 84 1/2 in.
  • framed: 181 by 224.5cm.; 73 1/4 by 90 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 2000, this work is number 5 from an edition of 10.


Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2000


Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Thomas Struth: 1977-2002, 2002-03, another example exhibited, p. 121, illustrated in colour

Dresden, Galerie Neue Meister der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Madonna Meets Mao, 2008-09, another example exhibited 

Munich, Akademie der Schönen Künste, Düsseldorfer Schule – Photographien von 1970 bis 2008 aus der Sammlung Lothar Schimer, 2009-10, another example exhibited 

Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich; Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen; and Porto, Museu de Serralves, Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, 2010-11, another example exhibited, pp. 87 and 205, illustrated in colour 

Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, Menschen vor Flusslandschaft, 2014, another example exhibited

Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art; and Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum, Guess What? Hardcore Contemporary Art's Truly a World Treasure. Selected Works from Yageo Foundation Collection, 2014, another example exhibited 


Hans Belting, Walter Grasskamp and Claudia Seidel, Eds., Thomas Struth: Museum Photographs, Munich 2002, pp. 81 and 107, illustration of another example in colour

Stefan Gronert, Ed., The Düsseldorf School of Photography, London 2009, p. 217, illustration of another example in colour 


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate. Condition: This work is in very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Executed in 2000, by acclaimed German photographer Thomas Struth, Notre Dame forms part of a revered series of photographs depicting sacred places of worship in a multitude of cultural capitals. Capturing the magnificent impact of the historic cathedral to striking effect, Struth combined his trademark photography of architecture with a distinct social and historic examination into the cultural significance of devotional landmarks, places which in Struth’s eyes, offer: “monumental emotional packages of overwhelming experiences” (Thomas Struth quoted in Annette Kruszynski, Tobia Bezzola and James Lingwood, Eds., Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, Munich 2010, p. 204). Influenced by the documentary approach of his mentors Bernd and Hilla Becher, Struth’s measured seriality of themes establishes meticulously depicted realities and virtualities of our contemporary age and delineates the cultural path of human existence. A potent examination of the links between art and life, his works form unique representations of cultural motifs, whose historic resonance has pervaded for centuries.

Depicting the west front of the building, its stupendous expanse extrapolating the imposing ubiquity of this ancient marvel, Struth celebrates the exterior magnificence of the magisterial structure. A beacon of gothic splendour, the cathedral’s elaborate rose window, ornate façade and intricate carvings are the principle focus of the composition. Truncated by the landscape format of the photograph, strong vertical lines of the symmetrical structure hint at the invisible towers soaring in the sky above and are offset by a constricted horizontal space along the bottom of the composition. Juxtaposing its imposing structure with the minuscule groups of people on the ground beneath it, the cathedral is given pictorial authority, its architectural splendour creating an almost sublime impact.

Born in 1954, in the lower Rhineland of Germany, Struth’s formative years were shaped by a post-war environment of reconstruction. The doctrine of control and power endorsed by the fascist regime left a residue of distrust amongst the German generation and strictly supported ideologies were viewed with scepticism. As James Lingwood pointed out, “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” (James Lingwood, ibid., p. 170). Disillusioned with the dogmas of his childhood and the repressive doctrines of a divided country, Struth became increasingly concerned with presenting a candid image of his contemporary environment.

Establishing a true sense of the Notre Dame’s architectural magnificence, Struth creates an ineffable link to Western cultural history and continues the longstanding artistic tradition of depicting the sublime. Not only inducing a profound affirmation of faith but distinct emotions of civic pride, Notre Dame stands as a paradigmatic legacy of Western culture. The building’s glorious architectural authority underlines notions of power through cultural supremacy, alluding to the role of cultural hegemony in the solidification of ruling class control during the Eighteenth Century, when the concept of cultural appreciation through experience and external stimuli was promoted by the Grand Tour. These antecedent connotations extrapolate the totemic significance and cultural history of the building, suggesting the undeniable power of architecture that has always been at the service of religion, as well as dogmatic control, and posing the larger question on the role of architectural structures in the creation of ideologies.

Through a veracious representation of one of the architectural marvels of Western culture, Struth captures a visually arresting scrutiny of Notre Dame as part of our contemporary moment. Imbued with Struth’s prevalent interrogatory contemplation of his generation and perceptive riposte to dogmatic belief systems, his inquiry into the different visual and emotional experiences, invoked by such magnificent landmarks as Notre Dame, re-evaluates social and cultural structures, raising questions of the formation of belief systems and the artificiality of the concept of power.