Wolfgang Tillmans takes over the Tate

He'll get a solo show at Tate Modern in 2017 and will also take over the South Tank. So what can we expect?
Share
Self-portrait (Christian) for Phaidon monograph, 2013, colour photograph, by Wolfgang Tillmans
Self-portrait (Christian) for Phaidon monograph, 2013, colour photograph, by Wolfgang Tillmans

What sort of photographer would one of the world’s largest fine-art institutions turn to when drawing up not only its new visual arts calendar, but also its performance and installations programme? A photographer like Wolfgang Tillmans is the answer.

The Tate has just announced that the German Turner Prize winner and Phaidon Contemporary Artist Series subject, will receive a mid-career retrospective at the Tate Modern from 15 February – 11 June 2017. The show will focus on the photographer’s output since his exhibition at Tate Britain in 2003. In addition to this show, the Tate has also invited the artist to take control of the Tate’s South Tank for ten days, staging “an installation featuring live events.” What should we expect? Let’s turn to our recent Tillmans monograph for some potential clues.

 

A spread from i-D magazine featuring early photography by Wolfgang Tillmans. As reproduced in our monograph
A spread from i-D magazine featuring early photography by Wolfgang Tillmans. As reproduced in our monograph

Magazines “Over the years Tillmans has been trying out varying platforms for the circulation of his images, from magazines to installations, from books to inserts in newspapers,” explains the critic Jan Verwoert in our book. Tillmans began his career as a photographer for i-D magazine, and placed a series of vintage magazines on display at his gallery back in 2015. Visitors were allowed to leaf through these old publications; perhaps he will include a few in this new show.

 

Love (Hands in Air) (1989) by Wolfgang Tillmans
Love (Hands in Air) (1989) by Wolfgang Tillmans

Music In our book Tillmans tells the artist Peter Halley that, he first grew to appreciate photography via the pictures on record sleeves. Wolfgang Tillmans installed a listening room, or gallery space fitted out with a high-quality hi-fi and a selection of CDs, at his Berlin gallery Between Bridges in 2014. The listening room enabled visitors to listen to the work of a single band - Tillmans chose the work of the 1980s indie group Colourbox for his first installation – elevating pop music to the same status as fine art. The BBC reports his forthcoming Tate show will also include music, so keep your ears open.

 

Silver Installation VII (2009) by Wolfgang Tillmans
Silver Installation VII (2009) by Wolfgang Tillmans

Idiosyncratic picture hanging Wolfgang doesn’t present a succession of single, framed works for visitors to hehold. Instead, he covers gallery walls with a images in a range of sizes, often unframed, in a style of hanging he describes as ‘‘Multi-vectored’ “ This way of hanging allows for each of these different vectors to have a voice,” he explains to Halley in our monograph. “It’s an inclusive practice, which allows me to have a little joke in one corner and some sort of personal wink to somebody else in another corner. And also say something very deliberate in terms of formal considerations related to, say, portraiture or landscape.”

 

Silver Installation VII, 2009, 26 colour photographs, 306 x 843 cm, installation view at the Venice Biennale, 2009, featuring Tillmans' Venus pictures
Silver Installation VII, 2009, 26 colour photographs, 306 x 843 cm, installation view at the Venice Biennale, 2009, featuring Tillmans' Venus pictures

A little bit of astronomy Tillmans shot the transit of Venus across the sun in 2004, using a telescope he has owned ever since he was teenager. While Tillmans admits that these images have no scientific value, he says in our monograph that “it was a moving experience to see the actual mechanics of the sky work in front of my eyes," and now considers these pictures to be among his best.

 

Astro Crusto, A (2012) by Wolfgang Tillmans
Astro Crusto, A (2012) by Wolfgang Tillmans

Maybe another famous artist or two Tillmans made his first professional sale as a fine-art photographer to fellow German artist Isa Genzken. The two have remained friends ever since. He has collaborated with Genzken, and shown her work as well as other artists such as Jenny Holzer, at his Berlin gallery. Perhaps he will call on one of them.

For greater insight into this important contemporary artist buy a copy of our newly updated Wolfgang Tillmans monograph here.


You May Also Like


Related



ABOUT PHAIDON

Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
Read more