Wolfgang Tillmans wins the 2015 Hasselblad Award
Swedish photographic institution cites and celebrates the artist's skill for expressing 'the fragility of images'
Wolfgang Tillmans is one of the world’s most successful fine-art photographers. So, why does the 46-year-old German artist so often forgo picture frames, preferring instead to tape his pictures onto the gallery walls? It’s a subject he discusses in our newly updated monograph.
“What intrigues me is the tension of 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,” Tillmans explains in the book. “It creases or buckles when it’s too dry, curls in humidity, becomes rigid and vulnerable when it’s mounted, and for that reason, loses its flexibility. I choose to reconcile all this and don’t pretend that it isn’t happening. I’ve made that all part of the visual experience. The fact that photographs aren’t permanent is like a reminder of our condition; showing their vulnerability protects one from the disappointment of seeing them fade.”
This remarkably considered approach is one of the reasons the Hasselblad Foundation chose to pick Tillmans for its 2015 International Award.
In the Foundation’s citation, the judging panel, chaired by Tate Modern’s curator of photography Simon Baker and including MoMA senior curator, department of photography, Roxana Marcoci, recognise Tillmans as being among the most original and innovative artists of his generation.
“His practice has covered subjects of pressing political and social importance since the 1990s, reflecting both directly and indirectly on the power of the photographic image to engage critically with the world around us,” they say.
Yet they go on to acknowledge Tillmans “has transformed the understanding of photographic exhibition making through his daring and original installations, playing with scale, formats, framing and presentation to produce immersive experiences that have inspired subsequent generations of artists.”
It's unusual for a photographer to devote so much attention to exhibitions, yet Tillmans founded his own gallery Between Bridges about a decade ago, and commonly oversees his own installations.
Anyone wishing to see Tillmans' individual style of exhibitions should visit Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, where selections from his work will be on display in Gallery Five until the end of the month. Meanwhile, the gallery goers of Gothenburg can look forward to a Tillmans retrospective opening at the end of the year opening the day after the awards ceremony on November 30, 2015.