Michael Wolf was a contemporary German-born fine art photographer venerated for his skill in exposing the raw nuances of living in a metropolis and the effects of urbanisation. His work observes complex urban societies by capturing the city's architecture and people, drawing on the conflicts of public versus private space, historical versus modern architecture, and the individual versus the collective in urban living.Read More
Born in Munich and raised in Canada, Wolf studied in the United States and Europe, attending the University of California, Berkley before returning to Germany to study under Otto Steinert—the founder of the subjective photography movement—at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen. Subjective Photography examined the subconscious and human condition rather than representing the seen world; this influenced Wolf, who was interested in exploring the complexities of contemporary urban life. He developed a successful career as an independent photojournalist in Germany and in 1994 moved to Hong Kong to work for the German magazine Stern.
In Hong Kong Wolf's photography practice switched from photojournalism to fine art photography. His iconic observations of the city represented indefinite rows of enormous concrete high-rise buildings as formal abstract forms and patterns. The flattened structures, void of sky, a horizon line, and human existence, took on the spatial perspective and experience of what it might mean to be a Hong Kong inhabitant surrounded by and living in masses of concrete and steel. As a contrast to the lifeless towers the artist also created artworks that examined human life within the bustling city, exploring and exposing the intricate backstreets and alleys, and the people who live in them. From 2008 to his death in 2019 he lived between Hong Kong and Paris. It was Paris, where he was grappling with the city's architectural impenetrability, that led him to explore and utilise the vast image library of Google Street View to zoom into minute details of everyday inhabitants wandering urban streets, raising questions on surveillance and anonymity.
Publishing photobooks became an important part of Wolf's practice as an archive of his expansive repository of observations. Titles include Michael Wolf Works (2017), Tokyo Compression Revisited (2011), Real Fake Art (2011), Tokyo Compression (2010), Hong Kong: Inside/Outside (2009), The Transparent City (2008), Hong Kong: Front Door/Back Door (2005), and Sitting in China (2002).
Wolf has exhibited at prestigious institutions such as the International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale; Museokeskus Vapriikki; Foam Fotographiemuseum Amsterdam; The Hague Museum of Photography; Aperture Gallery, New York; Museum for Work, Hamburg; Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, Shenzhen; and Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. His artwork is held in many prominent collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Brooklyn Museum; Cleveland Museum of Art; San José Museum of Art; Milwaukee Art Museum, Wisconsin; and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Museum, Kansas City. He won first prize in the World Press Photo Contest in 2005 and 2010, and was given an honourable mention in 2011. In 2010 and 2016 he was shortlisted for the prestigious global Prix Pictet award in photography and sustainability.
Ocula | 2019
One local gallery manager described it as constipation: Hong Kong holds in its art activities all year before forcing everything out in the week that Art Basel comes to town. The fair alone is like a system of intestines: unraveled, the paths visitors have to walk to see all the works would stretch for kilometers. There is also a huge amount of...
Michael Wolf 's solo exhibition here—the first since his death this past April—is a sampling from this prolific photographer's oeuvre. Wolf, who was born in Germany but spent much of his life in China, inflected his pictures with the grandness of nineteenth-century
Michael Wolf (1954-2019) was a chronicler of life in cities. Across a career of over 40 years, the photographer captured architecture from Paris to Hong Kong, recording the realities of metropolitan life in the 21st century.
After moving on from a successful career in photojournalism in 2003 to pursue his personal work, the photographer Michael Wolf, who has died unexpectedly aged 64, devoted himself to exploring the complex nature of life in some of the world's largest cities. Michael was best known for his series Architecture of Density (2003-14), which focused on...
'I see myself as an anthropologist,' Michael Wolf tells me as he guides me around his show, Informal Arrangements (27 November 2015–9 January 2016), at Flowers Gallery in London's East End. The densely gridded façades of Hong Kong's high-rises dominate one wall but elsewhere the material on display has a more improvised, intimate air. As a...