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b. 1964, Germany

Thomas Demand Biography

Through his photographs of life-size architectural models constructed out of paper and cardboard, Thomas Demand examines the ambiguous realm between reality and artifice.

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After graduating from Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich, in 1990, Thomas Demand enrolled at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf to study sculpture. There, he began to shape his current practice, initially working with paper out of practicality—easy to dispose or amend—then turning to photographic documentation of his paper sculptures. In his 2019 interview with It's Nice That, the artist described the turning point as his discovery of the photographic image as a record of a fleeting moment, which aligned with his work in paper because it 'also fades away.'

Many of Thomas Demand's architectural models stem from photographs of actual spaces that are usually ordinary-looking but associated with significant historical figures or events. These spaces, devoid of the human body, nevertheless attain hints of their presence. Room (1994) is based on the room in which Claus von Stauffenberg attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler and includes debris that suggests violence has occurred, while Kitchen (2004) depicts a domestic space that Saddam Hussein cooked it, evoking recent activity with utensils and bowls on the stove.

Although he replicates existing interiors at life size, Thomas Demand is not interested in truthful reproductions of the original. Some objects are deliberately replaced or altered, while others are rendered to appear fake. The artist destroys the sets completely after photographing so that the images become the only evidence his models once existed. Based on pre-existing images of real-world events yet with noticeable differences, Demand's recreations maintain a 'fragile balance', as described by the artist in his 2015 conversation with Ocula Magazine.

Thomas Demand has also expanded his paper-and-cardboard constructions to film. Recorder (2002) shows a model of an eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder that seems to play Smile (1966): an unfinished album by the Beach Boys. During his 2010 residency at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, the artist merged his exploration of reality and artifice with society's increasing reliance on mass-circulated imagery and video in his two-minute film Pacific Sun (2011). Inspired by the footage inside a cruise ship taken during a storm, Demand's video characteristically captures the chaos and drama of the original scene in cardboard environments without the human body.

Out of his Getty Research Institute residency also rose 'Model Studies' (2011–ongoing), in which Demand photographs architectural models that are not his own. In his 2021 solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers London, Thomas Demand will show 'Model Studies' of late fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa's atelier. Demand lives and works between Berlin and Los Angeles.

Thomas Demand Solo Exhibitions include:

Paper World, Fundación Botín, Santander, Spain (2020); Thomas Demand, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (2018); The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied., Fondazione Prada, Venice (2017); FOCUS: Thomas Demand, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2016); Model Studies: Kōtō-Ku, Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo (2015); Pacific Sun, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2014); Thomas Demand, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2012).

Thomas Demand Group Exhibitions include:

Körper. Blicke. Macht. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Bades, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (2020); Making Art Public: 50 Years of Kaldor Public Art Projects, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2019); Scripted Reality: The Life and Art of Television, Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2018); Catastrophe and the Power of Art, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2018); ISelf Collection: The Upset Bucket, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2017).

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2020

Exhibition view: Thomas Demand, Sprüth Magers, London (8 February–15 May 2021). © Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2021. Courtesy Sprüth Magers. Photo: Benjamin Westoby.

Thomas Demand Featured Artworks

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Princess by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandPrincess, 2020C-print /diasec
110 x 150 cm
Esther Schipper Contact Gallery
Repository by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandRepository, 2018C-print / diasec
200 x 210 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery Contact Gallery
Ruine / Ruin by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandRuine / Ruin, 2017Chromogenic print on photographic paper and Diasec
180 x 300 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Chute by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandChute, 2018Framed pigment print
83 x 110 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Cavern I by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandCavern I, 2018Framed pigment print
65.7 x 136 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire
Plaza 23 by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandPlaza 23, 2015Framed pigment print
122.5 x 122.5 cm
Sold
Taka Ishii Gallery
Dormitory 3 by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandDormitory 3, 2015Pigment print
165.3 x 129.4 cm
Sold
Taka Ishii Gallery
Parkett by Thomas Demand contemporary artwork
Thomas DemandParkett, 2014C-print/diasec
100 x 137 cm
PKM Gallery Enquire

Thomas Demand Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Thomas Demand, Thomas Demand at Sprüth Magers, London
Open Now
8 February–15 May 2021 Thomas Demand Sprüth MagersLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, local talent at Sprüth Magers, Berlin
Closed
4 July–22 August 2020 Group Exhibition local talent Sprüth MagersBerlin
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Taka Ishii Gallery 25th Anniversary: Survived! at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film, Photography / Film, Tokyo
Closed
25 June–27 July 2019 Group Exhibition Taka Ishii Gallery 25th Anniversary: Survived! Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / FilmPhotography / Film, Tokyo

Thomas Demand Represented By

PKM Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea PKM Gallery Seoul
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles
Taka Ishii Gallery contemporary art gallery in Complex665, Tokyo, Japan Taka Ishii Gallery Tokyo, Hong Kong

Thomas Demand In Ocula Magazine

Thomas Demand Ocula Conversation Thomas Demand By Diana d'Arenberg, Los Angeles

I'm combining a painter's and sculptor's concerns in a third medium, photography. It's a reflection upon the media sphere of images surrounding us.

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Thomas Demand In Related Press

Venice Notebook: Samplers From a Biennale Banquet Related Press Venice Notebook: Samplers From a Biennale Banquet 14 May 2017, The New York Times

The Biennale comprises a central exhibition, organized this year by Christine Macel, chief curator of the Pompidou Center in Paris; and 85 national pavilions, which feature solo or thematic presentations. Prizes are awarded to the best pavilion—this year it's Germany, which hosts a harrowing performance work by the young artist Anne...

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Grotto installation by Thomas Demand at Fondazione Prada Related Press Grotto installation by Thomas Demand at Fondazione Prada 24 December 2015, Designboom

Using 30 tons of grey cardboard, shaped by a computer and laid out to form a stratification with 900,000 sections, German artist Thomas Demand reproduced the rock chamber, stalactites and stalagmites of a grotto on the island of Mallorca. Demand creates huge complex environments in cardboard, photographs them and then he destroys the models...

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Making photos, not taking them; the distinction in 'Perfect Likeness' Related Press Making photos, not taking them; the distinction in 'Perfect Likeness' 8 July 2015, LA Times

Last year a Silicon Valley researcher estimated that more than 1.5 billion new photographs are posted every day on just the larger social media platforms, such as Facebook, Reddit and Snapchat. A new exhibition at the UCLA Hammer Museum proposes that, in response to this visually numbing fact, a distinctive strain of photography has slowly...

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Sprüth Magers At Art Basel In Miami Beach 2014 Related Press Sprüth Magers At Art Basel In Miami Beach 2014

Ocula's photographer Charles Roussel visited the Sprüth Magers booth (L16) at Art Basel in Miami BEACH. They brought works to the fair by Bernd & Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Rosemarie Trockel, Michail Pirellis, Jenny Holzer, George Condo and Thomas Demand.

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Thomas Demand In Video & Audio

An Interview with Thomas Demand – The Dailies (2015) Related Video & Audio An Interview with Thomas Demand – The Dailies (2015) 19 October 2015, American Suburb X

In the mid 1970s, architect Harry Seidler designed a space for the historic Commercial Travellers’ Association in Sydney, Australia. In collaboration with Pier Luigi Nervi, he created a circular building that sprouts up from the street like a radiating flower. For the 25th Kaldor Public Art Project, Thomas Demand’s series The Dailies...

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