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b. 1958, Germany

Thomas Ruff Biography

Thomas Ruff’s photography suggests the possibilities of his chosen medium, as he might use digital manipulation for one subject and antiquated darkroom techniques for another. Ruff works in series, creating defined bodies of work whose subjects include empty domestic interiors, appropriated interplanetary images captured by NASA, abstractions of modernist architecture, three-dimensional computer-generated Pop imagery, and obscured pornography. Ruff’s portraiture series of the early 1980s (his first to receive critical acclaim) featured groupings of large three-quarter portraits like so many passport photos; their enlarged scale offered a startling level of legibility. Though these, like many of his photographic series, seem to beg a sociocultural interpretation, perhaps the most constant feature in Ruff’s career is his disavowal of such a reading. Instead Ruff focuses on aesthetics and process, building an eclectic oeuvre not defined by genre, method, or theme, but rather by stark imagery, relative conceptual seriality of subject, and the clever subversion of the printed image.

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Thomas Ruff (b. 1958, Zell am Harmersbach, West Germany). Ruff attended the Staatlichen Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1977 to 1985. Ruff now lives and works in Düsseldorf.

Currently on view at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf is a solo exhibition entitled Lichten (through January 11, 2015). Consisting of five series by the artist spanning the 1970s to the present day, the show was first presented earlier this year at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent.

His first major retrospective was organized by the Kunstalle Baden-Baden and traveled to nine museums between 2001 and 2004, including the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and Tate Liverpool. He has had solo exhibitions at the Sprengel Museum Hannover (2007); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2007); Kunsthalle Budapest (2008); Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2009); Museum für Neue Kunst, Germany (2009); Castello di Rivoli, Turin (2009); Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Spain (2011); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2011). Ruff’s photography was featured at the Venice Biennale in 1995.

Work by the artist is held in museum collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, Austria; Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent.

Thomas Ruff Featured Artworks

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flower.s_13 by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas Ruffflower.s_13, 2019C-print
99.4 x 79.4 cm
Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle Enquire about this work
phg.10_I by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas Ruffphg.10_I, 2014C-print
185 x 291 cm
Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle Enquire about this work
phg.03_I by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas Ruffphg.03_I, 2013C-print
240 x 185 cm
Galería OMR Enquire about this work
Substrat 35I by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas RuffSubstrat 35I, 2007C-print
130 x 184 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
phg.02_I by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas Ruffphg.02_I, 2013C-print
240 x 185 cm (incl frame)
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
press++32.67 by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas Ruffpress++32.67, 2016C-print
231 x 185 cm (incl frame)
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
Interieur 5E [Tegernsee] by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas RuffInterieur 5E [Tegernsee], 1983C-Print
20.5 x 27.5 cm
Sprüth Magers Enquire about this work
jpeg sr01 by Thomas Ruff contemporary artwork
Thomas Ruffjpeg sr01, 2007C-print
236 x 188 cm (incl frame)
Galería OMR Enquire about this work

Thomas Ruff Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Miami Online | Online Viewing Room at David Zwirner, New York
Closed
2–8 December 2019 Group Exhibition Miami Online | Online Viewing Room David ZwirnerOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Thomas Ruff, Transforming Photography at David Zwirner, Hong Kong
Closed
22 May–29 June 2019 Thomas Ruff Transforming Photography David ZwirnerHong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, My Garden of Eden at Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich
Closed
9 May–24 August 2019 Group Exhibition My Garden of Eden Christophe Guye GalerieZurich

Thomas Ruff Represented By

David Zwirner contemporary art gallery in 19th Street, New York, USA David Zwirner New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong
Sprüth Magers contemporary art gallery in Berlin, Germany Sprüth Magers Berlin, London, Los Angeles

Thomas Ruff In Ocula Magazine

Photography Or Not: A Report From The Düsseldorf Photo Weekend Ocula Report Photography Or Not: A Report From The Düsseldorf Photo Weekend By Stephanie Bailey, Düsseldorf

People are always surprised when I say Düsseldorf is a cool city. But come on : the legacy of the Düsseldorf Art Academy (aka. the Kunstakademie) is enough, even without factoring in the 19th century Düsseldorf School of Painting, or the 20th century Düsseldorf School of Photography spearheaded by the Bechers and developed by their students...

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Thomas Ruff In Related Press

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Thomas Ruff's vintage photo-works make art from artifice Related Press Thomas Ruff's vintage photo-works make art from artifice 14 July 2017, Wallpaper*

A couple of years ago, while browsing Ebay for vintage photographs, German photographer Thomas Ruff happened upon a collection of mid-century press photos featuring models, crime scenes and astronauts in space, the kind used by old newspapers and magazines.

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A class apart: a new show explores the radical approach of the Bechers and their students Related Press A class apart: a new show explores the radical approach of the Bechers and their students 30 April 2017, Wallpaper*

In 1959, photography was still struggling to be an art form. Bernd and Hilla Becher were a young couple living in Düsseldorf, making conceptual art together. Bernd had studied painting and typography, while Hilla had completed an apprenticeship as a photographer. They began to collaborate, systematically taking pictures on an 8 x 10 of things that...

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At Zabludowicz Collection, artists test the parameters between authenticity and artifice Related Press At Zabludowicz Collection, artists test the parameters between authenticity and artifice 28 April 2017, Wallpaper*

Fact or fiction? That's the main question posed by a curious new exhibition of contemporary photography at the Zabludowicz Collection in London. On view until 9 July, You Are Looking At Something That Never Occurred draws from the gallery's archive to present seminal works by 14 artists who use the camera to test the parameters between past and...

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Thomas Ruff: in the grand scheme of things Related Press Thomas Ruff: in the grand scheme of things 26 October 2016, The Japan Times

Thomas Ruff is one of the key figures of photography in the postmodern era, and his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, will probably already be pencilled into your calendar if you have any interest in contemporary art. His work, along with that of other notable alumni of the Dusseldorf School of photography who were mentored by...

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