Thomas Ruff

Year of birth, place
1958, Zell, Germany
Role at the ZKM
in the collection
Thomas Ruff was born in Zell in 1958. He studied (1982-89) at the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf under Bernhard Becher. Ruff lives in Düsseldorf.

Ruff first attracted attention in the late 1980s with two series of photographs 'Portraits' and 'Houses'. As a pupil of the photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, Ruff adopts a reflective attitude towards photographic technique, and eschews any trace of narrative or emotional expression in his images, which invariably have a monumental quality. Ruff succeeds in combining a coolly distanced approach to composition and lighting with the illusorily ordinary quality of his depicted subjects. Continuing to work, and exhibit, in thematic series, he has also devoted his attention to the constellations in the night sky, to other night scenes and to small photo installations incorporating mirrors to evoke an impression of three-dimensionality. Ruff's work constitutes an investigation into traditional genres (the portrait, landscape) in photographic terms. He uses photographic imagery to question photography's traditional claim to offer an objective rendering of reality. Since the mid-1990s he has avoided the apparent recognizability and identity of the individuals recorded in his early portraits, by concentrating on the technical processes involved in the further re-working of each image. By means of combining techniques and a style reminiscent of that seen in the wanted persons posters issued by the police, Ruff has created his series 'Other Portraits' (»Andere Porträts«). None of these photographic images depicts real people; all of them are assembled out of components from a variety of faces. 

Individual exhibitions (selection)
1981 Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich
1984 Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf
1986 Galerie Philip Nelson, Lyon
1987 Galerie Sonne, Berlin
1988 Portikus, Frankfurt/M; Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, Toronto
1989 »Portraits Häuser Sterne«, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, subsequently at Centre National d'Art Contemporain - Le Magasin, Grenoble; Stichting De Appel, Amsterdam; 303 Gallery, New York
1990 »Häuser«, Mai 36 Galerie, Lucerne
1991 Kunstverein, Bonn
1992 Kunstverein, Braunschweig; Kunstverein, Bonn
1993 Galerie Johnen & Schöttle, Cologne; Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf, Hamburg
1994 White Cube, London
1996 Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco; Rooseum, Malmö; Kunstverein, Oldenburg
Group exhibitions (selection)
1988 »Aperto 88«, Biennale di Venezia, Venice; »BiNationale«, Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf,; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, and The Institut of Contemporary Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, subsequently at Kunsthalle Bremen and at a venue in Stuttgart
1991 »Metropolis«, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
1992 documenta IX, Kassel
1995 Biennale di Venezia (German Pavilion), Venice; »Szenenwechsel VIII«, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/M; »RAM Realität, Anspruch, Medium«, Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, subsequently at Neues Museum Weserberg, Bremen; Lindau-Museum Altenburg, Wiesbaden; »Virtual Reality«, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; »Westchor Ostportal«, Galerie im Marstall, Berlin, subsequently at Kunsthalle Dresden, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn; »The European Face«, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh
1996 »Silent & Violent«, MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles; »by night«, Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris; »Ich Phönix«, Gasometer Oberhausen; The Biennale of Sydney, The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; »Die Klasse«, Museum für Gestaltung, Zürich; »Project 8«, TOTAL Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; »Eternal Dialogue«, Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem; »Zuspiel. Thomas Ruff - Georg Winter«, Sprengel Museum Hannover
1997 »Mehr Licht«, Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Tochigi; »Geschlossene Gesellschaft«, Graphische Sammlung der ETH, Zürich; »Photographie d'une collection«, Caisse des Depots et Consignations, Paris; »Die Epoche der Moderne«, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin

[Frauke Syamken, 1997]