New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 31 October 3 to 9, 2012
weekly Pic

Imitation of Life

Angela Connor
Vault by Thomas Demand.
Thomas Demand, "Vault" 2012

Well known for his large-format photographs of life-sized three-dimensional sculptures made from cardboard and paper. German artist Thomas Demand was trained as a sculptor at the prestigious Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. Encouraged by Industrial documentarian Bernd Becher to photograph his fragile objects, he has been mastering this technique since the 1990’s. Often reconstructing interior spaces of newsworthy events, these ephemeral models are then destroyed,leaving only the photograph as the residue of the sculptural forms.

Demand’s solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers in Berlin features three recent photographic works and a film and sound installation. Weighted with cultural and historical significance, these works depict sites of chaos, scandal, trauma and disaster. Three photographic works, Vault, Filiale, and Kontrollraum/Control Room, remove from his models any references that specify the particular spatio-temporal location of the original situation. Though the media release accompanying the show gives each work its actual context, the absence of any human presence in the photographs further distances these works from the situations we remember, if only as reported news.

The anonymous storeroom of Vault, with its many pictures turned away from prying eyes, is morphed from art-dealer-turned-thief Guy Wilderstein’s storeroom where French police seized 30 stolen or missing artworks in early 2011.

“Kontrollraum / Control Room by Thomas Demand.
Thomas Demand, "Kontrollraum / Control Room" 2011

Presented unframed and face-mounted to acrylic glass, the large luminescent photographs give the illusion that the viewer is staring through a window; the lack of detail in the works making it easy for the viewer to transport a situation into their own imagination. Relying on our collective knowledge of events via the mass media to construct his narratives, Demand uses images already embedded in the mind of the viewer. His works are a reflection of our society, examining how events become entrenched in our personal experiences, despite never bearing witness to the account first hand.


Thomas Demand is currently showing at the Sprüth Magers Gallery, located at Oranienburger Straße 18, Berlin, Germany. This review was originally published in BerlinArtLink