Life-sized images of tourists enraptured by art, intimate family portraits, epic panoramas of colossal technology projects and quiet pictures of empty streets, are all in the first UK survey of German artist Thomas Struth, one of the most important photographers of the late 20th century.
Picturing subjects as diverse as places of worship, jungles and research laboratories, Struth once compared the space shuttle programme to the construction of the medieval cathedrals. His photographs reveal the cultural, psychological and historical undercurrents beneath the surface of modernity.
Tracing the architectural history of ordinary city streets Struth also charts the increasing uniformity of global development. While people are absent from his street scenes of Düsseldorf, Naples or New York, they take centre stage in his family portraits and his iconic museum photographs showing spectators lost in devotional gaze before works of art and architecture. In sharp contrast, his Paradise series captures impenetrable forests void of any trace of human intervention.
This exhibition spans early black and white prints to recent colour photographs that are up to 4 metres long. These include images of sites at the cutting edge of technology such as the Space Centre on Cape Canaveral. Their overwhelming scale evokes an industrial sublime; built by us, yet chillingly inhuman, these structures encapsulate the great contradictions of progress.
A film combining rare footage of Struth on location and working in the studio provides an insightful portrait of this pioneering artist. Screenings take place every 45 minutes starting at 11:15am in the Zilkha Auditorium. From time to time it may become necessary to suspend screening of the film for our public events programme; please call the information desk on 020 7522 7888 to check before you visit.
Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978–2010 is organised by Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf and Kunsthaus Zürich in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery. The exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery is curated by James Lingwood and Achim Borchardt-Hume. With thanks to: Marian Goodman Gallery, Galerie Max Hetzler and Monica De Cardenas Gallery.