[October 14 2014]
SVEN SCHUMANN — Speaking of visiting museums, you have done two very successful photo series of people looking at art in some of the world’s most famous museums. What initially interested you in that concept?
THOMAS STRUTH — When I was young, I used to go a lot to the old Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It was still in the ’50s building by Rudolf Schwarz, next to the WDR, the German television station. It was a very bland ’50s building, very beautifully designed, and since there were not very many people, you were confronted with the artwork. And the collection was so interesting at the time. There was medieval painting, an asparagus still life by Monet, and Pop Art, which at that time was very recent. Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, George Segal, Morris Louis, Joseph Beuys, works by Andy Warhol… It was very stimulating for a teenager. But there weren’t so many people. Then, in the late ’80s, the museum became a different kind of institution and more like a train station full of masses of people. So that’s the starting point for that work. The basis of every activity that you can have as an artist is your own experience, something that you might find worth examining further because it’s unclear. I started to photograph in museums around 1989. Then later on my Audience photographs came more from the question: “If I were the painting, and I would see all these people looking at me, what would I see in a close-up?”
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