Wolfgang Tillmans: To look without fear @MoMA

JTF (just the facts): A retrospective exhibition consisting of approximately 350 photographs, videos, and multimedia installations, installed in the museum’s sixth floor galleries. The show was organized by Roxana Marcoci, with assistance from Caitlin Ryan and Phil Taylor.

The following works are included in the exhibit:

Entrance

  • 1 high definition video (color, silent), 2017, 2 minutes 20 seconds
  • 1 inkjet print on paper mounted to Dibond aluminum, artist’s frame, 2007
  • 1 inkjet print on paper, binder clips, 2012

Room 1

  • 9 black-and-white laser photocopies, frames, 1987, 1992
  • 10 inkjet prints on paper, binder clips, 1986, 1991, 1992, 1993
  • 72 chromogenic prints, tape, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
  • 2 chromogenic prints, acrylic glass hood, 1991
  • 2 color laser photocopies, frames, 1989, 1993
  • 1 inkjet print on paper mounted to Dibond aluminum, artist’s frame, 1989
  • 1 set of 14 chromogenic prints, tape, 1992
  • 5 offset prints, tape, 1991, 1992, 1993

Room 2

  • 6 inkjet prints on paper, binder clips, 1992, 1995, 1997
  • 51 chromogenic prints, tape, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
  • 1 set of 64 chromogenic prints, 1997

Room 3

  • 6 inkjet prints on paper, binder clips, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008
  • 16 chromogenic prints, tape, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2008
  • 2 chromogenic prints, frames, 2001, 2002
  • 1 offset print, tape, 2000
  • 1 inkjet print on paper mounted on aluminum, artist’s frame, 2001
  • 2 inkjet prints on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frames, 1997, 2004

Room 4

  • 1 video (sound, color), 2002, 5 minutes
  • 1 standard-definition video (color, ambient sound), 2003, 2 minutes 42 seconds

Room 5

  • 1 set of inkjet prints on paper, laser photocopies, offset prints, steel pins, paper clips, 1999/2022
  • 1 inkjet print on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frame, 2004
  • 1 inkjet print on paper, frame, 2019
  • 1 inkjet print on paper, binder clips, 2006
  • 2 chromogenic prints, acrylic glass hood, 2011
  • 2 chromogenic prints, tape, 2002, 2004

Room 6

  • 6 chromogenic prints, acrylic glass hood, 2006, 2008, 2009
  • 2 inkjet prints on paper, binder clips, 1996, 2004
  • 12 chromogenic prints, tape, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
  • 1 inkjet print on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frame, 2003

Room 7

  • 22 chromogenic prints, tape, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
  • 10 inkjet prints on paper, binder clips, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
  • 1 offset print, tape, 2011, 1 inkjet print on paper, frame, 2012
  • 2 color laser photocopies, frames, 2005, 2006
  • 12 chromogenic prints, frames, 1994, 1998, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017
  • 3 inkjet prints on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frames, 2011, 2013, 2018
  • 2 inkjet prints on paper mounted on aluminum, artist’s frames, 2009, 2010
  • 1 inkjet print on paper, frame, 2012
  • 1 chromogenic print, frame, 2006
  • 18 wooden tables with photocopies and photographs, 2005, 2005/2022, 2006-2007, 2006-2007/2022, 2022

Room 8

  • 11 inkjet prints on paper, binder clips, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2018
  • 5 inkjet prints on paper mounted on aluminum, artist’s frames, 2012, 2015, 2017
  • 37 chromogenic prints, tape, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
  • 3 offset prints, tape, 2012, 2015, 2018
  • 7 inkjet prints on paper, frames, 2010, 2012, 2013
  • 1 inkjet print on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frame, 2014

Room 9

  • 1 chromogenic print, frame, 2014
  • 3 inkjet prints on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frames, 2014, 2015, 2017
  • 1 inkjet print on paper, frame, 2020
  • 7 chromogenic prints, tape, 2009, 2012, 2015, 2021, 2022
  • 1 inkjet print on paper, binder clips, 2014

Room 10

  • 1 4K video (color, sound – 19 tracks), 2021, 52:55 minutes
  • 1 4K video (color, sound), 2022, 3:33 minutes

Room 11

  • 3 inkjet prints on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frames, 2017, 2020, 2021
  • 1 color laser photocopy, frame, 2022
  • 7 inkjet prints on paper, binder clips, 1987, 2017, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • 1 chromogenic print, frame, 2022
  • 6 inkjet prints on paper, frames, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • 4 inkjet prints on paper mounted on aluminum, artist’s frames, 2016, 2018, 2021
  • 28 chromogenic prints, tape, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
  • 1 offset print, tape, 2020

Atrium

  • 1 inkjet print on paper mounted on Dibond aluminum, artist’s frame, 2008
  • Isa Genzken/Wolfgang Tillmans – installation of wallpaper, mirrors, wood, 2001

(Installation shots below.)

A catalog of the exhibition has been published by the museum (here). Hardcover, 352 pages, with 400 color illustrations. Edited by Roxana Marcoci. With contributions by Quentin Bajac, Yve-Alain Bois, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Clément Chéroux, Durga Chew-Bose, Stuart Comer, Keller Easterling, Paul Flynn, Sophie Hackett, Michelle Kuo, Oluremi C. Onabanjo, Phil Taylor, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Andrew Vielkind. (Cover shots below.)

Comments/Context: At its very core, the planning of an artistic retrospective is an active exercise in the writing (or rewriting) of personal history. It takes the altogether messy process of living the life of an artist and tries to make sense of it all, ordering the inherently unordered, highlighting artworks, moments, and insights which with the benefit of passing time and hindsight now look pivotal, pruning away the distracted and less durably relevant branches, and drawing a logical through line through a progression of projects, ideas, and larger themes that might not have been entirely connected to begin with.

What we forget is that while we can look back and now cleverly see how all the pieces fit neatly together, at each step along the way, what was really taking place was a bold jump into the unknown. An artist doesn’t entirely know beforehand whether the next idea will lead to an important and engaging project or a dead end; each and every time he or she has to set out and risk it once again, trying out a hypothesis, a test, or an experiment that feels promising. And along the way, time passes and artists live their lives and change as people, and the world changes around them, making the person who takes that astonishing leap again and again actually different at each stage of the arc of his or her career.

This tendency to strip out complexity in the name of an easy to digest narrative resonated strongly with me as I wandered through the galleries of this wide ranging, photographically effervescent, and often melancholy Wolfgang Tillmans retrospective. What I saw was a gifted artistic mind constantly grappling with the changing contours of his own humanity, and across four decades of prolific art making, the how and why of that struggle has kept evolving. At each point along the way, a different Tillmans bravely jumps into the void one more time, pushing himself to see the world around him anew and to find answers to the questions that feel urgent to him at that moment. That the MoMA curators have arranged it all into a tidy progression clarifies and communicates some of the salient points and notable artistic innovations along the way, but it somehow feels like the retrospective format is almost inherently mismatched to the kinds of overlapped, layered, and networked nuances that Tillmans has wanted to wrestle with throughout his career. The title of the show is however tremendously apt and well chosen – to look without fear is exactly what Tillmans has been trying his best to do, as hard as that has been to keep doing at some points over the years.

The fact that this exhibition is organized roughly chronologically is extremely important; we need to pay attention to the dates, as it is the steps through time that show us the different versions of Tillmans, in the form of his evolving artistic interests and aesthetics. Since Tillmans comes back to test himself with various photographic genres again and again, and liberally remixes old and new, this can get a little confusing, but forcing ourselves back to the timeline really helps to both frame what he is doing at any one moment, and connect it back to a variant or relative that may have occurred earlier. What I came to understand from this show is that we can’t just evaluate Tillmans based on broad genre definitions, like his approach to portraiture, or still lifes, or abstractions – they all restlessly swirl back around as potential ways to solve artistic problems for Tillmans, and at various moments in his life, he leverages and repurposes them differently.

***

The first few rooms of the show provide an exhilarating dive into Tillmans’ formative years from the late 1980s and early 1990s, where the rawness of his initial vision was still being worked out. And for the German photographer, this initial artistic exploration was happening at a historical moment when optimistic change was simmering in the air – the Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union began to unravel, travel became easier, and a sense of acceptance, inclusivity, and togetherness was flowing through this new Europe. This particular environmental context is critical, as it helped to shape that way Tillmans saw himself, and his relationship to others around him. It was a collective cultural moment of pushing against boundaries, of building new bridges, and of rethinking what personal identity might mean, and Tillmans and his camera were finding their footing inside that evolving atmosphere.

For those that are less familiar with Tillmans and his work, the exhibition design, with its different-sized unframed prints hung directly to the walls in clusters of grouped images, will feel unsettling at first, given how thoroughly it upends and reprocesses the ways we are used to seeing photographs displayed in museum settings. The approach immediately sets the viewer in a circulatory zigzag motion, forcing us to move back and forth, in and out, to engage with the pictures nonlinearly and non-hierarchically, and encouraging us to see both the connections between pictures (rather than the hallowed discreteness of each image) and the everyday physicality and tactile qualities of the prints. It’s literally a “frame-breaking” approach, and it readily amplifies Tillmans’ broad ideas about how pictures can function; it’s deliberately immersive, flowing, mediated, and remixed in an almost musical way, adding contours, subtleties, and situational harmonies to what the individual pictures themselves are showing us. And while the approach might at first glance seem altogether haphazard, it’s anything but, with Tillmans ordering the arrangements with fastidious precision to achieve the transient visual relationships and experiences he wants.

A 1986 image looking steeply down on the artist’s own leg and a selection of roughly photocopied images from a year later provide the first glimpses of the way Tillmans was seeing the world when he was getting started as a photographer – textural, reprocessed, personal, carefully observed, and in some cases abstracted by his own perspective. His vision then started to slowly widen, bringing in his immediate surroundings, portraits of friends (and himself), and the nighttime subculture of club life. These three subjects were intricately intertwined, his observations aggregating into an aesthetic mood we hadn’t seen before; many initially attributed it to a kind of diaristic mode of working, with precedents in the work of Nan Goldin and others. But with more time now behind us, that reading seems overly easy – yes, Tillmans was initially probing the intimacies his own life, but he wasn’t taking ephemeral snapshots (however improvised or immediate some of the pictures feel) and each subset or genre of imagery he was exploring was the start of a complex layering of experiences, extending out to become quite a bit more than a straightforward chronicle or a confessional.

The club pictures helped solidify Tillmans’ early reputation, tapping into the energy of the electronic music scene and extrapolating out to what was happening all over Europe. The mix of punks, ravers, and skinheads is indistinct, attesting to the shared experience of the dance floor and the inclusiveness and acceptance being practiced there; while the action surely was intense at times, the norms of support inside the community knit the diversity of the crowd together. Tillmans was a participant in this freely expressive subculture, and his pictures get up close, looking at touches, gestures, and the subtleties of a turn, a nod, or a sweaty body part seen in the strobe of the lights. His 1992 black-and-white series “Chemistry Squares” pulls into necks, chests, armpits, backs of heads, buzzcuts, eyes, ears, and freckled skin, cropping the movement down into near abstractions that feel ecstatic, uninhibited, and alive with desire. Other images document the waiting before shows, the exhaustion afterward, the play of the light systems, and the stacks of speakers that made the floors thump, essentially providing the surrounding experiential context for the photographs that dropped into the immersion of the dance floor. As a group, these pictures are showing us the birth of a new culture, and the nuances of the communal ethos that made it possible.

As with the club images, Tillmans similarly turned his camera toward those that were around him, making portraits of close friends and couples that were initially casual but quickly mixed seeming “stand where you are” non-artistic informality with more control and precision. In many cases, there is a feeling of forging identity, with hats, clothing, and bolder nudity providing signifiers of empowerment. Tillmans knew these people well, and that accounts for some of the comfortable risk taking that goes on in these portraits, but as a group, his strongest works from this period stretch to something more archetypal – they are less portraits of specific people than they are portraits of youthful freedom itself. Lutz and Alex sit nude in the trees wearing only colorful raincoats, like a kind of edenic statement of acceptance; in other pairings of these two, she blithely holds his cock and he examines her crotch, their casual comfort with almost androgynous nudity taken for granted. Gender fluidity also comes through in Tillmans’ portrait of Suzanne and Lutz, with Suzanne’s arms strangely contorted behind her head while Lutz sports a green camouflage look with a skirt made from what looks like an old army bag. Sill other portraits (of Adam, Domenico, Christos, and Alex again) seem both spur of the moment and carefully staged, each standing pose telling us volumes about who these people want to be, and how they want to change the rules about how we see them. What comes through strongly in this group of portraits from the early 1990s is a sense of free spirited connection, the supportive links between the people making the pictures that much more intensely observed and immediate.

***

The next period in the arc of Tillmans’ career, from the mid 1990s roughly through to the mid 2000s, finds him building on the themes and subject matter genres he had already begun to explore, and then expanding out further to a range of additional genres and ideas; now in his 30s, a different kind of maturity, introspection, and awareness of the larger world came into his work. One way explain this shift is that Tillmans’ observational style started to reach out beyond the confines of his nearby intimate life, in a sense beginning to see wider contexts, implications, and cultural rhythms that he could examine and unpack with his photography. Perhaps we can think of it as a process of additive artistic aggregation – the resonant motifs and themes from his early days didn’t disappear, they were simply reworked by the arrival of a handful of other ideas, interests, and emotions that Tillmans then blended into his increasingly layered and multivalent presentations.

Earlier in his career, Tillmans made afterparty shots that captured the messy aftermath of gatherings in his apartment, with clothing, beer bottles, and the remnants of meals strewn through the kitchen and on the floor. These observations of cluttered space were the beginnings of Tillmans’ foray into the still life genre, and by the mid 1990s, his attentiveness had led to many more images of arrangements of inanimate objects. Many of his strongest compositions turned crumped piles of clothing and bedsheets into sculptural marvels, the folds of drapery turned inside out or twisted in elegant knots, transforming the ordinary underwear or grungy jeans into something unexpectedly beautiful. These pictures cut against what we thought such dirty laundry should look like; not only were the formal properties engaging, the clothing felt as though it was still inhabited in some way, the humanity of the owner sensitively adding to the energy of the crumpled piles. Tillmans also streamlined his early gatherings of dishes and cluttered countertops into more refined windowsill setups, where eclectic combinations of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other ordinary stuff became somehow sublimely clear, their stillness making them feel like revered objects or altars. Tillmans’ still lifes are the kind of photographs that can catch us off guard – given their humble subject matter, we might initially discount them, but their understated formal elegance ultimately shines through.

Two multi-image projects from the late 1990s point to Tillmans starting to raise his head to more global concerns, an impulse that will get more pronounced as the years continue to pass. In one 1997 series, Tillmans made images of the Concorde as it flew through the skies near Heathrow airport in London, the takeoffs and landings of the futuristic plane seen through the veil of nearby trees and houses. Silhouetted against the changing skies, the form of the plane feels otherworldly, the fading promise of the technology seen with a degree of strangeness and skepticism. And in another project from 1999, Tillmans rephotographed images of soldiers as seen in daily newspapers. Starting with front page pictures from various wars and deployments around the world, he isolated the motifs of overt militarization, connecting them back to the camouflage styles and identities from his techno days with an unexpected set of echoes and resonances. During these years, Tillmans also revived his childhood interest in astronomy, making various images of sunsets, moonrises, and starry skies, and then moving further to make more technical photographs of solar and lunar eclipses, as well as other cosmic phenomena, like the transit of Venus in 2004. What links all of these seemingly disparate efforts together is a sense of voraciously deliberate seeing and observing, and the fragility and mystery that lies within that process – with age, Tillmans seems to have begun looking for ways to bridge from the intimate to the more universal, to connect the individual all the way to the stars above.

But fascinatingly, just as he was opening up, he was also at essentially the very same time closing back down, turning inward in a different kind of search, toward the possibilities of camera-less abstraction. Tillmans had, of course, begun with mechanical reproduction in the form of photocopying many years earlier. But now his experimentation became even more systematic and intentional, playing with light in the darkroom, residues left in his developer trays, crumpled and folded paper objects, and the sinuous curves of paper drops. Copier fogs and distortions give way to a massive 2000 print of a cloudscape interrupted by a gentle swirl of gestural light drawing, and from there, the flood gates of experimentation seem to have burst open. Flares of light interrupt and decorate other views, and strands of modulated colored light wander and fall like dispersing liquid (with yet another connection back to the drifting light in a club), the compositions taking larger and larger forms until they filled walls like immersive visual experiences. These abstractions are at once expressive improvisations, careful studies, accidents, and physical artifacts, but the consistent mood is somehow almost nostalgic, like gloriously full odes to the end of analog photographic technology or elegies for earlier emotions that have now wandered off.

During these same years, more overt politcal and social disillusionment also starts to creep into Tillmans’ artistic vocabulary, most notably in the introduction of what he called the Truth Study Center to his exhibitions (in 2005 and 2006). From the vantage point of exhibition design, these centers further broke down the tyranny of the four walls of the gallery, moving away from the verticality of presentation on the walls to horizontal presentation on tables in the middle of the gallery space. In this way, Tillmans was not only experimenting with how photography can function spatially, he was asking us to reconsider the culture of misinformation and disinformation that was beginning to appear then – his arrangements mixed information from different sources (including the Internet) in nonlinear ways, trying to make our viewing less passive. Far before the advent of “alternative facts” or “fake news”, Tillmans was attempting to tease out the cultural mis-connections and misconceptions he was seeing, and encouraging us as viewers to think more critically about the events of the day as presented by various (sometimes unreliable) news sources. In its earliest forms, these tables were an idiosyncratic start at teaching critical visual literacy; in their later forms, the approach has felt less engaging, if only because his insights are less incisively unique in our current flood of post-truth information.

And if these various new threads of artistic innovation weren’t enough, he was still making portraits. Tillmans won the Turner Prize in 2000 (becoming the first photographer to do so), and soon after that, his portraiture subjects markedly shift toward more artists and celebrities of various kinds; commissioned or not, these pictures still have varying hints of intimacy and connection, but the freedoms and identities of youth that energized his early portraits have largely washed away, leaving less of a definable artistic signature. Tillmans was becoming an art would figure, and that process must have inevitably recalibrated both his perspective and his surrounding community; to my eye, the portraits from these years get somewhat less compelling and memorable, if only because they feel more emotionally distant.

When seen as a decidedly prolific and wide ranging decade of artistic production, it’s hard not to be impressed by Tillmans’ disparate output – it was an explosion of photographic creativity and refinement, moving in multiple directions at once. This is where, again, I think it’s reductive to push Tillmans back toward a central diaristic impulse; by this point in his career, he’d moved far beyond that one track simplicity, the fluidity of his observation and experimentation finding beauty (and uncertainty) in all kinds of unexpected places.

***

The last several rooms of the retrospective bring us forward from the late 2000s to the present. Tillmans is now in his 40s and early 50s, and with that age comes perspective, a more urgent sense of responsibility, and a few more hints of understanding what has been lost along the way. Now a veteran art word star of international reputation, bouncing around the globe from one museum show to the next, his awareness and observations of the 21st century condition have moved to the forefront of his art.

To think of this Tillmans in the context of yet another musical analogy, it’s as if he’s now mastered all the instruments in his band, which allows him to deploy those individual approaches as needed to generate the broader desired results. In his project Neue Welt (from roughly 2008 to 2012), Tillmans set out to tell the story of the globalized surfaces of our contemporary world, and in doing so, he liberally mixed together examples from all of his power alleys: portraiture, still life, atmospheric scenes, singular observations, landscapes, aerials, astronomical views, street scenes, even architectural studies. In that project and in the years since, he has jumped from Shanghai to Berlin, Istanbul to Gaza, Saint Petersburg to New York, in a seemingly never ending stream of airline flights, dense cities, and urban experiences, his visual curiosity constantly stimulated and energized by the new, but with an edge of rootless citizen-of-the-world melancholy and weariness that creeps in here and there.

Technology mediates or enables much of what he sees, from car headlights and astronomical computer screens to TV static and other incomprehensible machinery, and when mixed together with his wider views of favelas, dry deserts, and thickly packed housing, a back and forth between extremes is created, the coexistence altogether uneasy. And while a few sweat-soaked raves do find their way back into Tillmans’ life, there are more lonely moments than ecstasies, with stacks of passports, empty hotel rooms, solitary swims, and piles of used HIV medication bottles attesting to the more enduring realities in his life. Many of Tillmans’ portraits and self-portraits from this period linger in this mood, including his famous image of Frank Ocean in the shower, but also self-portraits in shadow and in an indirect hospital bed iPhone reflection. Other images travel on similar trails of dislocation – rocks emerge from water, clouds gather in dissolving texture, the moon drifts toward darkness, and a solitary weed fights to survive in the cracks between stones. And while Tillmans still finds small transcendent moments of beauty in the fall of light on a backpack, the salt stains from sweat on a t shirt, the split second pour of concrete at a construction site, and the elegantly goofy swirl of a young woman wielding a power washer, there is a rich undercurrent of pensiveness and introspection that runs through these recent works that seems to imply that Tillmans isn’t seeing and feeling quite as much engrossing inclusive positivity as he once did.

One more overt response to what Tillmans has observed around him is to more actively use his platform as a successful artist to engage in advocacy, in a sense, amplifying the ideas of acceptance and togetherness that have been prominent in his work since the very beginning. He has consistently supported HIV/AIDS and LGBT rights movements around the globe, and he donated his imagery (and his time) to the unsuccessful anti-Brexit campaign in 2016. The later rooms in the show include images from Black Lives Matter protests, anti-travel ban demonstrations, various pride parades, anti-Boko Harem marches, and a portrait of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot, weaving these moments into his larger visual aggregation of contemporary society and quietly making the case that this kind of global citizenship and ethical advocacy is now central to how we live – our world is more vulnerable, and a renewed spirit of collective responsibility (like the one he felt so strongly years ago) is the only path forward.

The exhibit ends out in the open air of the atrium, with a sculptural work Tillmans made in collaboration with Isa Genzken. In it, a massive afterparty image with seething red lights and cluttered leftovers on the floor fills one wall, while mirrored blocks flank the picture, creating layers of reflections of both the image and ourselves, as though we have entered the scene itself. Not only does the work bring us full circle back to the aesthetics of Tillmans’ earlier works, it makes that circulation participatory. It’s a smart ending to the show after the slow distress of the last room or two, bringing a sense of inclusive optimism and togetherness back into view.

***

I think there are three key takeaways from this impressive four-decade Tillmans retrospective. First, across his career, Tillmans has unarguably delivered durably best-of-breed photographs in the three separate genres – portraiture, still life, and abstraction. In all three cases, he has a deep and varied catalog of greatness, filled with attentiveness, tenderness, grandeur, and luminosity. Few contemporary photographers have delivered in these areas with such consistent cross-category breadth.

Second, Tillmans has permanently transformed the nature of the photographic museum experience. Of course, traditional modes of displaying photographs will always be with us, but Tillmans deserves credit for reconfiguring and expanding the possibilities of exhibition design, especially in the ways that they allow for different kinds of experiences, connections, and unlikely linkages. He’s offered us a way of seeing that better matches the way we consume visual information, and in doing so, retaken control of that experience, allowing the artist to arrange and present imagery in innovative multi-layered ways.

And lastly, Tillmans has made a noteworthy effort to wrestle with the complexities of the early 21st century condition. Plenty of master photographers have shown us resonant pieces of this puzzle, but few have taken the risky leap of trying to pull it all together with an eye for both intellectual and emotional coherence. I don’t think Tillmans has entirely achieved this lofty task yet, but he’s making promising strides to get there. He’ll need both outstanding, attention-grabbing, sublime single images AND meticulously edited networks and arrangements of those pictures to ultimately tell that majestic story, and he’s certainly shown he can deliver both of those things in the past. Whether Tillmans ever finds his way to such a sweeping photographic statement will depend entirely on the next few bold jumps into the artistic unknown he decides to make. He’s proven himself to be a willing and able risk taker – the question is whether he can once again summon up enough contagiously buoyant optimism about the future to drive himself forward.

Collector’s POV: Wolfgang Tillmans is represented by David Zwirner in New York (here) and Maureen Paley in London (here), among others; he has had recent gallery shows at David Zwirner in 2018 (reviewed here) and in 2015 (reviewed here). Tillmans’ work is routinely available in the secondary markets, and top end prices (particularly for his abstract images) have risen sharply in the past several years. Overall, recent prices for his prints have ranged between roughly $2000 and $795000.

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