MoMA to Feature First Full Survey of Wolfgang Tillmans in NYC Museums
The Museum of Modern Art will present Wolfgang Tillmans: To look without fear, the artist’s first museum investigation in New York, from September 12, 2022 to January 1, 2023, at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Center for Special Exhibitions.
Unique groupings of approximately 350 photographs, videos and multimedia installations by Tillmans will be exhibited in a loose chronology throughout the sixth floor of the Museum. Informed by a new scholarship and eight years of dialogue with the artist, the exhibition will highlight how Tillmans’ deeply inventive, philosophical and creative approach is both informed and designed to highlight social and political causes for which he has been an advocate throughout his career. . Wolfgang Tillmans: To Look Without Fear is curated by Roxana Marcoci, the new Senior Curator of Photography David Dechman, with Caitlin Ryan, Curatorial Assistant, and Phil Taylor, Former Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.
From the beginning of his career, Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968, Germany) revolutionized the dominant conventions of photographic presentation, establishing links between his images in response to a given context and activating the exhibition space by hanging photographs in a corner, above a door frame, on a freestanding column or next to a fire extinguisher. By developing his own language for these global installations, Tillmans’ practice borders on the sculptural dimension. The decisive logic of his practice is a visual democracy, best summed up by his phrase “If one thing matters, everything matters”.
Tillmans considers that the role of the artist is, among other things, that of “amplifier” of social consciousness. Her approach to image making foregrounds the ideas of human connection and togetherness, her work reflecting a deep care for her subjects. Tillmans has portrayed survival and loss amid the AIDS crisis, undermined the media’s aestheticization of military forces, given voice to LGBTQ+ communities around the world, and tracked the spread of globalism — and in doing so, challenged claims to absolute truth.
“Tillmans’ value system revolves around central questions,” Marcoci said. “What can images make visible? What can we know at all? Who deserves attention? How can we connect with other people? How can we foster solidarity? the political potential and ethical value of art?
Covering the artist’s output from the 1980s to the present day, MoMA’s survey will feature iconic photographs alongside his rarely seen important works. From ecstatic images of nightlife to cameraless abstractions, sensitive portraits to architectural studies, documents of social movements to windowsill still lifes, from astronomical phenomena to intimate nudes, Tillmans seemingly explored every genre of photography imaginable, continually experimenting with how to make images meaningful.
Looking Without Fear will present these works and reflect Tillmans’ distinct display strategies – from unframed prints glued precisely to the wall to constellations of images clustered on tables as photocopies, video projections and magazine pages. “I see my installations as a reflection of my way of seeing, of how I perceive or want to perceive my surroundings,” said Tillmans. “They’re also still a world I want to live in.” Such attention to the physical manifestation of his work stems from a long-standing investigation into the poetic possibilities of the photographic medium.
Following its presentation at MoMA, Wolfgang Tillmans: To Look Without Fear will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario (Spring-Summer 2023) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Fall 2023-Winter 2024).