The photographs of Thomas Demand merge truthful documentation and unsettling artifice—two polarities raised by photography since its inception. For over two decades, Demand has built intricate, life-size, three- dimensional models made wholly out of colored construction paper and cardboard that faithfully replicate specific architectural spaces and natural settings. He photographs the ephemeral structure and destroys it once the image is made. He uses the same sculptural techniques with stop-motion animation in his films.
The spaces conveyed in Demand’s work are facsimiles of preexisting photographs, often circulated by the media, that document historically, culturally, and politically significant or notorious sites. However, devoid of the noted people and dramatic events that occurred in these places, his images seem both a little uncanny and rather banal. He has tackled such subjects as Henri Matisse’s studio floor, the backyard of the Boston Marathon bomber’s home, the Oval Office, the control room of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant days after the 2011 tsunami, the room where the failed assassination of Hitler occurred, and the kitchen of Saddam Hussein’s hideout. His finished photographs are thus thrice removed from the original site they intend to represent, raising questions about the inherently contrived nature of photography, even in the realm of documentation.
Thomas Demand was born in Munich and currently lives and works in Los Angeles and Berlin. He attended the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf and Goldsmiths College in London, where he received an MA. He has exhibited widely across the globe, including recent solo exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Hamburger Kunsthalle; Serpentine Gallery, London; Kunsthaus Bregenz; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. He has participated in many group shows at such venues as the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; KasselerKunstVerein, Germany; Yale School of Art, New Haven; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitechapel Gallery, London; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. His work is represented in numerous museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Schaulager, Basel; and Fondazione Prada, Milan.
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The Director's Council was formed in 1985 and supports the Modern with an annual acquisition for the permanent collection. The Director's Council sponsors the FOCUS series, which presents three solo exhibitions organized each year. Each exhibition opens with an exclusive cocktail reception for the Council, giving the members an opportunity to meet the featured artist and discuss his or her work. One piece by each artist is chosen by the Museum director and curator to be part of the final selection voted on at the Council's Purchase Meeting each May. This format provides members with an in-depth understanding of the Modern's acquisitions process and offers a spirited and popular series of events. The annual dues, $600, include all the benefits of a Family membership and invitations to exclusive Director's Council events.