• First Open | Post-War and Cont auction at Christies

    Sale 12724

    First Open | Post-War and Contemporary Art | London

    29 September 2016, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 107

    Thomas Ruff (B. 1958)

    Portrait (V. Liebermann)


    Thomas Ruff (B. 1958)
    Portrait (V. Liebermann)
    signed, numbered and dated 'Thomas Ruff 2/4 1999' (on the reverse)
    image: 46 ¾ x 62 ¾in. (118.9 x 159.4cm.)
    overall: 82 ¼ x 65 ¼in. (216.5 x 165.6cm.)
    Executed in 1999, this work is number two from an edition of four

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    ‘I don't think my portraits can present actual personalities. I'm not interested in making a copy of my own interpretation of a person. It's more my personal idea of photography that is accentuated in my portraits. I believe that photography can only reproduce the surface of things. The same applied to a portrait. I take photos of people the same way I would take photos of a plaster bust’ (M. L. Syring and C. Vielhaber, Thomas Ruff in BiNationale, German Art of the Late 80's, Cologne, 1988, pp. 260-261).
    One of Thomas Ruff’s most consistent subjects in his portfolio of works has been the portrait. Begun in the late 1980s, the Portrait cycle consists of an extended series of photographs taken of friends and colleagues at the Düsseldorf Academy, where Ruff studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher; like them, he consistently produces in serial form. Porträt (V. Liebermann) from 1999 is a head-and-shoulder portrait of a woman, who stares directly into the camera. Monumental, highly detailed and hyper-realistic, this is an unembellished portrait of a common person, devoid of expression. Although the woman is a personal acquaintance, she is photographed with a deeply cold and neutral eye, like an apparent stranger. Using an ordinary background chosen by the sitter, the closely cropped image is intended to be as neutral as possible to accentuate her face, but also the role of the camera in capturing it. Ruff's camera inspects the imperfections of the sitter’s face, and the viewer is left with limited information to create an imagined biography. The woman faces the camera under flat fluorescent lighting: a format immediately reminiscent of passport photos, mug shots, or other institutional identification. The artist has often acknowledged the reference to identification photos in this work, and draws inspiration from photographic modes of surveillance employed in Germany during the 1970s. In all of his works, Ruff reduces the role of the camera to its purest technical purpose: a tool that visually records what is in front of it.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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    Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    M. Winzen, Thomas Ruff Fotografien 1979-heute, exh. cat., Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden, 2001 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, p. 189).

    Post Lot Text

    Another from the edition is held in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.