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National Gallery 2, London 2001

National Gallery 2, London 2001
signed ‘Thomas Struth’ (on a label affixed to the backing board); numbered ‘6/10’ (on the backing board)
chromogenic print back-mounted to Plexiglas in artist’s frame
image: 43 ¼ x 50 1/8in. (110 x 134.8cm.)
overall: 60 1/8 x 68 7/8in. (152.8 x 175cm.)
Executed in 2001, this work is number six from an edition of ten
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin.
Anon. sale, Christie’s New York, 14 November 2007, lot 509.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
H. Belting, W. Grasskamp and C. Seidel, Thomas Struth, Museum Photographs, Munich 2005 (another from the edition illustrated in colour, pp. 87 and 107).
Dallas, Museum of Art, Thomas Struth: 1977-2002, 2002-2003, p. 178 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 45 ). This exhibition later travelled to Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art.
Passarino, Villa Manin Centro d'Arte Contemporanea, Love and Hate, From Magritte to Cattelan, 2004 (another from the edition exhibited).
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, Thomas Struth, Making Time, 2007, p. 108 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, p. 53; installation view illustrated in colour, pp. 54 and 55).
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Thomas Struth, Fotografien 1987-2010, 2010-2012, p. 210 (another from the edition exhibited, illustrated in colour, pp. 131 and 211). This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfallen; London, Whitechapel Gallery and Porto, Museu de Serralves, Museu de Arte Contemporânea.
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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Lot Essay

'For the first and only time, Struth focuses solely on the painting and the empty space around it, rather than including any viewers within the frame of the picture’ (T. Struth, quoted in A.Kruszynski, T. Bezzola, J. Lingwood (eds.), Thomas Struth: Photographs 1978-2010, New York, 2010, p. 210).

Unique among Thomas Struth’s Museum Photographs, National Gallery 2, London, 2001 presents a painting in an empty room: a conceptual counterpoint to the groups usually pictured congregating around Old Master paintings. Focusing his lens on Vermeer’s Woman with a Lute, which was on temporary exhibition at the National Gallery in London, the stillness of the composition invokes a hushed moment in time. Echoing the geometrically perfected perspectives that Vermeer achieved through the camera obscura, Struth too crafts a clearly defined architectural space. The eye is drawn inwards, yet Struth has provided strict parameters through which to absorb the scene. The space of the room is delineated by the seam bisecting the image in the corner. The delicate beads of light trickle into the room and echo the subtle pearly light of the painting. Spot lit in the museum, Woman with a Lute appears to be illuminated from within. As in other images from the series, Struth ushers his viewer into the space of National Gallery through a scale experienced only in reality.

The effect is that the viewer experiences an oscillation between the reality presented in the photograph and that of gazing at the photograph. In contrast to all other Museum Photographs, National Gallery 2, London is devoid of groups convening in and around pictures and, as such, produces a profound silence. Standing before the photograph, the viewer is immediately drawn into the exquisite details, and left with the vivid sensation of trespass. In this way, National Gallery 2, London reflects the variety of ways of seeing, in its depiction of the reality of the photograph itself. These in turn constitute formal and cultural relationships that connect the work to the camera, the artist, and the spectator.

Widely regarded as the artist’s seminal series, the Museum Photographs were the product of a long investigation undertaken by the artist. Struth was concerned about reality and perception and portrays these through the medium of photography and the notion of the gaze. In the 1970s and 1980s, Struth’s photographic practice was dominated by intriguing scenes of empty streets in major cities and then by portraiture. Indeed he first went to museums in order to look at painted portraits from other periods as a way to inform his own technique. To achieve this methodology, Struth sought out particular museums in which to work, among them the National Gallery, London, the Louvre, Paris, the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Art Institute of Chicago. As Struth began to consider the original act of portrait painting in the same realm as contemporary photography, ‘there arose the idea to bring these two things, with the medium of reproduction, the currently appropriate medium, to the same level; to make a reproduction of a painted image and at the same time to produce a new image in which real persons of today are shown’ (T. Struth, quoted in ‘Interview with Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, in Directions: Thomas Struth Museum Photographs, exh. cat., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., 1992, unpaged).

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