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Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007 and 1934-2015)
Property from the Estate of a Private Collector, New York
Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007 and 1934-2015)

New York Water Towers, 1978-1979

Details
Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007 and 1934-2015)
New York Water Towers, 1978-1979
gelatin silver print, in fifteen parts
each sheet: 16 x 12 3/8 in. (40.6 x 31.4 cm.)
This work is unique and is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Max Becher.
Provenance
The Artists
Sonnabend Gallery, New York
Kicken Gallery, Berlin
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2004
Literature
A. Zweite, ed., Bernd & Hilla Becher: Typologies, Massachusetts, 2004, pl. 4, n.p. (illustrated).
S. Lange, Bernd and Hilla Becher: Life and Work, Massachusetts, 2007, fig. 70, pp. 40-41 (illustrated).

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

Fifteen individual photographs comprise Bernd and Hilla Becher’s New York Water Towers, and each edifice was shot straight on with a large depth of field to produce an image of seemingly objective detail that glories in the everyday. Their forthright and deceptively uncomplicated style would go on to influence an entire generation of German photographers including Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer. Characteristically exhibited in a grid, the present work forms a typology of water towers across New York. Much like portraiture which as a genre is defined by a set of socially expected conventions, the Bechers’ New York Water Towers, too, make use of a deadpan aesthetic to highlight the individual characteristics of each tower. The methodical and rigorous study of industrial structures was the central thematic preoccupation for the Bechers who, over the course of their long and entwined practice, photographed coal bunkers, gas tanks and factories among other, often-overlooked sites of manmade splendour. Their analytical approach was further reinforced in the images’ titles which include only the location and date of each photograph. Instead of seeking out drama through striking viewpoints, the Bechers’ images found beauty in the formal elements of vernacular architecture. These are quiet images that, as Bernd said, were concerned with ‘proving that there is a form of architecture that consists in essence of apparatus, that has nothing to do with design, and nothing to do with architecture either. They are engineering constructions with their own aesthetic’ (B. Becher, quoted in U. Erdmann Ziegler, ‘The Bechers’ Industrial Lexicon’, Art in America, June 2002).

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