The works by Thomas Ruff (born in 1958) have been acclaimed by its quality in presenting common subjects in a common matter, the camera being used to register the subject in the most impersonal and objective way, a raw and dry take that in the process of dissecting the work as an art form, creates a new hyper realistic result. The artist uses photography as a recognisable medium and part of the work, similar to Andy Warhol and his silkscreens, this interest is shared also with his peers from the Düsseldorf School of Photography (DSP), that under the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher started to challenged the documentary approach and perceptions of art works.
Ruff is arguably one of the most eclectic artist in the DSP relation to subject and dimensions of his prints, therefore is difficult to find a single trend among his artworks. That being said, it is possible though to point his most iconic series:
- Stern (Star)
- Abstract (Substrat, Photograms, Mars)
Portrait is often use to exemplify Ruff’s practice in an art history context due to its clear connection with the Bechers and objectivity. The artists treats his subjects with the same clear and unaffected lent being here the most poignant difference the fact that humans (in Ruff) replace the architecture buildings (Bechers) in tandem with also the “interior portraits” by Candida Höfer. The record for a Portrait was achieved in 2008 with a hammer price of 66,465 EUR at Christie’s (US).
The ultimate record by the artist at auction is very recent, in March 2017, also at Christie’s, a work from the series Jpeg (Jpeg pt01, 2006) sold for 184,304 EUR. The next four highest lots are from the series Stern (Star) where the artist reprinted in large scale photographs obtained by observatory institutions. Ruff doesn’t really interferes with the images and invest a laborious process during the printing of the images in order to achieve the dark pallet of the sky, the viewer is easily transported to this recognisable nightly scenario.
The artist is already a recognisable name in Photography and Contemporary Art sales, but the mid career retrospective at Whitechapel will for sure increase his presence in future sales and consolidate his market. Although probably not achieving astronomical figures, Ruff’s works will most likely stay in the figure of 50,000 EUR, the artist presents respectful results within the Photography market. It will be interesting to observe if the Nudes series (once very popular) will regain notoriety and how Photograms – the ones presented at Whitechapel are particularly exquisite – will be received by bidders.
Thomas Ruff is without a doubt one of the most influential photographers alive and it will be interesting to observe his next museum solo exhibitions and how it will impact the overall german photography market. Hopefully we will also have soon a show with new work.
The gallery Sprüth Magers is presenting some works from the series Press during Frieze London, that starts today.