Libraries, Museums and A Theatre is an exhibition of selected works by legendary German artist Candida Höfer. This is the artist’s eleventh solo exhibition with Ben Brown Fine Arts and eighth solo exhibition at the London gallery. The retrospective presents a selection of quintessential, spectacular photographs of libraries, museums and a theatre, variously located in Austria, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Russia. These works illustrate her unique ability to capture public spaces that have been deprived of their status as public due to the devoid of human presence. Consequently, there is a sense of looking into an illicit moment or space, whose architectural splendour can only be entirely recognized when in solitude.
Amongst the photographs in the exhibition is Villa Borghese Roma I 2012. The photograph features an extraordinary interior of historical importance, as the sculptures situated on the blue plinths were first owned by Galleria Borghese, sold to French collectors, and then loaned by the Louvre to the Galleria. Therefore, Höfer has captured the statues in their initial environment, a true testament that her photographs are not documentaries of daily life, but instead capture the essence and history of a space, in its isolation.
Also included in the exhibition are two works from Höfer’s Louvre series, executed in 2005. The Louvre is now a tourist attraction that sees millions of people come through its doors every year, however, in the works shown in this exhibition the two rooms are deserted, a rare site, as Höfer was granted permission to photograph the interior when it was closed to the public. The effect of the large-format photographs is a rare combination of intimacy and scale, in which celebrated Western artworks enter a reticent though articulate conversation with the architectural setting, without surrendering the sense of space and civilised order. Höfer exhibited these works at the Louvre in 2007, in an exhibition entitled Candida Höfer, Le Louvre.
Höfer ‘portraits of interiors’ capture mankind’s greatness, as the empty spaces are associated with cultural and historical memories that are both in the present and in the past. Marsh’s Library Dublin I 2004, for instance, is a photograph of what is considered the first public library in Ireland, which opened in 1707. The astonishing details that are brought forth in her works are a direct result of Höfer’s working method, as she produces photographs using long exposure and working solely with the existing light source. This is witnessed in this work, as the natural light floods into the library from above, which highlights the early Enlightenment architecture and decorative gilded gables that embellish the dark oak bookcases, all in their original state. The library’s historical significance is also present, as the pictured bookshelves have bullet holes from the Easter Rebellion that occurred in Ireland in the twentieth century.
Through Höfer ’s lens, the selected works in the exhibition illustrate her exploration of the psychological effect of architecture. Correspondingly, Höfer exquisitely manages to capture the institutions’ architectural grandeur and history.
Candida Höfer: Libraries, Museums and A Theatre 22nd November 2021 – 28th January 2022 at Ben Brown Fine Art
About the artist
Candida Höfer (b. 1944) is a German artist based in Cologne, Germany. Höfer is a member of the Düsseldorf School (Kunstakademie Düsseldorf) and a former student of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Other contemporary artists that were students of the Dusseldorf School include Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Axel Hütte and Thomas Ruff. Höfer completed her training at the Schmölz-Huth Studio and has taught at the Hochschule fur Gestaltung. Höfer’s career has extended for over four decades. She represented Germany at the 50th Venice Biennale and was awarded the 2018 Outstanding Contribution to Photography award, as part of the Sony World Photography awards. Additionally, Höfer has participated at Documenta II and her photographs are part of major museum collections around the world, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Kunsthalle Hamburg, Hamburg; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; and Tate Modern, London. Höfer’s work has been exhibited internationally, at institutions including the Kunsthalle Basel, Basel; Kunsthalle Bern, Bern; Musée du Louvre, Paris; Irish Museum of
Modern Art, Dublin; and The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.