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"More Than Meets the Eye": An Interview with Friedhelm Hütte

Beginning in February, the Deutsche Bank Collection presents for the first time a group exhibition exclusively devoted to photography: "More Than Meets the Eye – Photographic Art from the Deutsche Bank Collection." From Dieter Appelt to Wolfgang Tillmans, works of more than 50 German photographers will be shown, with a spectrum ranging from modern classics around the Düsseldorf School to very young artists in the German photography scene. After its start in Monterrey, Mexico, the exhibition will travel to further important museums in Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and Santiago de Chile. Friedhelm Hütte, Director of Deutsche Bank Art, explains the background and the history of the exhibition in this interview with Maria Morais.

Friedhelm Hütte, Direktor Deutsche Bank Art

Maria Morais: How did the idea for the show “More Than Meets the Eye” develop?

Friedhelm Hütte: The idea to show a further exhibition in Latin America developed directly from the success and the acceptance of the previous show. The exhibition Il Ritorno dei Giganti / The Return of the Giants had toured through Latin America from 2002 to 2004, and it was such a success that Deutsche Bank and the participating museums agreed on a repetition. That we decided to do a photography show next has many reasons, preceded by many questions. What topic could be interesting in Latin American countries? What has not been shown so much yet? What kind of an exhibition would meet with real interest there? Where does Germany seem particularly interesting at the moment? Then pretty soon it became obvious that we should do a photography show. We have presented numerous exhibitions that gave an insight into our collection, amongst them Works on Paper and the anniversary show 25, which after its stop in Berlin last year will be shown in Japan this spring. But we never did a pure photography show. This insight into the collection, which contains around 3000 photographic works, is something new.

August Sander, Varnisher, © Photograph. Samml./SK Stiftung Kultur-A. Sander Archiv, Köln/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

The exhibition will tour for two years through various South American capitals. How did you establish contact with the large museums that will host the exhibition, for example in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, or Bogotá?

With some of the museums we have had links for many years now. You could almost speak of partner museums in the cases of the MAM, the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo or the MARCO Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey. We have been guests there in the past, and that was a great success. Contacts to the other participating museums in Chile, Columbia, Peru, and Argentina were established through Deutsche Bank offices in those cities.

Thomas Ruff, Portrait (Thomas Bernstein), 1988
Deutsche Bank Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2006

What especially interests you about the idea of the sequence and the large format in photography?

Both forms are particularly typical of German photography. Sequencing or working in series goes back to August Sander and Karl Blossfeldt. Decades later the Becher students introduced a significant formal change. Struth, Gursky, and Ruff more or less invented the large format in photography. By now this format has also become typical of German photography. These developments are particularly well documented in the Deutsche Bank Collection. We have often bought series and sequences, and large-format photographs are numerous in the collection.

Thomas Struth, Dey Street New York/ Wall Street, 1978
Deutsche Bank Collection

The photography of the Bechers is associated with "typically German" virtues: an analytical perspective, soberness, categorisation. Would you say that these are also typical characteristics of German photography after 1945?

I wouldn’t agree with that. If you look at the catalogue, you’ll see that we especially looked for examples where that is not the case. We chose works that are precisely not characterised by this analytical perspective, where a subjective perspective is dominant. There are artists in the show who order their works as a sequence, but they have nothing analytical in mind when doing so, but rather, they try to represent a course of events, to simulate a dynamic, rhythm, or a movement. Take Susa Templin’s Putzen, for example, or Gotthard Graubner’s Tanzende Mönche, there is a great deal of movement there, it actually gets quite close to film. If you look at Jürgen Klauke’s photographs in the exhibition you’ll see how mystical and surrealist they are. That has absolutely nothing to do with the Becher school, and yet they are serial works. In fact, we rather tried to demonstrate that sober analysis is just one aspect in German photography among many others.

Susa Templin, from the series Putzen, 1993
Deutsche Bank Collection

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