The MAMC+ is presenting the first exhibition in a French museum by the German photographic artist Thomas Ruff.

This retrospective gaze concerning over forty years of his career aims to reveal the way in which the artist tirelessly questions the photographic medium itself, developing a “meta-photography”. Through a selection of seventeen series, including one as yet unseen (Bonfils, 2022) the visit of around one hundred artworks restores a chronology of the various types of imagery and technical processes that he investigates, thus implicitly retracing a history of photography.

German artist Thomas Ruff started his series of Interiors and Portraits in the 1980s, when he was still a student of Bernd Becher at the fine arts academy Kunstakademie, in Düsseldorf. Although these artworks became emblematic of his work, he nevertheless explored many other approaches to photography, choosing from the 1990s to use only pre-existing images, which he manipulates. The titles of his serial experiments illustrate the continually renewed diversity of his subjects, which the exhibition reflects: Stars, Press Photographs, Nights, Nudes, Portraits, ma.r.s, Photograms, Flowers, Chinese Paintings, and so on.

This exploration of camera technology and image production encompasses all kinds of photographs, while reinventing them, from satellite images to digital tools, to non-digital negatives and JPEGs. Fundamentally, for this artist who draws on existing photography, it is a matter of probing the medium’s capacity for technological evolution and the status of images, while constantly questioning photographic objectivity.


1958: Birth at Zell am Harmersbach (Forêt-Noire), Germany
1974: Acquires his first camera and learns the basics of photographic technique
1977: Attends the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and is accepted the following year into Bernd
Becher’s legendary photography class
1981: Creates the first images of the Portraits series and starts to exhibit his work
1985: Completes his studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
1995: Represents Germany at the Venice Biennale
2001-2006: Professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy
2001: Travelling retrospective exhibition Thomas Ruff. 1979 to the Present, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
2017: Retrospective exhibition Thomas Ruff. Photographs 1979-2017, Whitechapel Gallery, Londres


Alexandre Quoi
Chief curator of the MAMC+


The MAMC+ publishes an artist’s book in the form of a leporello. Unfolded over nearly three metres, the book presents a chronology of the photographic processes and genres explored by the artist. On the its, it shows a selection of the works exhibited while on its back, it displays each of the corresponding sources and techniques used by Thomas Ruff. Text written by Alexandre Quoi, chief curator. Published by the MAMC+, distributed by Walther König.
Price: 29 euros.

17 series of photos

Approx. 100 works

Personal retrospective

History of photography