Bernd & Hilla Becher

 

 

 

Bernd (1931–2007) and Hilla Becher (1934–2015) are considered the most influential German photographers of the post-war period. Over the past 50 years, the couple and artist duo captured the aesthetic of disappearing industrial facilities, often making the overlooked structures visible to viewers for the first time. Their strict adherence to particular formal principles and their typological approach gave rise to the idea of photography as conceptual art. The Bechers taught at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf and shaped the work of an entire generation of photographers, including Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer and Thomas Struth. Sprüth Magers represents the artist couple’s Estate.

 

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Photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher are usually immediately recognizable, chiefly because of their concise choice of subject matter. Their work can be read as an elaborate, anthropological archiving project devoted to documenting the architecture of heavy and mining industries, once the key engines of modernity. They photographed winding towers, blast furnaces, industrial facades, gas tanks, cooling towers, mine heads, preparation plants, lime kilns, grain elevators, water towers, gravel plants, coal bunkers, and sometimes framework houses, once traditional German working-class homes. Their documentation of these structures took them from the Ruhr valley region in Germany to England, Wales, France, the United States, Belgium and the Netherlands. They photographically catalogued the architectural shapes and structures as so-called “typologies” and underscored their essential contribution to the modernist aesthetic.

A factor perhaps even more important to their unmistakability is the photographs’ distinct style. Bernd and Hilla Becher drew on ideas from the 1920s German New Objectivity movement (Neue Sachlichkeit) with protagonists such as Albert Renger-Patzsch, August Sander and Karl Blossfeldt, and freed their photographic work of any apparent subjectivity or creative expression. The industrial buildings are photographed distortion-free and with unparalleled technical precision. They are always perfectly centered in the black-and-white photographs, no matter how gigantic their real-life dimensions. The depth of focus in these pictures exceeds what the human eye is capable of, ensuring that every architectural detail, every technical and functional facet of the structure is clearly visible. Barren trees, backgrounds of equally barren fall and winter landscapes and the diffuse light of overcast skies often constitute the only other pictorial elements. The complex photos, taken with a large-format camera, are devoid of people and bear no trace of fire, dirt, or smoke. Their orchestrated neutrality does more than give them a characteristic coolness; it also creates the impression of photographic indexicality taken to the extreme. So extreme, in fact, that the depicted structures in these pictures seem more like objects than buildings.

Bernd and Hilla Becher’s work focused on the structures of nineteenth and twentieth-century Western industrialization as these relics were giving way to new and completely different industrial forms. Likewise, the artists renewed the potential of photography. The industrial structures weren’t the only thing on the cusp of obsolescence; photography—as a revolutionary way to capture the world around us—was as well. The artist couple rediscovered photography as an artistic medium at a time when film, television and product advertising had become ubiquitous, and continued to expand. Photography, by comparison, had assumed the status of a melancholy medium, making it a particular potent way to record disappearing phenomena.

 

The photographers Bernd & Hilla Becher
Film by Marianne Kapfer, 2012 (trailer)

www.becher-film.com

Works
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Towers, 1970 - 2010

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Towers, 1970 – 2010
15 silver-gelatin prints
30 × 40 cm
11 7/8 × 15 3/4 inches

More views
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Tower, Carmaux, Tarn, F, 1981

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Tower, Carmaux, Tarn, F, 1981
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tank, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1965

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tank, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1965
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tanks, 1973-2009

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tanks, 1973-2009
9 silver-gelatin prints
30 × 40 cm
11 7/8 × 15 3/4 inches

More views
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Towers, 1965-1992

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Towers, 1965-1992
9 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Tower, Lübeck-Herrenwyk, GER, 1983

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Tower, Lübeck-Herrenwyk, GER, 1983
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnace, Steubenville, Ohio, USA, 1980

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnace, Steubenville, Ohio, USA, 1980
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces, 1965-1992

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces, 1965-1992
12 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

More views
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses - Gable Side, 1970-1973

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses – Gable Side, 1970-1973
9 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses - Street Side, 1970-1973

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses – Street Side, 1970-1973
9 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Winding Towers, 1966-1997

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Winding Towers, 1966-1997
15 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Mine Head, Siege De Folschwiller, F, 1987

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Mine Head, Siege De Folschwiller, F, 1987
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

More views
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunker, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1992

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunker, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1992
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunkers, 1965-1998

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunkers, 1965-1998
12 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevators, 1965-1992

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevators, 1965-1992
16 silver-gelatin prints
30 × 40 cm
11 7/8 × 15 3/4 inches

Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevator, Clifton, Illinois, USA, 1982

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevator, Clifton, Illinois, USA, 1982
Silver-gelatin print
50 × 60 cm
19 3/4 × 23 5/8 inches

More views
Details
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Towers, 1970 – 2010
15 silver-gelatin prints
30 × 40 cm
11 7/8 × 15 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Towers, 1970 - 2010
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Towers, 1970 – 2010
NEVER ENOUGH – Monika Sprüth und die Kunst, installation view, MEWO Kunsthalle, Memmingen, 2017

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Towers, 1970 - 2010
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Tower, Carmaux, Tarn, F, 1981
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Water Tower, Carmaux, Tarn, F, 1981
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tank, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1965
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tank, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1965
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tanks, 1973-2009
9 silver-gelatin prints
30 × 40 cm
11 7/8 × 15 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Gas Tanks, 1973-2009
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, London, 2014

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Installation View, Sprüth Magers, London, September 3 - October 4, 2014
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Towers, 1965-1992
9 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Towers, 1965-1992
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Tower, Lübeck-Herrenwyk, GER, 1983
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Cooling Tower, Lübeck-Herrenwyk, GER, 1983
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnace, Steubenville, Ohio, USA, 1980
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnace, Steubenville, Ohio, USA, 1980
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces, 1965-1992
12 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces, 1965-1992
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces, 1965-1992
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, 2017

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces 1965-1992
Installation View, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, September 7 - October 21, 2017
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces, 1965-1992
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, 2017

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Blast Furnaces 1965-1992
Installation View, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, September 7 - October 21, 2017
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses – Gable Side, 1970-1973
9 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses - Gable Side, 1970-1973
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses – Street Side, 1970-1973
9 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Framework Houses - Street Side, 1970-1973
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Winding Towers, 1966-1997
15 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Winding Towers, 1966-1997
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Mine Head, Siege De Folschwiller, F, 1987
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Mine Head, Siege De Folschwiller, F, 1987
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, London, 2014

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Installation View, Sprüth Magers, London, September 3 - October 4, 2014
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunker, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1992
Silver-gelatin print
60 × 50 cm
23 5/8 × 19 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunker, Grube Anna, Alsorf/Aachen, D, 1992
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunkers, 1965-1998
12 silver-gelatin prints
40 × 30 cm
15 3/4 × 11 7/8 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Coal Bunkers, 1965-1998
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevators, 1965-1992
16 silver-gelatin prints
30 × 40 cm
11 7/8 × 15 3/4 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevators, 1965-1992
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevator, Clifton, Illinois, USA, 1982
Silver-gelatin print
50 × 60 cm
19 3/4 × 23 5/8 inches

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevator, Clifton, Illinois, USA, 1982
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevators
Installation view, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, 2017

Bernd & Hilla Becher
Grain Elevators
Installation View, Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles, September 7 - October 21, 2017
Details
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Current and Upcoming
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Thomas Ruff, L’Empereur_06, 1982, © Thomas Ruff / VG Bildkunst, Bonn 2020

Subjekt und Objekt. Foto Rhein Ruhr
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf
May 5–August 16, 2020

For the first time, the exhibition SUBJECT and OBJECT. PHOTO RHINE RUHR will examine the relationships between the different photographic positions that have developed in the cities of the Rhineland as well as the Ruhr and at the regions’ art academies since the 1960s. This unique approach is due to the fact that such a rich photography scene was able to develop in western Germany, which has repeatedly produced new and innovative artistic positions with sometimes very different photographic approaches over the past 70 years.

Link

Kleine Geschichte(n) der Fotografie (#2)
Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hanover
February 19–May 24, 2020

Die Frage wird immer wieder gestellt: Welches Buch soll ich lesen, wenn ich mich über die Geschichte der Fotografie informieren will?
Jeder Experte wird nun tief durchatmen – und dann vielleicht mit den Achseln zucken. Ja, natürlich, da gibt es die einschlägigen Bücher von Frizot, Kemp, Brauchitsch, Newhall oder die Bildbände des Museum of Modern Art, von Osborne und und und. Aber wirklich befriedigende Geschichten sind das nicht. Die Geschichtsschreiber tun sich heute schwer – und das obwohl die Fotografie fast hundert Jahre nach ihrer Erfindung in wunderbar (eigenartiger) Weise historisch „begriffen“ wurde: In dem mittlerweile legendären Essay „Kleine Geschichte der Photographie“ (1931) schien Walter Benjamin eine erste Antwort auf die Frage nach einem Überblick zu bieten.

Link
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Bernd & Hilla Becher
September 7–October 21, 2017
Los Angeles

In a photographic project spanning five decades, Bernd and Hilla Becher documented the soon-to-be-forgotten architectural forms of industry – Mine Heads, Blast Furnaces, Water Towers, Coal Bunkers, Cooling Towers, Industrial Facades, Gas Tanks and Grain Elevators, to name but a few. Systematically photographing each structure, the artists examined their shared qualities and categorized the images into grid typologies or displayed them individually.

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Bernd & Hilla Becher
September 3–October 4, 2014
London

Over the past five decades, as both teachers and artists, Bernd and Hilla Becher have become among the most influential figures in contemporary photography. Featuring five typologies of industrial structures, as well as a number of single, large-scale photographs, the exhibition at Sprüth Magers is their first solo show in London since the Camden Arts Centre in 1998 and the largest presentation of their work since ‘Cruel and Tender’, at Tate Modern, in 2003.

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Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher
Estate Bernd & Hilla Becher

Das Licht von der anderen Seite – Teil II Fotografie
John Baldessari, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Anna & Bernhard Blume, Victor Burgin, Walter Dahn, Jimmy De Sana, Barbara Ess, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Peter Fischli  David Weiss, Hamish Fulton, Günther Förg, Georg Herold, Martin Kippenberger, Imi Knoebel, Thomas Locher, Allan Mccollum, Sigmar Polke, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, James Welling, Richard Wentworth
September 16–October 29, 1988
Cologne

Press

Bernd and Hilla Becher in conversation with Heinz-Norbert Jocks
interview by Heinz-Norbert Jocks, Bernd and Hilla Becher: Life and Work, edited by Susanne Lange, Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2007

Bernd und Hilla Becher im Gespräch mit Heinz-Norbert Jocks
interview by Heinz-Norbert Jocks, Was wir tun, ist letztlich Geschichten erzählen…, edited by Susanne Lange, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, 2005

On Bernd and Hilla Becher
text by Ileana Sonnabend, Bernd und Hilla Becher. Festschrift. Erasmuspreis 2002, edited by Susanne Lange, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, 2002

Hilla und Bernd Becher
text by Klaus Bussmann, Bernd und Hilla Becher. Festschrift. Erasmuspreis 2002, edited by Susanne Lange, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel Verlag, 2002

Größer als das Leben selbst
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, review by Freddy Langer, April 27, 2017

Biography

Bernd (1931–2007) and Hilla Becher (1934–2015). Solo exhibitions include National Museum Cardiff, Wales (2019), Josef Albers Museum, Quadrat Bottrop (2018), Photographic Collection/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne (2016, 2013, 2010, 2006), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2008), Nationalgalerie Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2005), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2004), K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf (2003) and 44th Venice Biennale (1990). Group exhibitions include Barbican Art Gallery, London (2014), Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2014, 2004), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010), Nationalgalerie Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2008), The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (2005), UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2004), Tate Modern, London (2004, 2003) and Documenta XI, VII, VI and V, Kassel (2002, 1982, 1977, 1972).

Education
Bernd Becher
1953–56 Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Stuttgart
1957–61 Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf
Hilla Becher
1958–61 Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf
Teaching
1976–96 Professorship for photography, Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf
Awards, Grants and Fellowships
2014 Rheinischer Kulturpreis der Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland
2004 Hasselblad Award, Göteborg
Preisträger Kultursalon Düsseldorf e.V.
2002 Erasmuspreis, Praemium Erasmianum, Amsterdam
1994 Goslarer Kaiserring
1990 La Biennale die Venezia International Prize - Golden Lio, for sculpture, Venice
Public Collections
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Berardo Museum – Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, Lisbon
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, QC
CAPC – Musée d'art contemporain, Bordeaux
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PS
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, TX
Denver Art Museum, CO
Detroit Institute of Fine Art, Detroit, MI
Deutsche Börse, Photography Foundation, Frankfurt
Dia Art Foundation, New York, NY
Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur
Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Glenstone Foundation, Potomac, MD
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
IAC – Institut d'art contemporain Villeurbanne/Rhone-Alpes, Villeurbanne
Indianapolis Museum of Art , Indianapolis, IN
K21, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf
Kunstmuseum Basel
Kunstmuseum Bonn
Kunstpalast Dusseldorf
La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA
Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX
Mudam – Musée d'art moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Laussanne
Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal, QC
Musée d'art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Étienne, Saint-Étienne
Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Montreal, QC
Musée national d'art moderne (Centre Pompidou), Paris
Museo D'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples
Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna
Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museu Serralves, Porto
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne National
National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo
Neues Museum, Nuremberg
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Photographic Collection/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
Reina Sofía, Madrid
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Tate Britain, London
Tate Modern, London
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC