Thomas Demand

  • May 17, 2016 7:00 PM


To form something from nearly nothing, to obtain meaning by shaping, is what this picture promises.
Thomas Demand, referring to a photograph of Henri Matisse in his studio, “Thomas Demand on Matisse,” Tate Etc. 31 (Summer 2014)

Thomas Demand, an artist currently based in Berlin and Los Angeles, was originally trained as a sculptor but is now readily recognized for his large-scale impeccable photographs that, through their construction, philosophically challenge notions of reality. Demand has explained, “I make a sculpture, then it becomes a photograph. At this point the sculpture is no longer that important, but neither is the photograph. The work is in two dimensions, but the memory of the shape that it describes remains present.” In her catalogue essay for Thomas Demand at Serpentine Gallery in 2006, Beatriz Colomina makes the important distinction that Demand is “not simply modeling something that is then transformed into an image; he is building the image itself.”

Demand’s tedious process of translation through construction and documentation, described as “constructed photography,” puts the artist in prolonged contact with the subject of each photograph. The sources of these facsimiles are generally media photographs of historically, culturally, and politically charged sites that can appear banal until the viewer makes sense of them and is taken aback by their eerie familiarity. As Alison Hearst, curator of FOCUS: Thomas Demand, puts it, “His images seem both a little uncanny and rather banal.”    

For Tuesday Evenings, Thomas Demand shares work and ideas from throughout his career, including his most recent endeavors.

Thomas Demand was born in 1964 in Munich and attended the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf and Goldsmiths College in London, where he received an MA. He has exhibited widely across the globe, including recent solo exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Hamburger Kunsthalle; Serpentine Gallery, London; Kunsthaus Bregenz; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. His work is represented in numerous museums and collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; Schaulager, Basel; and Fondazione Prada, Milan. 


Thomas Demand, Backyard, 2014. C-print mounted on Plexiglas, 150 7/8 x 91 inches. Courtesy of the artist.


This popular series of lectures and presentations by artists, architects, historians, and critics is free and open to the public each Tuesday from February 23 through April 19, with a specially scheduled presentation on May 17.
Lectures begin at 7 pm in the Museum's auditorium. Seating begins at 6:30 pm and is limited to 250; a live broadcast of the presentations is shown in Café Modern for any additional guests. A limited number of tickets (limit two per person) will be available for purchase ($5) from 10 am until 4 pm the day of the lecture online at Free admission tickets (limit two per person) are available at the Modern's information desk beginning at 5 pm on the day of the lecture. The museum galleries remain open until 7 pm on Tuesdays during the series (general admission applies). 
Café Modern serves cocktails, salads, and appetizers on Tuesday nights during the lecture series.   
Revisit the insightful lectures from Tuesday Evenings or discover new ways to look at works in the Museum's collection with the Modern Podcasts. Hear artists speak about their work, or listen to curators' perspectives and discussions. Visit or subscribe to our podcasts on iTunes or using the RSS feed in your preferred program.