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CHRISTIAN HUHNT !

STRONG TOGETHER ! The Struffskys, the Düsseldorf School of Photography and the Art Market

Christian Huhnt, 32 Cranley Gardens SW7 3DD, London, UK • christian@huhnt.com • www.huhnt.com

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Table of Contents

! List of Figures

p. 3

Acknowledgments

p. 5

Abstract

p. 6

! CHAPTER ONE Introduction

p. 7

The ‘Becher School’ at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

p. 9

Bernd & Hilla Becher - A short pre-history

p. 10

The Düsseldorf School of Photography’s emancipation into contemporary art

p. 14

! CHAPTER TWO The determinants of success

p. 18

Peer recognition

p. 19

Critical recognition

p. 27

Patronage by dealers and collectors

p. 34

Public acclaim

p. 45

! CHAPTER THREE The factors of value for photography as contemporary art

p. 54

Large-scale

p. 54

‘Manufacture’

p. 57

Small editions

p. 58

! Conclusion

p. 60

Bibliography

p. 62

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List of Figures Fig. 0 Andreas Gursky - Rimini, 2003

p. 1

Fig. 1 Bernd & Hilla Becher - Gas Tanks, 1983-92

p. 11

Fig. 2 Bernd & Hilla Becher Preperation Plant, Harry E. Colliery Coal Breaker, Wilkes Barre, USA, 1974

p. 12

Fig. 3 August Sander - The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha, 1925/26

p. 13

Fig. 4 Otto Steinert - Ein-Fuß-Gänger, 1950

p. 14

Fig. 5 The Art Eco-System Model (by Morris Hargreaves McIntyre)

p. 20

Fig. 6 Axel Hütte - Vero, 1985-95

p. 22

Fig. 7 Thomas Ruff - Untitled (Vero Pfeiffer), 1985

p. 22

Fig. 8 Thomas Ruff - Untitled (Axel Hütte), 1986

p. 23

Fig. 9 Thomas Struth - The Museum of Modern Art I, New York, 1994

p. 24

Fig. 10 Andreas Gursky - Jackson Pollock: One: Number 31, 1997

p. 24

Fig. 11 Candida Höfer - Museum of Modern Art, New York, XII, 2001

p. 24

Fig. 12 Candida Höfer- Stadtbibliothek Stockholm, 1993

p. 24

Fig. 13 Andreas Gursky - Bibliothek (Library), 1999

p. 24

Fig. 14 Thomas Ruff - ma.r.s. 17, 2011

p. 26

Fig. 15 Andreas Gursky - Ocean II, 2010

p. 26

Fig. 16 Thomas Struth Reactor Pressure Vessel Phase out, AKW Würgasse, Beverungen, 2009

p. 26

Fig. 17 Andreas Gursky - Rhein II, 1999

p. 28

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Fig. 18 Edouard Manet - Portrait of Victorine Meurent, 1862

p. 30

Fig. 19 Thomas Ruff - jped icbm01, 2007

p. 30

Fig. 20 Andreas Gursky - Swimming Pool, Ratingen, 1987

p. 31

Fig. 21 Frank Stella - Chodorów II, 1971

p. 31

Fig. 22 Andreas Gursky - Tokyo Stock Exchange, 1990

p. 32

Fig. 23 Thomas Struth Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle, 2011

p. 46

Fig. 24 Thomas Struth - The Richter Family I, Cologne, 2002

p. 49

Fig. 25 Thomas Ruff - Sammlung Goetz, 1994

p. 50

Fig. 26 Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1908

p. 51

Fig. 27 Andreas Gursky exhibition, Matildenhöhe Institute, Darmstadt, 2008

p. 54

Fig. 28 Determinants of Prices for Contemporary Art in Dutch Galleries 1992-8, Velthuis, 2005

p. 55

Fig. 29 Multilevel hedonic price function for the Dutch art market for Contemporary Art in Dutch Galleries 1992-8, Velthuis, 2005

p. 55

Fig. 30 Thomas Ruff - nudes cv05, 2011

p. 59

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Acknowledgements I wish to thank Harriet Riches and Tom Flynn for their extensive support and constructive input for new ideas throughout writing this work. I would also like to thank Matthew Steeples for helping me with editing issues and Helen Potkins for her initial feedback leading me to Bowness’ study, which was great inspiration for writing engagingly and applying his findings onto the Struffskys. I would also like to thank Jona Lueddeckens from Gagosian for his insightful and honest comments about the Struffskys current situation and how the gallery is marketing their work. I gladly appreciate the discussions I had about art with my friend and early Gursky collector Friedrich Gräfling and his girlfriend Johanna Stemmler. I also appreciated Uschi Niggemann, President of Sotheby’s Germany, for her critical and exciting engagement with all topics concerning the art market from an auction house’s perspective. Finally I would like thank Andrew Stramentov, an art advisor from London, and Peter Lück, a private collector in Berlin, for making me more aware about the Düsseldorf School in general and to my mother and her partner Niki for their generous support and motivation.

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Abstract Creation cannot arise without inspiration. In the same way, talent cannot become perceivable without others’ recognition. How some participants of the Düsseldorf School of Photography accomplish the increasingly complex infrastructure of the contemporary art market through mutual recognition and a collective appearance shall be examined in this paper. By investigating the factors of success after Alan Bowness (1989), it shows that the main reason for the ‘Struffskys’ public recognition is the continuous strong cohesion, in both a visually and materially similar framework and working process. Although some of them are financially more successful than others, those that have become the most successful in monetary matters have most diligently followed the determinants of success (Chapter Two) and the factors of value (Chapter Three). Only through their collective appearance at early major exhibitions and due to the continuous strong bond throughout their career they were able to establish the critical consensus that attracted major collectors, dealers and patrons alike to support them unconditionally.

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Chapter one

Introduction This paper attempts to investigate and explain the reasons for the financial success and cultural significance of the so-called ‘Struffskys’, named after a nomenclature by New York’s ‘Village Voice’ (Schirmer, 2009, 7), the leading characters from the Düsseldorf School of Photography (also known as the ‘Becher School’); namely Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer and Thomas Demand, the latter two as the slight outsiders of it, as well as Andreas Gursky to whom particular attention will be given throughout the paper due to his arguably dominant position. All other characters who visited the school, such as: Axel Hütte, Elger Esser, Petra Wunderlich, Simone Nieweg, Laurenz Berges, Jörg Sasse, Tata Ronkholz, Volker Döhne, Iris Salzmann and Angelika Wengler, will not be included in my definition of the Struffskys. However, I will occasionally include them as ‘the other Düsseldorf photographers’ or the ‘NonStruffskys.’ The prime methodological approach for this research will be based more to the art market, than to art history. Thus, I will not explain in detail how photography emerged into a legitimate and accredited practice in art. From an art historical view, however, this essay shall outline to what extent the Struffskys positioned themselves in contemporary art, rather than mere photography and why this is justified. The given justifications will be used to explain their respective positions within the art market. The essay will examine the motivations driving private, corporate or institutional collectors and investors to buy those works as contemporary art objects for large sums of !

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money. Thus, in accordance to Sir Alan Bowness’s ‘Conditions of Success’, (Bowness, 1989), his four successive circles of recognition: ‘Peer recognition, critical recognition, patronage by dealers and collectors and public acclaim’, shall be applied to the Struffskys to help understand their success story right from the beginning. How did they manage to and how do they continue to preserve their market position today? How did and still do the Struffskys secure their healthy market position in a collectively branded, protectionist, and tailored to the contemporary art world’s ever redefining rhythm, up-todate manner to maintain value and symbolic importance? In order to find this out, I will focus on socio-economic and psychological factors, the complex, but intertwined network of professional and private relationships between earlycareer and late-career dealers to the artists and the artists relations to their collectors and collections. I will also examine the net of important curators, museum directors, advisors, consultants, auction house specialists, critics, art historians, architects, publishers, journalists, and other figures relevant for a consistent support of stabilisation and protectionism. Among other factors, I will focus on strategies to define value for a medium that may only exist in editions, the importance of scale (Chevrier, 1989), the concept of exaggeration (Bryson, 1999)(Fried, 2008), the language of the ‘sublime’ or ‘deadpan’ in objective photography (Bryson, 1999)(Fried, 2008)(Cotton, 2004, 81-114) (Costello and Iversen, 2010), the celebrity-like character and status of the artists (Graw, 2009) and the general state of the contemporary commercial art

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market (Lind and Velthuis, eds., 2012). Those findings will better explain how some of the Becher students have more succeeded than others.

The ‘Becher School’ at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf In 1976, Bernd and Hilla Becher started teaching ‘photographic art’, a newly established subject at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Germany. (Gronert, 2009, 21) For many reasons, this was an incredible innovative step in art teaching, as it allowed photography for the first time ever to be academically supported as a legitimate medium in art production in Germany. (2009, 21) The first group of students consisted of Tata Ronkholz, Volker Döhne, Iris Salzmann, Angelika Wengler, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff. (2009, 21) They were joined in 1978 by Petra Wunderlich. (2009, 21) Andreas Gursky had studied three years earlier at the Folkwang-Schule in Essen - mainly under Michael Schmidt, as Otto Steinert had died shortly after Gursky’s enrolment - and in 1980 came to Düsseldorf to study under Bernd Becher. (2009, 21) Thomas Demand is the only exception to this class as he studied much later on the Kunstakademie as a sculptor under Fritz Schwengler, alongside Katharina Fritsch and Thomas Schütte and only in 1993 began to use models for the sole purpose of photographing them. He, nonetheless, became a crucial member of the Struffskys.

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Bernd & Hilla Becher - A short pre-history It is important to give the Bechers credit for their artistic achievement in the development of objective photographic art since the late 1950s and how this came into being in the history of art photography. The form of Hilla and Bernd Bechers’ work is easy to describe: “Their black and white photographs measure 30 x 40 cm, or 50 x 60 cm, and depict industrial buildings and machines, water-, cooling- and winding towers, gasometers, blast furnaces, lime kilns, grain elevators and factories, to name but a few of their most common subjects.” (Gronert, 2009, 18)(Fig.1)(Fig.2) Following strict rules, the images were taken four months each year, mainly in the spring and fall when they were likeliest to find the “lighting” they required - “that diffuse but steady light under the slightly clouded sky that keeps any shadowing, with all the emotional associations such might evoke, to a minimum”. (Fried, 2008, 305-306) They always used the most professional large-format cameras and photographic equipment to achieve images with remarkable detail and depth of field. All photos were taken from an elevated vantage point, by centering the structure in the image rectangle and reducing the environment space to bare minimum of cropping, allowing the structure itself “to appear...in its full reach and free of distortion”. (2008, 306) As Hilla Becher herself explains to James Lingwood: “I was interested in a straightforward 19th-century way of photographing an object. To photograph things frontally created the strongest

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presence and you can eliminate the possibilities of being too obviously subjective.” (2008, 306)

Fig.1 Bernd & Hilla Becher - Gas Tanks, 1983-92

Becher’s work was mainly inspired by August Sander’s ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ and Walker Evans’ FSA project. (Neumann, 2012)(Foster, eds. 2004, 276-278) (Fig. 3) The work represented the opposition to the general subjective photography of Otto Steinert and his students. (Gronert, 2009, 16) (Fig.4) True objective photography could only be achieved be eliminating all subjective qualities that gesture away from the actual object and content. After years of misgivings caused by the Nazis’ misuse of the medium for purposes of propaganda, !

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Fig.2 Bernd & Hilla Becher - Preperation Plant, Harry E. Colliery Coal Breaker, Wilkes Barre, USA, 1974

photography in post-war Germany had to ‘re-invent’ itself away from the earlier horrors that it previously displayed. As Bryson notes: “The ways in which the physiognomic paradigm had been used and abused by the Nazis— though Sander could not have foreseen this—made it not only unviable, now, but unthinkable, even demonic.” (1999, 80) In the 1950s and 1960s, an emphasis was given on subjectivity in photography, as a parallel to informal, abstract painting. (Gronert, 2009, 16) It did, however, not achieve recognition as a genuinely fruitful alternative in the artistic discourse of the time, or at least failed to make a permanent impression and thus the discovery of photography as art still lay ahead. (2009, 16) The interesting conceptual emphasis that August Sander invented now needed a detachment from !

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ideology. This was achieved through what Adorno described as the ‘concept of mimesis’. (James, 2010, 60) Adorno stressed the historical importance itself that Bechers’ work had in relation to subjectivity and Fig.3 August Sander - The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha, 1925/26

objecthood. The very fact that

their

work

is

encyclopedic and a self-conscious rejection of the idea of art’s political or ideological function, through a vernacular subject of past, anonymous and international architecture, (2010, 60) was crucial to their conceptual position and might explain their later success in winning the Golden Lion at the Biennale di Venezia in 1990 in the category ‘sculptures’. (Neumann, 2012) As Bryson summarises: “In place of a taxonomy of faces and social types, the second generation (of objective artists)— Bernd and Hilla Becher—substituted silos and water towers and gas tanks: preserving the logic of the totality, and its hunger for taxonomy and the systematic, but exposing its methods and the nature of its gaze, and applying it to new contents in such a way as to neutralize and pacify the photographic (and psychosocial) field. From realworld physiognomies to (harmless) architectural record keeping; from the hysteria of fascist aesthetics to the cooled-down temperature and deadpan !

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tone of the Bechers' austerely beautiful, technically perfect prints.” (Bryson, 1999, 80) As Hilla Becher notes: ‘After conceptual art, it became possible for photography to impose itself as an art form. Performances were held and every possible medium was tried. Abstract art had gone Fig.4 Otto Steinert - Ein-Fuß-Gänger, 1950

into its third generation of students,

and had become boring and imitative’ (Gronert, 2009, 17) This new nonideological, purely objective photography within a circle of conceptual art was inevitably necessary for the survival and re-birth of the ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (‘New Objectivity’) and laid the foundations for the Düsseldorf School of Photography to emancipate into contemporary art.

The Düsseldorf School of Photography’s emancipation into contemporary art Photography started to exist in combination with conceptual art, as in Cologne’s flourishing performance and video scene, organised by Ingrid Oppenheim. (Gronert, 2009, 22) In light of conceptual art, photography’s use was particularly to document other art movements, such as Happening, Performance or Land Art (NZZ, 2002) The ‘documenta 6’ in 1977 was finally

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the first to account Photography as a single art movement (next to Film and Video). (2002) Accordingly, in the class for ‘photographic art’, Bernd Becher always taught his students that: “It was important for them to be made aware that they were doing something which was totally equal in merit to painting. I always explained to them that it must not be of practical use. That was the crucial criterion. They were not to create things, as they would at an arts and crafts college, that could be used to earn a living.” (Gronert, 2009, 21) The Düsseldorf students started to develop an expression in their work which derived through art historical inspiration, rather than ‘by chance’. It allowed their critics to receive the essential language that would best describe their influences, as I will outline in chapter two - critical recognition. Photography finally spoke in a dialogue with painting. This became most contested in regard to 1970s photorealism in painting, which though superior to photography, manually enlarged the image in a traditional fashion. (NZZ, 2002) Technology was yet not able to do this for photography. (2002) But when photography emerged in the exhibition landscape, photorealism was indistinguishable to photography, once it was printed into smaller scale in the catalogue illustrations. (2002) Thus the photograph in large-scale became an archetype to the photorealist painting. (2002) This importance in size is what I will explain in chapter three - large-scale.

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The strong component to conceptual art, the sudden ‘dysfunction’ of painted photorealism due to technological advance, the rising unpopularity and counterposition to subjective art without conceptual emphasis and the increasing equalisation with painting allowed this new photography from Düsseldorf to be finally acknowledged in US exhibitions from the 1980s onwards. Photography experienced new recognition, but American photography, was very much the opposite of Düsseldorf’s originally objective approach. As the Zurich Newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung wrote, “exhibition visitors in the US are easy to shock, when it comes to ‘holy values’, such as the nation, religion and morale. Every artificial provocation is calculable.” (NZZ, 2002) Thus, the scandalous photos of their compatriots, such as that of Robert Mapplethorpe’s documentation of the gay-scene or Andres Serrano’s symbols and accessories of Catholicism poured into blood and urine, made waves. (2002) Simultaneously, it made non-controversial photography legitimate, unaware of the fact that photography automatically became a fully accredited art practice this way. With the objectivity in Düsseldorf School’s work, one is yet again enjoying a distanced, aesthetic observation, without being forced into an uncomfortable confrontation with obscene content; take Struth’s museum photographs and their figures from the back or the polyfocal ‘scanning’ through Gursky’s crowd of people as an example. (2002) The American exhibition visitor is happy to !

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re-gain the comfort of the ‘sublime’ in their work without scandalous content, while still being able to enjoy their abstract qualities of monumentalism that he had so admired in Mark Rothko’s or Barnett Newman’s work. (2002)

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Chapter two

The determinants of success In recent years, many renowned art historians have tried to explain the rising importance of photography in art. Most of them have classified the various sub-movements within the field of photographic art and outlined their characteristics in the context of art history. Only a few have investigated the synergy effects that might have accompanied their success, especially the German objective photographers’ massive appreciation in monetary value at international art sales. Writers have discussed the phenomenon of contemporary art and its commercial markets as a whole and on pricing (Velthuis, 2005), the link to celebrity culture (Graw, 2009), the curious economics (Thompson, 2008), as well as merchandise methods, e-commerce and the evolution (and failure) of financial products within. (Horowitz, 2011) With the Struffskys, however, there are two phenomena at once: The emancipation of photography in art and the unchallenged, subsequent arrival of that art in the contemporary art market. I would like to discuss both phenomena based on all factors that might have had a decisive impact on this development. Sir Alan Bowness, in his essay ‘The Conditions of Success’, the ‘general supposition even among the educated public that there is something arbitrary about artistic success.’ (1989, 7) “Stories are common enough. The public perception of the way in which the artist rises to fame is coloured by such myths. Even if it is accepted that they are untrue, or at least exaggerated, !

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people are reluctant to believe that chance does not generally play a major role in the rising fortunes of an artist.” (1989, 7) Bowness defines four successive circles of recognition that an artist has to pass through to achieve the fame in his lifetime. These are: peer recognition, critical recognition, patronage by dealers and collectors, and finally public acclaim. (1989, 11) Now we will examine each process individually in the context of each Struffsky. I will also outline how the Struffskys protected each phase of these circles collectively. We do, however, have to bear in mind that the profession of a photographic artist only just started to become relevant at the end of the 1980s, when Bowness wrote this essay and this is why I have devoted chapter three, the factors of value, to specifically outline the difficulties and advantages the artists faced in the process of emancipation of photographic art into the context of contemporary art.

Peer recognition Peer recognition is what Bowness calls to be the most significant stage in the process. As we are talking of a ‘school’ with the Düsseldorf photographers, the actual, basic setup and infrastructure couldn’t be more advantageous for this definition. Indeed, it has proven a success determinant until today, where we see a clear alliance particularly among the Struffskys and the Düsseldorf School in general, based on mutual recognition, appreciation and support. Bowness himself describes: “In any group of artists some stand out. You can see this happening among art students, and it is sometimes at first a matter of !

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personality as much as it is of achievement.” (1989, 12) Bowness believes that exceptional talent will always be recognized at first by the artists themselves, as it happened with Van Gogh when he arrived in February 1886 in Paris for a two-year stay, while he totally transformed his art and quickly met all the outstanding talents of the new Post-Impressionist generation - Gauguin and Bernard, Signac and Seurat. (1989, 16) Fig. 5

The Art Eco-System Model

5

PRIVATE COLLECTORS

12

ARTIST LED OR CURATED EXHIBITION 3

6

10

11 2

9

MAJOR PUBLIC GALLERIES EXHIBITION OR PURCHASE

CRITICS 9 2a

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DEALER

ARTISTS’ PEERS

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS 1

SMALL PUBLICLY FUNDED SPACES

2a

REGIONAL INDEPENDENT GALLERIES

Start Here

ARTISTS ART SCHOOL

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1

Artists attract recognition of peers

7

Dealer builds critical endorsement through exhibitions/sales in small publicly funded/regional independent galleries

2

Exhibition curated by artists or freelance curator

8

Purchase or exhibition in major public gallery

2a

Representation in a small publicly funded gallery

9

Legitimisation adds value and status to collector and profit to dealer and artist

3

Activity attracts critical attention

10

Collector lends to public gallery

4

Attracts attention of dealer

11

Collectors’ discernment is endorsed - invited onto Boards of Galleries

5

Attracts private collectors

12

Collectors bequest collection to galleries

6

Dealers build artists’ reputation through sales including international art fairs © MORRIS HARGREAVES McINTYRE

Fifteen years later and accompanied by6the digital revolution, the Arts Council’s ‘Taste Buds’ report, the first official study of the art market to be undertaken in England, confirms this stage as the most important in the so called ‘subscription’ process, by which art is ‘filtered and legitimised’. “This selection of ‘the wheat from the chaff’ is carried out by artists’ peers.” (Hargreaves !

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McIntyre, 2004, 4) Thus the network of collectors and critics comes later ‘to provide advocacy and endorsement.’ (2004, 4) His art-eco system model further illustrates the stages as per Alan Bowness. (Fig. 5) Even more recently artist Chuck Close went further in a panel discussion by Intelligence2 in describing art to be a ‘meritocracy’, as “the final arbiter of [art] that is important [in the future] are other artists.” (Close, 2009) He goes on to explain that: “all the hype, all the spin, all the efforts to construct a career out of thin air, all the efforts to manipulate the market, [is] not withstanding over the long haul. If you don’t have the respect of other artists, it will disappear and not stand the test-of-time.” (2009) Another example of peer recognition leading to fame is that of the street artists Banksy and Mr Brainwash. Mr Brainwash originally filmed Banksy in the famous documentary ‘Exit through the Gift Shop’. (Banksy, 2010) This, in turn, made Mr. Brainwash famous when he decided to become an artist and Banksy recommended his work. (2010) Today, The Art Newspaper writes ‘Just as Banksy begat Mr Brainwash, so Mr Brainwash begat Hijack—his 20-year-old son who is, quelle surprise, also a street artist.’ (The Art Newspaper, 2013) This peer recognition couldn’t be better exemplified as with the Struffskys at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and art in post-war West Germany in general. One of the most notorious examples might be the appreciation and ‘transfer of authorship’ for the famous portrait photographs by Thomas Struth and especially Thomas Ruff, in relation to the ‘non-Struffsky’ Axel Hütte. Hütte was !

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one of Bechers’ first students, when he began to study at the

Kunstakademie

Düsseldorf in 1973. (Gronert, 2009, 29) He was the first to opt for the genre of objective Fig. 6 Axel Hütte- Vero, 1985-95

Fig. 7 Thomas Ruff - Untitled (Vero Pfeiffer), 1985

portraits in 1978 and 1980, while Ruff only started with his

world-famous portrait series in 1981. (2009, 29/45) In 1985 and 1986, both, Axel Hütte and Thomas Ruff, worked simultaneously in the same fashion and sometimes even with the same models (Fig.6,7), although Ruff introduced a white background for all of his portraits from 1986 onwards. (2009, 45-46) The notable thing about all this is that Hütte’s portraits made practically no impact, whereas Thomas Ruff’s met with great success. (2009, 29) Hütte eventually focused on a different set of images, but this cannot be explained simply by the difference between black & white and colour. (2009, 29) But it may well be interpreted in sofar as Hütte ‘gave way’ to Ruff for developing portrait photography, as he, according to Gronert’s writing, “no longer believes” in portraits and documentary photography. (2009, 31) Confirming Ruff’s importance over Hütte’s to portrait photography, Gursky’s main writer friend Peter Galassi wrote: “Gursky has predicted that the future will regard Ruff’s series as a touchstone of an essential ethos of the 1980s, and he may well be right.” (Galassi, 2001, 17) Today Andreas Gursky owns a large !

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collection of Ruff’s portrait series. (Domröse, 1997)(Schmidt-Garre, 2010) His statement, and the fact that he collects those works by Ruff, underscores the protected, self-confirming habit of the Struffskys, and similarly makes Gursky a supportive critic along the lines of Bowness’s concept of critical recognition as the second stage. The principle concept of a portrait itself is of mutual recognition, with the model appreciating the work of the artist in agreeing to model, in the same way as the artist appreciating the model as to be the right motif. A similar thing happened in the 1990s fashion in terms of the relationship between the designer Karl Lagerfeld and model Claudia Fig. 8 Thomas Ruff - Untitled (Axel Hütte), 1986

Schiffer. She replaced him as the star. (NZZ,

2002) Using the idea of an exchange of attention and recognition, is it furthermore notable that Axel Hütte posed for Thomas Ruff in 1986 (Fig.8) as the only classmate (apart from Jörg Sasse) for his vast set of portraits. Today, Ruff and particularly Struth, I argue, are using their fame to confirm their public acclaim by portraying public figures, such as Queen Elizabeth II and her husband (Fig.23), the Richter Family (Fig.24) as well as many important collectors.

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Fig. 9 Thomas Struth - The Museum of Modern Art I, New York, 1994 Fig. 12 Candida Höfer- Stadtbibliothek Stockholm, 1993

Fig. 10 Andreas Gursky - Jackson Pollock: One: Number 31 , 1997 Fig. 13 Andreas Gursky - Bibliothek (Library), 1999

Their collective appearance is not only based on the objective quality in their work or the mutual recognition in portraiture alone, but on iconographic motifs, which become familiar memorabilia, branded as an aesthetic

Fig. 11 Candida Höfer - Museum of Modern Art, New York, XII, 2001

‘made by the Struffskys’. The most famous and arguably most obvious example of this was the motif of Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31 in the collection of the MoMA in New York, which was first photographed by Struth (1994)(Fig.9), then by Gursky (1997)(Fig.10), and finally by Höfer (2001)(Fig. 11). (Gronert, 2009, 37) !

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Fried and Galassi note to Gurskys photos of artworks, such as that of Pollock, as well as Turner and Constable, ‘add little or nothing to their subjects’ and that “there is certainly no sense in them of a separate pictorial ‘world’, as with Struth’s museum photographs.” (Fried, 2008, 180) Thus, in Pollock’s case, I argue, the only sensible meaning to understand Gursky’s (and slightly Höfer’s work) is in context to each other. Together, the work on Pollock by Gursky, Höfer and Struth make sense and should be understood as a serial. Struth laid foundation with this discourse through his museum study. Gursky, on the one hand, responds with his minimalist, illuminated qualities (similar to his Prada series), whereas Höfer tries to demonstrate her theme about architecture in emptiness. Collective appearance is also apparent in the Stockholm library which was photographed by Höfer (1993)(Fig.12) and Gursky (1999) (Fig.13). Today, Ruff and Gursky take the same approach in using high technology to create their images, while Struth captures its interior and exterior. (Fig.14) Ruff is ‘taking pictures’ of Mars in his ‘ma.r.s. series’ (Fig.15), whereas Gursky literally makes a 180 degree turn towards the Earth in his ‘Oceans series’. (Fig. 16)

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Fig. 14 Thomas Ruff - ma.r.s. 17, 2011

Fig. 15 Andreas Gursky - Ocean II, 2010

! Fig. 16 Thomas Struth - Reactor Pressure Vessel Phase out, AKW W端rgasse, Beverungen, 2009

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Critical recognition The second successive circle postulated by Bowness is critical recognition. By this he means serious critics, and not just journalists. (1989, 21) It must be noted at this point that the digital revolution with all its powerful developments, particularly in regard to the Internet (eg. cloud computing, SEO, user-generated content, tweeting and re-tweeting), has allowed journalism to regain a powerful voice. This voice is thus sharing intellectual opinions collectively, rather than individually. Bowness explains: “The writer on art has two important functions: The first is to help create the verbal language that allows us to talk about art.” (1989, 21) To discuss new art in general, he argues, we are ‘forced into the creation of a new vocabulary’. (1989, 21) “Some artists can do this themselves without difficulty. Indeed most artists write well[...]but when they have to put their ideas in words and defend their artistic position many turn to their writer friends.” (1989, 21) White and White explain that this ‘critic as theorist’ emerged through Impressionism and attempted to “teach the public how to look at a painting, rather than how to interpret its subject.” (1965, 119) The writing by Felix Fenéon, for instance, explained in detailed pictorial language the “‘Divisionist’ method of Seurat as a scientific formulation of the Impressionists’ discoveries. [...]These critics invited the public to understand and admire the technique and

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theoretical knowledge of the artist and to make its value judgements in these terms.” (1965, 120) To a great extent, this applies to the Struffskys’ critics and catalogue authors, such as, for instance, Hans Belting and Benjamin H.D. Buchloh on Thomas Struth or Peter Galassi on Andreas Gursky. The artists themselves have also tried to explain their artistic position and created their own vocabulary in many lengthy discussions, interviews, conferences, gallery openings or documentaries. In Jan Schmidt-Garre’s important documentary about Andreas Gursky’s “Long Shot Close Up”, Gursky defined his work in a very deliberate and metaphorical way: “My images depict aggregate states, aggregate states of the world. They are in principle repeatable at any time.” (Schmidt-Garre, 2010)

Fig. 17 Andreas Gursky - Rhein II, 1999

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Gursky’s statements have in fact become so important, that they may seem to even determine the economic value for particular works, as with Rhein II. (Fig. 17) His critical opinion and his very deliberate way of giving meaning to his works has probably resulted in him being his most authoritative critic. In his statement in 2002 he states, that Rhein II is his “own favourite picture” and this became his most expensive work in 2011. (Lewis, 2002) (Kennedy, 2011) With a hammer price of $4.3 million, it is the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction. (2011) Gursky has also often stressed in interviews that light is of great importance to his work. In an interview with Der Spiegel: “Fotos dürfen Lügen” (‘Photos are allowed to lie’), he mentions a visit to a Caravaggio exhibition, during which he realized that in his ‘pit-stop’ pictures he had unconsciously used “a similar kind of lighting” to no lesser an artist than Caravaggio. (Graw, 2009, 20) This comparison ultimately became a standard fare in articles on Gursky. (Graw, 2009, 20) Arguably, one of the most comprehensive studies about the Struffskys and their teachers, the Bechers, is Michael Fried’s ‘Why photography matters as art as never before’, published in 2008. The title of this study suggests that the appreciation and emancipation of the medium photography as art is justified by one of the leading art historians today. Fried compares Ruff’s portraits with Manet’s paintings of the 1860s (Fig.18) and outlines the link between his pixel images (Fig.19) and the post!

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impressionists’ pointillism. (2008, 154) Another analogy is made to Gursky’s early works (eg. Fig.20; and geometric composition in general) and Frank Stella’s polygon paintings (Fig.21), abstract (expressionist), minimalist qualities of Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, Jackson Pollock, Donald Judd Fig. 18 Edouard Manet - Portrait of Victorine Meurent, 1862

and Dan Flavin. (Fried, 2008, 159; 179)(Spies, 2010) As Peter Galassi summarises: “Behind Gursky’s taste for the imposing clarity of unbroken parallel forms spanning a slender rectangle lies a rich inheritance of reductive aesthetics, from Friedrich to Newman to Richter to Donald Judd” (Galassi, 2001, 35) The association by leading scholars and art historians of the Struffskys with some of the most important artists in history is considered essential in their success and in understanding the importance of their critical recognition. “The second valuable role that the writer plays in the modern artists’ rise to fame - [is] his contribution to the critical debate. Judgements in

Fig. 19 Thomas Ruff - jped icbm01, 2007

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art are not absolute or final: they are sustained by consensus” (Bowness, 1989, 25) To establish a critical consensus, critics have to build arguments to defend his Fig. 20 Andreas Gursky - Swimming Pool, Ratingen, 1987

artist against critique. An example in regard to the Struffskys is the use of digital editing. In ”The subject of the Tokyo Stock Exchange” (Fig.22), Galassi writes, “is not the trading floor glimpsed at a given moment through the eyes of a unique observer, but the

Fig. 21 Frank Stella - Chodorów II, 1971

identity of the whole operation, including all of its unseen machinations

- not so much a particular place in Tokyo as the stock market in general, as a global institution...”. (2001, 29-30) Tokyo Stock Exchange (1990) was one of Gursky’s first images that introduced digital editing in the process of his work. (Sotheby’s, 2008) Michael Fried summarises Gursky’s ideas, describing his work as ‘the image of exile as we fall into the vast, denatured space of the postmodern sublime.’ (2009, 377) Eloquent and considerate paraphrases help against critique, such as that of Norman Bryson, who describes the success story of the German objective photographers as a ‘family firm’ in ‘deep trouble since its third generation’, Gursky as showing a ‘highly contradictory aesthetic, !

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going in one direction toward Frankfurt School analysis of mass culture and in another plunging headlong into the picturesque.’ (1999) He explains: “Gursky[...]presents his exaggerations with so little pretense of naturalism. In his computer manipulations all the seams show, all the color retouchings hit you on the head with a hammer. Have you noticed the way that in Gursky's crowd scenes, everyone who wears red wears the same red—or blue, or yellow? You would think that in advanced industrial societies, clothes are colour coded.” (1999, 81) Photoshop editing is now advanced enough to make things look more ‘natural’ and with the invention of the Foveon-Chip in 2002 for digital cameras it is now possible to see colour and not only translate light values, as before. Bryson’s critique

Fig. 22 Andreas Gursky, Tokyo Stock Exchange, 1990

from 1999 about Gursky’s artificial “colour-codes” thus become obsolete after 2002, as it can be interpreted that Gursky tried to regain the original colours as experienced in reality, particularly in regard to colour-light balance. Light was so important in his works, but technology did not allow him to achieve what he needed. !

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Today, it seems in the Struffskys statements about language of their works, a certain degree of ignorance and complacency may be interpreted. Since they have established their network of dealers, curators, collectors and patrons, part of their protectionist philosophy is, it seems, to underpin their exclusivity in ‘no longer caring’ about what language is developed to describe their work. In a joint interview, Ruff and Gursky with the German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ in 2012, Ruff summarises: “When I began, art historians and critics did not have the vocabulary for our art of photography. We were compared to painters. Andreas, was compared to Caspar David Friedrich. Later, everyone followed and created new expressions. Now, however, photography has once more began a n e w

episode

and the expressions are missing again and everyone is behind once more.” (Ruff, 2012) Arguably, Ruff is the one of the group that is most combative in interviews. In one statement he urges admirers of his photographs not to interpret too much, saying: “When people look at them, they mix them up with the real thing, holidays in Majorca with beautiful star-studded skies - or the houses, they look at the curtains and try to figure out what sort of people live behind them.... [But why can’t they] go up and say, aha, big photograph, big head, take the picture as a picture and say, thank you, Mr. Ruff, well done?” (Ruff, 1996, 106-107) The importance of an established critical consensus is amongst the !

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most necessary structures that maintains the branded and protected concept of the Struffskys in order to justify the continuous demand for their works.

Patronage by dealers and collectors The relationship between Struffskys’ dealers and collectors as ‘patrons’ is one of the most important reasons for their financial success. The peer and critical recognition are the justifying factors for maintaining the continuous demand and support of their works from dealers and collectors in the Struffskys concept of protectionism and branding. It is crucial to make this distinction right from the beginning of this sub-chapter. In terms of maintaining success, the bond between the peer group is the strongest. The bond between the artist and an established and relevant critical consensus for art history comes second. The weakest bond for contemporary artists is between the patrons, be they dealers, collectors or museum directors. Damien Hirst is a prime example of this: The story begins with Hirst’s world show of spot paintings at Gagosian in early 2012. Larry Gagosian, Hirst’s representative of 17 years and commonly thought of as the world’s most influential dealer with an estimated revenue of almost US$1 billion a year, showed a retrospective of his spot paintings in every single branch of his gallery brand around the world. (Batty, 2013) In April that year, a major retrospective at Tate Modern opened, supported by the director Sir Nicholas Serota. Gagosian and Serota took the role as the patrons. They did not impress the critics as a chain of negative reviews and opinions !

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followed. Perhaps derived from Robert Hughes’ critique on Hirst in 2008 (Hughes, 2008), the BBC’s Julian Spalding published his book: “Con Art – Why you ought to sell your Damien Hirst’s while you can” in the same month as the Tate exhibition launched. In it, he started a motion against Hirst that was supported by a consortium of journalists. They included Jonathan Jones (Guardian), Hannah Kuchler (FT), Mark Brown (Guardian), Adrian Searle (Guardian), Richard Dorment (Daily Telegraph) and Rachel Campbell-Johnston (Times). (Stoilas, 2012)(Jones, 2012)(Spalding, 2012) This powerful ‘peer group’, in accordance with my earlier definition about modern journalism, represented the critical opposition. What followed was a decline in Hirst’s sales to a point where Larry Gagosian could not support him any longer. He terminated their partnership at the beginning of 2013, as he always promises his clients that the art they buy will not decline in value. (Thompson, 2013) Hirst’s patrons 2012 exhibition were an attempt to ‘break the glass ceiling of contemporary art and join the ranks of the “Old Masters”’, as Duggan suggested. (2013) To achieve this, the critics and artist’s peers needed to support this equally and this did not happen. This example does not only prove that the critical and peer recognition is essential to maintain the important relationship between the artist and his dealer, but also shows the increasing powerful journalistic influence on a similarly increasing financially-driven art market. It generates more interest and readership and can be particularly dangerous and debilitating when it comes with ‘overexposure’. As Glenn Lowry, director of the MoMA in New York, explains: “[...]a major museum show can !

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negatively affect an artist, just as it can positively affect him. I think artists get overexposed. And putting artists through the scrutiny of a retrospective can have a really debilitating effect on their work.” (Lowry, 2006, 265) Lately, many writers have actually argued against Bowness’s definitions and for the shifting regimes of value in the art market towards an entirely and fundamentally market-driven system. Olav Velthuis describes: “The role of the (public) expert has been gradually replaced by the (private) collector. In Europe and United States super-wealthy collectors such as Charles Saatchi or Francois-Henri Pinault now determine artistic reputations through the acquisitions they make. As a result, the dealer-critic system (in accordance to Bowness’s system), which rests on a distinction between artistic valuation by experts and economic valuation by dealers, has been replaced by what Graw calls a dealer-collector system or what Nachoem Wijnberg and Gerda Gemser call a market selection system. Within the new regime, expert judgement no longer has a significant impact on the market. Economic values now determine artistic reputations rather than the other way around.” (2012, 30) The definition of a dealer-collector system might be true in regard to the fact that the dealer and the collector are now closer bound than the dealer and the artist. The previously mentioned example of Damien Hirst has actually proven that those shifts to an entirely market-driven system are ficticious. They only !

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represent fads and simply won’t stand the test of time, not even in combination with the help of one the world’s most important museum directors, Nicolas Serota. In this instance, Serota must be understood as a curator providing the essential exhibition space and attention. He is not responsible for the critical literature that Hirst needed for this exposure to be acclaimed. In other words, even if Hirst did had enjoyed patronage by dealers and collectors and support from major museums through retrospectives or acquisitions, he hadn’t yet established the critical consensus and artist-peer recognition, in order to maintain this patronage. The fact that private collectors often acquire important works rather than the museums, may be understood from the collector’s point of view, as the mega-collector Eli Broad explains: “I think a dealer has a responsibility to place the artist’s work, and if he can get a major museum to buy it, I think that’s very appropriate. Now having said that, I will tell you that oftentimes, artists would prefer that they sell the work to us rather than to a museum. The reason is very simple. They know that we’ll lend it anywhere they want. But if they sell it to one museum, it will be in storage ninety-five percent of the time, because most museums, as you know, can display maybe five percent of their collections. So there’s an advantage in having our foundation own the work, because we will lend it for shows within reason, or when the artists wants it placed. In effect, the artist has still the right to place it, but gets the money paid for it.” (2006, 165) !

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Eli Broad’s ‘Broad Art Foundation’ acquired a large collection of Andreas Gursky’s works, as well as a number of Thomas Ruff’s and Thomas Struth’s works. On the contrary, Andreas Gursky’s 10 works in the MoMA collection are mostly donated gifts by himself and individual collectors. None of them is on view at the time of writing. (MoMA, 2013) The reality about museums’ shifting purpose is exemplified in Janes’ critical textbook ‘Museums in a Troubled World’ in his point about marketplace ideology, which in turn would lead to ‘corporatism’ and would ‘enfeeble’ museums and divert them from their true role as social institutions. (Davies, 2011, 228) The eventual result of this is that museums of the future will neither have access or funds to acquire expensive contemporary art of the work they like and will be forced to include in their collection, whatever a wealthy collector, in terms of Graw’s dealer-collector system, is willing to ‘donate’ or ‘lend’ to the museum and dispose from his own collection. Ultimately, the philanthropic collector becomes the more important patron for the artist than the museum as being the ‘storage-facility for the tax saver’. In terms of assembling an exhibition programme, major museums seem to increasingly prefer to organise whatever is popular and marketable to attract large visitor numbers in order to please the corporate stakeholder’s aims. Going back to the Struffskys early career, Bowness continues: “Almost every major talent attracts one or two important collectors at an early stage in his career, and these collectors almost always appear on the scene because of !

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their friendships with artists, whose advice they take. Sometimes these patrons have no record of collecting and begin because they are impressed by the personality of the artist rather than by his pictures.” (1989, 39) Indeed, at the beginning of the Struffskys career in the early 1970s, collectors had the greatest influence as patrons before their dealers later. In Cologne, L. Fritz Gruber, a publicist, marketing expert, active collector and curator was organising exhibitions, whilst simultaneously the Museum Ludwig established a department of photography, to which Gruber’s collection was later donated. (Gronert, 2009, 22) “Another city worth of mention is Aachen, where the outstanding figure was Wilhelm Schürmann, who had been collecting photographs since 1972 and, together with Rudolf Kicken, ran a gallery there from 1973 until 1977. Schürmann was a photographer himself[...].” (2009, 22) Interestingly, one of the most important early collectors of the Düsseldorf School is the publisher Lothar Schirmer, whose founding of the publishing house Schirmer/Mosel Verlag in 1974 ‘coincided with the rediscovery of photography as an artistic form of expression.’ (Schirmer, 2009, 8) He is also the first to have published an extensive overview of the ‘Düsseldorf School of Photography’ in 2009, accompanied by an essay of Dr. Stefan Gronert, who was appointed the curator of contemporary art at the Kunstmuseum Bonn at exactly that time. Schirmer also runs a gallery on behalf of the publishing house in Munich. It is apparent that a vast number of early patrons come from !

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an advertising or publishing background. They often have a decisive impact on an artist’s career. The bond between Charles Saatchi and Damien Hirst is an example of this. Think of the way Saatchi determined Hirst’s early artistic reputation through acquisitions and sales, such as the shark in formaldehyde. (Thompson, 2008, 1-7)(Velthuis, 2012, 30) As regards galleries of photographic art, an important one was the Galerie Wilde in Cologne, run from 1972 until 1985 by Ann and Jürgen Wilde. (Gronert, 2009, 22) They also organised many exhibitions for museums. (2009, 22) Other early galleries to have exhibited photographic works are the Konrad Fischer Gallery in Düsseldorf, Max Hetzler in Berlin and Victoria Miro in London. It had its first solo show with Gursky in 1992. Today, Andreas Gursky is represented by galleries such as Sprüth Magers, Gagosian and White Cube; Thomas Ruff by Gagosian, David Zwirner and Ben Brown; Candida Höfer by Sonnabend; Thomas Demand by Matthew Marks and Thomas Struth by Marian Goodman. All of these galleries are contemporary art galleries, rather than specialist photography galleries. The protective manner of the Struffskys is exemplified by the case of Hans Grothe. In 2001, Grothe, a real estate developer and well-known collector of contemporary art, who owns Germany’s biggest private contemporary art collection at that time, decided to sell 47 works1 at Christie’s in order to

finance the construction of a hotel and office complex in Düsseldorf. (Velthuis, ! 1

The article in Der Spiegel talks about 48 works, but the actual Christie’s catalogue consisted of 47 lots !

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2005, 86) The lots consisted of German contemporary art, painters and photographers. (Christies, 2001) Amongst the photographs were a large amount of Struffskys. In the mid-1990s, Grothe had acquired a vast amount of Struffskys for favourable prices on the basis of a comradely relationship with them as Gursky admits in an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel. (Knöfel, 2001) Those prices were granted at ‘extraordinary discounts for prints from important work cycles’ (sometimes up to 25% less than the original asking price) and have only been granted on the promise made by Grothe not to sell them ever in his lifetime and to lend them to a museum on a permanent basis. (2001) That museum was the Kunstmuseum Bonn. (2001) A few years later, Christie’s offered him a guarantee for the photos (a fixed minimum sum of money for his works, even if some lots fail to sell and are being ‘bought-in’). At that time, the prices for photographic art were exploding at auction and demand was high, but supply was low. Gallery price adjustments by Gursky’s dealer Matthew Marks couldn’t keep pace with the sharply rising auction prices. Grothe did not want to risk miss such an opportunity, so he decided to sell. (Velthuis, 2005, 78)(Knöfel, 2001) With the museum’s director and Christie’s specialists, he decided which works should be consigned. (2001) The works were intended to stay in the museum until 2025. The director Dieter Ronte admitted they also acquired several other photographs because they “fit[ted] to the Grothe collection.” (2001) It is most interesting that Stefan Gronert write the book ‘Düsseldorf School of Photography’ and also happened the curator of the exact same museum. His publisher also happened to be the !

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Struffskys collector Lothar Schirmer. The museum acquired work by the Struffskys under Grothe’s influence. An official book about the Düsseldorf School helped Schirmer and the museum to appreciate their collections. When the Struffskys became aware of the sale, they sent Grothe a letter, accusing him of a ‘repulsive behaviour’ and ‘attitude that is hostile to art and artists’. They feared that the sale could do serious damage to their image, as it could be interpreted as a ‘Ramschverkauf’ (‘tag sale’). (2001) Although a lot of other living artists appeared in this sale (eg. Richter, Baselitz, Kiefer, Bernd & Hilla Becher, etc.), the only artists that signed this letter were the Struffskys. (2001) This unusual incident emphasises the collectively protective manner of the Struffskys and confirms the essentially weak bond between the artist and the collector, once financial interests get involved in their ‘relationship’. What really angered the Struffskys is the fact that they were fooled and used by one of their early collectors. That he profited from arbitrage and they didn’t get financially compensated made them immensely annoyed. They lost the ability to strategically allocate some of their most important works. One dealer remarked with an understatement that (at that time) Gursky’s dealer Matthew Marks is “probably very concerned that they do not sell the works to people who are kind of known as speculators.[...]I am sure they took great efforts to make sure the work went to museums or collections where the collectors are not known for that kind of !

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thing. They don’t want the work on the market.” (Velthuis, 2005, 95) It is a fact that Grothe did not allow their dealers or the artists themselves to buy it back. (2001) Grothe paid about DM 90,000 for 5 photos by Gursky in the mid-1990s. (2001) At the auction, one of them alone, Paris, Montparnasse, fetched a price of DM 800,000. (BASI, 2013) The collector is not always the one causing the trouble. In the recent case of Jonathan Sobel and photographer William Eggleston, Sobel sued Eggelston on the basis that Eggleston has used digital printing techniques to make much larger editions out of old negatives. (Sobel v Eggleston et al, 2012) The early prints of those negatives are owned by Sobel, who now fears they will drop in value. (2012) In the so called ‘specialist photography market’, the prints that fetch the highest prices are not necessarily the largest ones, but the ones that are ‘physically closest’ to the artist and whose print quality, rarity and popularity of the motif or edition are the factors that determine the price. (Faber, 2011) Jonathan Sobel, the owner of the largest collection of Eggleston’s works, was incredibly infuriated by the situation. (Salmon, 2012) As the art critic Felix Salmon explains: “Eggleston is quite explicitly following in the footsteps of Damien Hirst: Hirst was the first artist to shamelessly make millions of dollars by consigning new work directly to auction, much to the displeasure of the art world. And as a result, Hirst has gotten to a point where

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he, Hirst, captures most of the increase in the value of the global Hirst market - and Hirst’s collectors don’t.” (Salmon, 2012) In summary, it may be said that publicly displaying pictures at important museum and gallery exhibitions is still of crucial importance to artists to maintain the symbolic value of their art in a positive critical consensus and to retain the respect of other artists in order to justify the economic value apparent in the prices asked by their dealers. Artists today like to sell to private collectors and especially those with philanthropic foundations. From this they gain a monetary benefit and are still able to place it in upcoming exhibitions around the world and avoid the risk of ‘flipping’ by collectors. This prevents the debilitating effect of ‘burning’ (at auction: an unsold lot; in the private market: offering a work to too many people and/or for too long). The Struffskys have meticulously controlled who acquired their work. This has resulted in their works now being found in the most important private collections in the world. These include Eli & Edythe Broad and their Broad Art Foundation, Peter M. Brant in New York with the Brant Foundation, Bernard Arnault, Mitchel Rales, Victor Pinchuk (who owns the largest collection of Andreas Gurskys; Schmidt-Garre, 2010), the Sammlung Goetz, the Zabludovicz Collection and the Walther Collection, by Artur Walther. (Lewis, 2002)(Lindemann, 2006)(Walther, 2013)(Thornton, 2009) Corporate collectors include Sparkasse Düsseldorf, AXA, Allianz, Bayer, Sal. Oppenheim,

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HypoVereinsbank, Montblanc and HSBC Trinkhaus & Burkhardt. (Conzen, Salié, eds., 2012) The support, respect and recognition of the artist’s peers has a much greater influence on a successful career than has the dealer’s opinion alone. Whether or not this opinion is supported by the dealer’s ‘followers’ and no matter how much the dealer prepares to artificially keep prices high at auction or elsewhere, it will be inferior or even irrelevant, if it is not supported by other artists. Instead of attempting to raise an artist’s career out of thin air, the sensible dealer will listen to the recommendation of other artists. Bowness describes: “Sometimes an established dealer looks for ways to continue in the modern art market, and if he has a sense he will ask his artists whom they admire. He may not get good advice, but if he does, and then acts upon it, he will be successful. This is how Paul Durand-Ruel came to be the dealer of Impressionists. The firm had made its name by promoting the Barbizon painting, and it was Daubigny who introduced Durand-Ruel to Monet in London in 1871, recommending that he buy his work.” (1989, 27)

Public acclaim The last and probably most straightforward successive circle in Bowness’ definition of success is the public acclaim, which I have already touched upon

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to various degrees in the earlier described conditions. It shows that the modern artist is truly famous. As he writes: “I think it takes about twenty-five years for the truly original artist to win public recognition. In the first ten years Fig. 23 Thomas Struth - Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle, 2011

or

so

the

work

is

too

uncomfortable for it to be accepted, but slowly it wins through.” (Bowness, 1989, 47) This coincides with what Bernd Becher always taught his students when he said: “[...]not to create things [in order to] earn a living.” (Gronert, 2009, 21) Indeed, it took them about ten years before their works really started to become relevant. (Domröse, 1997, 32) The example of Tata Ronkholz and Volker Döhne shows that a minimum of ten years of a total devotion to the practice of photography as artistic expression is needed in order to establish the much wanted critical consensus and attract the first patrons to support your work financially. In the case of almost forgotten artists Ronkholz and Döhne, whom were both early Becher students, they gave up photographic art entirely after eight and four years respectively. (Gronert, 2009, 24) Ronkholz devoted herself to commercial advertising work and Döhne to documentary photography and design. (Gronert, 2009, 24) Bowness gives examples of Van Gogh, Seurat, Cézanne and Gauguin, who, because of various reasons could not enjoy the public acclaim that their descendants now hold in !

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their names, whereas artists who continued to work into old age left great personal fortunes. This was the case with Dali, who is said to have left £75 million, the Henry Moore Foundation, who is said to have held probably more than £100 million worth of assets or Picasso’s estate, which was far in excess of these figures. (1989, 47-48) For the Struffskys in particular, it was not only important to deliver a totally creative output, but to do so collectively, as this was the only chance for the medium of photography to be entirely accepted as a new art form in the emancipation process of which they were all part. With increasingly more curatorial and intellectual dialogues of painting and photography circa 1990, the tag of the ‘Düsseldorf School’ became prevalent, particularly among art critics. (Gronert, 2009, 23) It emerged from the previously used term ‘Becher School’, which probably came “on the occasion of an exhibition called ‘Bernhard Becher’s School’, which ran from 2 September to 1 October 1988 at the Johnen + Schöttle gallery in Cologne, and which also attracted the international art world due to a review by Isabelle Graw.” (Gronert, 2009, 14) The first major museum show totally devoted to the Düsseldorf School, combining works by the Bechers with that of their students, took place in 1991 at the prestigious Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, was entitled Aus der Distanz. (Gronert, 2009, 23) It was clear that many photographers still only came to be honored with a museum show collectively. (NZZ, 2002) In order to achieve more attention from museums, their only

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option was to accord and maintain the brand name ‘Düsseldorf School of Photography’ together. Today, the Struffskys work is held in many of the world’s most important museums, including MoMA, Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, The Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. They have also had group exhibitions, solo exhibitions and major retrospectives in many of those institutions. A major retrospective of Andreas Gursky was held 2001 at MoMA and toured to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. MoMA’s director Glenn Lowry described it as a ‘wildly popular show’: “We were stunned by the response to the Andreas Gursky show.[...]If you had asked me, in my wildest dreams, whether we would bring in 500,000 people to Gursky, I would have said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ His prices were already soaring.” (Lowry, 2006, 265) This exhibition was even the reason for a chapter in the important encyclopedia: Art Since 1900, signaling ‘the new dominance of a pictorial photography’. (Foster, eds., 2004, 659) The Struffskys collective interests in a well-protected art market led to their continuous success and recognition of them became most apparent in the domain of the public acclaim. In terms of photography, one way to manifest your influential status is to take a photo of it. No one has done this more obviously than Thomas Struth. !

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Fig. 24 Thomas Struth - The Richter Family I, Cologne, 2002

Struth famously photographed Gerhard Richter and his family many times (Fig. 24). As he explained in 1990 to Benjamin Buchloh (who happens to be Richter’s catalogue raisonné author), ‘he photographs only families and persons he knows and likes.’ (Fried, 2008, 196) Struth initially studied under Richter at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1973 before he joined the Becher class later. (Gronert, 2009, 35) It seems apparent that he remained in friendly contact with Richter himself, as he not only took several photos of him and his family later, but he also signed with the same dealer: Marian Goodman in New York. Another more recent example is the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh (Fig.23), which was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, London, to mark the Diamond Jubilee. Admittedly, Struth photographed families from a variety of social backgrounds, and not ‘just’ !

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individuals who are either very important for the art world or simply famous public figures. Whereas most of his portraits depict people he knows, some are commissioned artworks (especially in the Queen’s case, where Struth clearly did not know Her Majesty before), which might underpin my argument about an exchange of favours.

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Fig. 25 Thomas Ruff - Sammlung Goetz, 1994

Another example might be Thomas Ruff’s photo depicting the building of the Sammlung Goetz.(Goetz Collection) (Fig.25) One print is held in the Tate collection in London. (Tate, 2013) Ingvild Goetz is an important collector of the Struffskys as well. An exchange of favours might also have happened with the art historian Isabelle Graw, who was photographed twice in Ruff’s portrait series between 1988 and 1989. At the same time, she wrote a review about the Johnen + Schöttle gallery exhibition in Cologne, which subsequently received international attention. (Gronert, 2009, 14) The portrayal of the ‘inner circle’ is certainly not a new phenomenon. It has been done by numerous other artists before, as they drew, painted or sculpted their friends, colleagues and families. An example is Renoir’s portrait of his !

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dealer Ambroise Vollard (Fig. 26). The Struffskys, however, knew right from the start that the strategy would help them to accelerate their breakthrough period in the beginning and could be used to manifest their artistic standpoint later. They also realised that their collective appearance could justify their positions. Everyone in the Struffskys group had their distinctive role and as such Gursky never

Fig. 26 Pierre-Auguste Renoir - Portrait of Ambroise Vollard, 1908

really portrayed people. Restaurant, St. Moritz, 1991, is the only image in Gursky’s oeuvre, in which a man is looking in the direction of the picture in an isolated environment. (Fried, 2008, 378) Portraying people was primarily Ruff’s expertise. In this concept however, Gursky must give Ruff credit for it and he did so in collecting some of his portraits, as well as openly discussing his work as a necessary phase for their art history. Since their work was almost only shown in group exhibitions at the beginning, a solo show could have more easily exposed the strategy of exchanging favours. Bowness also talks briefly about the psychological and socio-economic factors that may interrupt the four-part process of success. (1989, 50) He writes: “The creative act is a unique and personal one, but it cannot exist in isolation.” (1989, 50)

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“I do not believe that any great art has been produced in a non-competitive situation: on the contrary it is the fiercely competitive environment in which the young artist finds himself that drives him to excel.[...]The history of new developments in painting and sculpture is largely a chain formed of pairs and trios and larger groupings. Turner and Girtin, Delacroix and Géricaoult, the Pre-Raphaelites, Barbizon painters, Fauves, Cubists, Brücke and Blaue Reiter - one can continue. The great artists who emerge from such group-based developments are completely individual of course, but at an early stage they seem to need the communal support.” (1989, 50) Certainly, this was also true of Damien Hirst in his beginnings as part of the YBAs (Young British Artists), along with Tracey Emin, which gave him the first justified endorsement for dealers and patrons. Another factor is that of relocation, which Bowness thinks is necessary. (1989, 54) This might not be necessary when one has already moved to a centre of artistic perfection, such as Düsseldorf was and is for Germany until today, with many outstanding artists in connection to the Kunstakademie, such as K. O. Götz, Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter or Tony Cragg. As he rightly says, ‘at certain moments in the history of art (not at all times) one place assumes a dominant position.’ (1989, 54) This is why the Struffskys realised early that New York could have a great impact on their career. For this reason, they !

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exhibited in 1982 at the Art Galaxy in New York. (Gronert, 2009, 23) It made practically no impact. (2009, 23) They eventually succeeded ten years later in the city and this brought them their great final breakthrough. (2009, 23) As Bowness emphasises: “There is no need to move to New York to get to the top: Anselm Kiefer’s rapid (and deserved) rise to fame in the United States confirms this.” (Bowness, 1989, 56) Today, all the Struffskys are represented by American dealers. As Gerhard Richter puts it bluntly: “I am aware that art has always been connected with money, this is why there was fantastic art in the Netherlands or in Venice, but not in Russia or Poland. It simply only seems to work in this strange, tough and dreadful way.” (Richter, 2012)

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Chapter three

The factors of value for photography as contemporary art In this chapter I would now like to briefly pay attention to the special factors of economic and symbolic value that determine a photograph to be an accredited object of contemporary art. They are in so far important as

Fig. 27 Andreas Gursky exhibition, Matildenhöhe Institute, Darmstadt, 2008

they have allowed their work to be superior to ‘mere’ photography by establishing exclusivity, rarity and quality. The most expensive of these have almost unilaterally been sold in headline contemporary art auctions, rather than photography-only sales, which further cements the medium’s “high-art” status. (Horowitz, 2011, 45)

Large-scale By far the most important factor was the significant change in size of the conventional format of small prints in the photography market. Gursky’s formats today, which are often two metres high and five metres wide, seem particularly monumental. (Cotton, 2004, 83)(Fig.27) There is no question that size has an effect on the price of an artwork. Olav Velthuis’ analysis, in his dissertation ‘Talking Prices’ from 2005, has empirically proven that based on 12,000 works from the Dutch art market, “for every !

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Fig. 28

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DETERMINANTS ART IN DUTCH GALLERIES, 1992–1998 ! ! !OF PRICES ! FOR CONTEMPORARY ! !

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(Source: Velthuis, 2005)

Figure 1. The relation between price and size for one artist.

extra standard deviation of size, the price of an artwork increased by 630 (with a t-value of 52.5, this variable is a very strong predictor of prices).” (Velthuis, 2005, 103-5)(Fig.29) “Larger works of art are, in other words, more expensive

Fig. 29

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(Source: Velthuis, 2005)

Figure 2. The relation between price and size for different artists.

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on average. (Fig.28) These effects[...]on price have also been found for the French, the American, and the international art market.” (Velthuis, 2005, 103) The Struffskys now all work large-scale, whereas the Non-Struffskys don’t: Petra Wunderlich always worked in the standard format of a 35 mm cameras that resulted in 40 x 55.5 cm prints. (Gronert, 2009, 224-235)(Fried, 2008, 282) Laurenz Berges and Simone Nieweg work in small to medium formats and so does Jörg Sasse. (2009, 42) Looking at Candida Höfer’s oeuvre, it becomes clear. She started, just as Petra Wunderlich, with the 35 mm camera and refused to use larger cameras until 1997, when she began to use a 6x6 cm Hasselblad, while she has worked with 10x12 cm view cameras since 2003. (Fried, 2008, 282) Her price scale at auction is almost exactly reflected in those size differences. Whereas small prints normally cost around $4,000-5,000, the medium prints are usually between $13,000 and $18,000 and her large formats are normally estimated between $40,000 to $60,000, depending on the importance of the motif, exhibition history, edition, and so on. (BASI, 2013) The same pricing applies to the smaller prints by the other Struffskys, obviously with small, occasional exceptions. (BASI, 2013) As Fried notes, Jean-Françios Chevrier’s pointed out that, from the late 1970s onwards, serious art photography began to be made large and for the wall. (2008, 2) Chevrier has described this as the ‘Tableaux form’, a format whose production is incorporated in the idea of the picture even before the photo has !

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been taken and which is marked from the start by its ‘for-the-wallness’ nature. (2008, 2) He writes: “They are designed and produced for the wall, summoning a confrontational experience on the part of the spectator that sharply contrasts with the habitual processes of appropriation and projection whereby photographic images are normally received and ‘consumed’”. (Chevrier, 1989, 116) ‘manufacture’ Thomas Ruff stated in one interview: “We work against the picture-flow. We create fat, heavy pictures instead.” (2012) The factor manufacture has to be understood in terms of material quality and technical excellence, making it a desirable physical object to own: The framing, the printing quality and technique (diasec printing methods), the resolution, the white border around the image and any other physical qualities make those objects an assembled, precious and desirable object in terms of its haptic experience and numinous elegance. The small output of works the Struffskys produce each year accompany the factor of desirability. As they both explain - Gursky: “I produce about 10 pictures a year.”; Ruff: “I produce about 50 to 60, which I then fold up in series.” (2012) This ‘monumentalization’ as Gronert calls it, “emphasizes individuality, and therefore breaks the consistency of the serial approach.” (2009, 44)

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Their collective material qualities become especially apparent with their framing. Not only do all of them frame most of their works in generally darkcoloured wooden frames, they also add the omnipresent white border to the actual print. (Gronert, 2009, 43-4) When a new work cycle is being offered for sale, the work is sold in its ‘entirety’ and not just within a passepartout in order for the potential buyer to be able to choose an individual frame for it or not. (Lueddeckens, 2013) This once more confirms Fried’s ‘for-the-wallness’ character and makes it in a sense an approachable, easy hand-able, almost ‘ready-made’ object, which similarly attracts the new, young and unexperienced, decorative art buyer, as it fits in their often yet impersonal, clinical living environment. This distinguishable feature is further approved when taking Jörg Sasse’s rejection into account. He, as a non-Struffsky, incidentally never ‘ennobles’ his photographs with wooden frames, and always uses small formats for his ‘sketches’. (Gronert, 2009, 42) This oppositional attitude may be interpreted as disrespectful to the commercialized character that the non-Struffskys see in Struffskys works.

Small editions This is a very straightforward factor, which obviously determines and monitors supply and thus value. Every major work the Struffskys release is usually limited in an edition of six or ten prints, accompanied with two artist’s prints also included in the editions. (Garbers-von Boehm, 2012, 39) Because of equal !

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size and quality to one another, each of these prints is referred to as being an original. (2012, 39) Amy Cappellazzo from Christie’s explains: “With Gursky, a huge price for a certain image is possible because it is the only example not in a museum, whereas the other five [in an edition of six] examples are in museum collections.” (2006, 221) Tobias Meyer from Sotheby’s explains the situation similarly: “[Because of the editions] you can actually buy one identical to the one that’s in MoMA, or the one that was just in this important exhibition. I think multiples help the desirability. It is a very smart marketing tool for that work of art.” (Meyer, 2006) The editioning on a limited number of 4, 5 or 6 for important works applies to all Struffskys, except Struth whose editions are limited to 10. (BASI, 2013) Some new editions of the ‘Nude’ series

Fig. 30

by Thomas Ruff are unique prints and are priced at $300,000 with Gagosian. (Lueddeckens, 2013)(Fig. 28)
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Conclusion This study has crucially identified the most important objective for every artist’s career: the mutual cohesion, respect and collective appearance within a group of artists willing to achieve the much wanted public acclaim. In the Struffskys case, this bond became so strong that they in fact made their photography (un)intentionally into fine art, and thus achieved attention in the contemporary art market circle as no other photographers ever had before. Without their continuous protective alliance and group appearance the Struffskys would have never achieved the crucial critical consensus that they enjoy today, and they knew right from the start, since they were only held in the shadow of conceptual art, that in order to achieve museum exhibitions, they would have to be presented together. Their visual and material conglomerated framework and the similar marketization had accompanied this. With every new development in technology incorporated into their work, only the respect and appreciation of their peers has made possible to have it accepted by the critiques, the patrons and the public. Until today, their strategies and directions go hand in hand and as such have a decisive influence for their recognition, rather than a singular or even contradictory mode of one member which opposes the others. Today, building an opposition by one member to the others would be selfdestructive as they developed their whole oeuvre together and right from the

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start. Only this has allowed them to gain such a powerful artistic voice and if one of them will go down, ultimately all others will be forced to follow that route. This may be why they protected their works so drastically in Hans Grothe’s case, as they feared this could have a devastating effect for them all being in a clear market boom at that very moment in time.

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Thompson, Donald (2008) The $12 Million Stuffed Shark - The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art and Auction Houses, London: Aurum Press Thompson, Donald (2013) In: Batty, David, Damien Hirst's split from Larry Gagosian turns heads in art world, The Guardian, 6th January 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/ artanddesign/2013/jan/06/damien-hirst-larry-gagosian-art>, accessed on 17th March 2013

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Thornton, Sarah (2009) Bedfellows - Two artists who understand the beauty of business, Art.view, The Economist, <http://www.economist.com/node/14484072> Velthuis, Olav (2005) Talking Prices - symbolic meanings of prices on the market for contemporary art , Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press Velthuis, Olav (2012) The contemporary art market between stasis and flux, In: Lind, Maria; Velthuis, Olav, eds., Contemporary art and its commercial markets - a report on current conditions and future scenarios, Berlin: Sternberg Press Walther Collection (2013) Collection - Artists, <http://www.walthercollection.com/#/ main@collection_artists>, accessed on 17th March 2013 White, Harrison C.; White, Cynthia A. (1965) Canvases and Careers: Institutional Change in the French Painting World, New York: John Wiley & Sons

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! 'The Struffskys', Düsseldorf School of Photography and the Art Market: The success formula of a collectively protected, branded, contemporary art movement

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STRONG TOGETHER - The Struffskys, the Düsseldorf School of Photography and the Art Market  

A great misconceptions in a world of ever increasing prices for contemporary art is the belief that the marketization by an established deal...

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