Semperoper Dresden

Photographs by Thomas Ruff

Artistic concept for the presentation of the premieres for 2021/22

With the start of Peter Theiler’s artistic directorship in the 2018/19 season, work was undertaken to completely overhaul the corporate design of all the Semperoper’s print and online publications. This visual reorientation came to fruition with the relaunch of the website and the monthly programmes in the 2019/20 season. Since then, one core element has been to collaborate with contemporary artists in order to create an entirely unique design concept to advertise each season’s premieres, an approach that has provoked great interest.

Following in the footsteps of Andreas Mühe, Gerhard Richter and Cornelius Völker, the German photographer Thomas Ruff is the next internationally outstanding artist who has been persuaded to make a selection from his oeuvre available to the Semperoper to help publicise the season’s premieres. In this way, the high artistic standards of the new Dresden opera productions for 2021/22 are given suitable visual expression in its advertising media.

Born in the town of Zell am Harmersbach in 1958, the photographer is regarded as one of the most important artists of his generation and a leading representative of the Düsseldorf Art Academy. Thomas Ruff’s reputation in the art world is based not least on his highly concrete examination and dissection of visual conventions. In his monumental photo series of everyday objects and interiors as well as processed images from magazines, archives, newspapers and collections, he interrogates the claim that these traditional genres of depiction in some way represent »the truth«.

As a student of Bernd and Hilla Becher in the early 1980s, Ruff already attracted attention in the art scene with his photo series »Portraits« and »Interiors«, in particular for his somewhat cold and distanced style of shooting and lighting with which he captured seemingly ordinary lives and objects in a clear visual language. This was followed by such groundbreaking series as »Stars«, in which the photographer used negatives from the archives of the European Southern Observatory, and »Cassini«, created by processing images of space taken by NASA; or the series of digital »jpges«, blown up to a large-scale format, which are a complete departure from his early hyper-realistic style; in »jpges«, the images are dissected into individual pixels as if viewed through a burning glass. 

Thomas Ruff followed in the footsteps of Bernd and Hilla Becher as professor of photography at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, a post he held from 2000 to 2006, during which time the Düsseldorf School became a recognised category in the field of photographic art. The multiple award-winning photographer, whose work is displayed in countless international exhibitions and highly esteemed galleries worldwide, now lives and works in Düsseldorf. 

The choice of Thomas Ruff as collaborating artist to supply the visual motifs for the 2021/22 series of premieres is not least due to the inner unity of his photographic cycles, even when these groups of images are themselves incredibly heterogeneous. The Semperoper has been able to borrow a suitable motif for its premiere portfolio from each of his creative phases. We are particularly pleased and grateful to be able to use the work of this extraordinary artist in designing the new premiere poster series for the 2021/22 season, thus once again harmonising the fields of music theatre, dance and visual art at the highest level. 

Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff (geb. 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach) studierte von 1977 bis 1985 an der Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf bei Bernd und Hilla Becher. Von 2000 bis 2006 leitete er dort als Professor die Klasse für Fotografie. Mit seiner ersten größeren Einzelausstellung, die 1989/90 im Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, im Magasin in Grenoble und in der Kunsthalle Zürich stattfand, erlangte er internationale Aufmerksamkeit. 1992 nahm er an der Documenta IX teil und stellte 1995 im Deutschen Pavillon auf der Biennale in Venedig aus. Seit Ende der 1980er Jahre war er weltweit in zahllosen Einzel- und Gruppenausstellungen präsent. Die erste retrospektiv angelegte Einzelausstellung fand 2001 in der Kunsthalle Baden- Baden statt und reiste dann bis 2004 in viele europäische Ausstellungshäuser. Weitere wichtige Einzelausstellungen folgten im Haus der Kunst (2012), im National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo und dem 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (2016), in der Whitechapel Gallery in London (2017) und zuletzt im K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf (2020). Thomas Ruff lebt und arbeitet in Düsseldorf.

Season Announcement 2021/22

The 2021/22 season presented in detail.