Thomas Demand’s work investigates the persistence of images and their ability to embed themselves in a society’s collective memory. He studied sculpture at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where Bernd and Hilla Becher had recently taught a generation of German photographers, including Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and Candida Höfer. Like those artists, Demand often makes mural-scale photographs, but instead of finding his subject matter in landscapes, buildings, and crowds, he uses paper and cardboard to meticulously reconstruct images taken from various media sources, often well-known historical pictures or widely seen photographs from the news. Once he has photographed his re-created environments — always devoid of figures but often displaying evidence of recent human activity — he destroys his models, further complicating the relationship between reproduction and original.
Demand expanded the scope of his practice in 2008 with the series Dailies, photographs of constructions based on his own smartphone snapshots. In another recent series, Model Studies, he photographed scale models by architects such as John Lautner, SANAA, and Hans Hollein. Since 2002 Demand has also made films using stop-motion animation and a slow, painstaking manipulation of his paper and cardboard models.
Thomas Demand (b. 1964) lives and works in Berlin and Los Angeles. He has had one-person exhibitions at museums including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. In 2004 he represented Germany at the São Paulo Bienal. A survey exhibition of his ongoing engagement with architectural forms, “Thomas Demand: House of Card,” is on view at the Museum Leuven in Belgium through April 2021.