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Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series: Thomas Struth

Thomas Struth, artist, in conversation with Philip Brookman, consulting curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, and Andrea Nelson, associate curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art. Thomas Struth was born in Geldern, Germany, in 1954. He first studied painting with Gerhard Richter at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf before turning to photography in 1976 and becoming one of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s earliest students. In the late 1970s he began to make a series of black-and-white photographs of empty urban environments that established his international reputation. In the late 1980s he conceived another series, the Museum Photographs, where he photographed in some of the world’s most celebrated museums. These large color pictures, often depicting crowds of people, explore the different functions that art fulfills in our modern, secularized world and the ways in which people experience paintings today, including the notion of the museum as a sacred pilgrimage site. As his interest in the idea of worship and pilgrimage expanded, Struth launched a series titled Places of Worship in 1995. In his Family Portraits series, which includes photographs of Struth’s friends as well as of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, all the works are infused with a sense of the forces that inform his subjects’ lives. As he has done throughout his career, Struth exploits the gap between what was planned and what actually transpired—something that is fundamental to the art of photography. Struth has eight prints on view in the exhibition Photography Reinvented: The Collection of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker at the National Gallery of Art through March 5, 2017, including several from his Museum Photographs, Places of Worship, and Family Portraits. On October 16, 2016, in conjunction with the exhibition and as part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Lecture Series, Thomas Struth discusses his career and traveling exhibition Nature & Politics.