Artwork of the month May

Thomas Struth, Museo del Prado 2, Madrid 2005, Hilti Art Foundation

Thomas Struth

* 1954 in Geldern, Germany

Museo del Prado 2, Madrid 2005

Chromogenic print

180 x 214 cm

Hilti Art Foundation


Thomas Struth's photograph from his series of Museum pictures shows a gallery in Madrid's world-renowned Prado Museum. Two young women are standing in the foreground, seen from the right in profile and presumably looking at a painting not pictured in the photograph. They are tourists from Asia dressed in casual Western wear. One of them, standing further back in the central axis of the picture, is holding an audio guide. It is barely visible but marks the exact line between the corner of the room and the panelling. It also marks the point of maximum sharpness, making the inscription on the technical device legible: MUSEO NACIONAL DEL PRADO.

Behind the two women we see paintings by the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez (1599­–1660), showing full-length portraits of dignified grandeur, to the left the Greek fabulist Aesop (probably 6th century BC) and to the right Philip IV of Spain (1605–1665) from the house of Habsburg, who had appointed Velázquez his court painter. The attire and attributes of the two figures reveal their social and spiritual status. The hoary melancholic poet with torn cloak and book; the young King in noble hunting attire and sporting a weapon.

Struth aimed his camera, in advance, at the two paintings and the motion detector mounted in the corner of the room between them. Having come across the paintings by chance, the two young women take no notice of the camera. They unwittingly trigger the release at the right moment. Struth's photograph permits the simultaneous anthropological comparison of people from widely divergent places and times under the aspects of cultural difference and global mobility. Visitors may not know who Aesop and Philip IV are, but they can still establish human contact because the two gentlemen meet the gaze of all those who look at their utterly disparate faces.

Uwe Wieczorek

<b>Thomas Struth, Museo del Prado 2, Madrid 2005, Hilti Art Foundation</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.