Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff is a German photographer and a key member of the Düsseldorf school. One of the most prolific practitioners in his field, he continuously challenges the photographic process, pushing his techniques and concepts to their boundaries. Ruff said that he considers his work fine art. ‘My images are not images of reality but show a kind of second reality, the image of the image,’ he has stated.

Born in Zell am Harmersbach, west Germany in 1958, Ruff trained at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf between 1977 and 1985. His teachers were the German conceptual art and photography duo Bernd and Hilla Becher. Their conceptual work, including an archive of German Modernist industrial buildings, had a profound effect on Ruff, as well his classmates Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth.

Ruff first gained critical acclaim in the 1980s with his colour portraits that took the appearance of passport photographs blown up to more than two metres in height. This effect provided the images with the monumentality of oil paintings and startling legibility.

Ruff’s following series have touched on subjects including landscapes, architecture, interiors and nudes. One of his most notable projects was the 2012 work m.a.r.s., which saw the artist collage satellite images of Mars and Saturn, then render them with 3D-effect software and print them as large-scale Chromogenic prints.

Between 2000 and 2005, Ruff returned to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf as a teacher. He currently shares a studio in the same city with the fellow German photographers Laurenz Berges, Axel Hütte and Andreas Gursky.

Ruff’s work has been the subject of more than 100 solo shows, including exhibits at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and the Haus der Kunst in Munich. His work is also held in the permanent collections of Tate in London, the Kunstmuseum in Basel, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

At auction, Ruff’s record stands at £197,000, paid for Jpeg pt01 (2006) at Christie’s in 2017. Executed in an edition of three, the work, which belongs to series of images of pixelated tree branches, is a C-print face mounted on plexiglass nearly 2.5 metres in height.

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

nudes but09

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Nudes ru 05 (Nud 053)

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

17h 03m -55

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 27 III

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Portrait (C. Pilar) (POR 052)

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 1III

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

17h 36m/-36 (STE 6.12)

THOMAS RUFF (NÉ EN 1958)

Sterne (stars), 17h51m / -18°, 1990

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 21 I

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Sterne 02h 56m -65°

Thomas Ruff (B. 1958)

18h20m/-25°

Thomas Ruff (B. 1958)

Substrat 9 II

THOMAS RUFF (NÉ EN 1958)

Sterne (Stars), 19h04m / -65°, 1989

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

09h 58m/-40°, 1990

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Substrat 2 II

Thomas Ruff (né en 1958)

Substrat 12 III, 2003

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Self-Portrait

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 16 II

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 15 I

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

03h 51m/-55

THOMAS RUFF (NÉ EN 1958)

Sterne, 11h 54m-20

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

14h 42m/-20°

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Jpeg NY06, 2005

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Self-Portrait

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Substrat 4 II

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Nude #194, 1999

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Substrat 27 III

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 11 II

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 9I

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Nudes dg 08

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Porträt (V. Liebermann)

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Substrat 13 II

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

18h 40m/-45°

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Substrat 21II

Thomas Ruff (B. 1958)

nudes ar 15

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Substrat 12 III

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 24 II

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 3I

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Nude gf14 (NUD 093)

THOMAS RUFF (NÉ EN 1958)

Substrat 26 III, 2005

Thomas Ruff (B. 1958)

Sterne 03h 44m/-45°

THOMAS RUFF (B. 1958)

Substrat 23 III

Thomas Ruff (b. 1958)

Substrat 19 I

Thomas Ruff (B. 1958)

Untitled (Portraits)