"What I find most appealing in people is how they are aware of their own fragility and yet are still strong and independent beings. I want to communicate this complexity in its entirety, that lack of a singular reading, and to channel the multi-layered character and the contradictions of a personality, the way they’re revealed in clothes, in styles, in attitudes, and the way a person lives. It’s the fractured reality of identity that fascinates me."

– Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans, Dan, 2008

The exhibition Fragile provides a comprehensive overview of the many-facetted work of Wolfgang Tillmans and contains more than 200 works from 1986 to 2017. Large-scale prints, smaller photographic prints, sculptural objects and tabletop installations are part of this exhibition as well as video projections and publication projects.

Wolfgang Tillmans's artistic work is based on his never-ceasing curiosity, his intensive research in preparation, and a constant dealing with the medium of photography and its technical and aesthetic potential. His visual language derives from precise observation that reveals a deeply human approach to our environment. Familiarity and empathy, as well as friendship, community and intimacy are visible and tangible in his pictures.

For Tillmans, acceptance of the fragility that determines us as individuals and that plays into our relations with each other is not a weakness – it is a great strength. He uses failure, ruptures, and frailty as impulses to develop new processes. They refer to the imperfect nature of our lives and they reveal unanticipated perspectives on their materiality. In these ways, Fragile highlights precious moments in life and the meaning of social and family ties, in particular in times of social and political instability.

Fragile is Tillmans's first exhibition on the African continent. The exhibition will tour several African cities in the coming years.

Wolfgang Tillmans was born in 1968 in Remscheid, Germany. From 1990 to 1992 he studied in the United Kingdom at the Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design. He lives and works in Berlin and London. In 2000 Tillmans was the first photographer to win the Turner Prize, and in 2015 he received the Hasselblad Prize. In recent years Tillmans’s works have been shown in large museum exhibitions, including at the Tate Modern in London and at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel in 2017. Tillmans has published numerous artist’s books and has recently become increasingly politically active. In 2016 he designed an anti-Brexit / pro-EU campaign in advance of the British Brexit referendum, and in 2017 a poster campaign for greater participation in elections and against nationalist parties in the German parliament.

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Khwezi Gule, Chief curator of Johannesburg Art Gallery; Photo: Herman Verwey/ Goethe-Institut Johannesburg

Surface Impressions

Essay |In the context of the exhibition Wolfgang Tillmans: Fragile at the Johannesburg Art Gallery, its director Khwezi Gule asks: what does it mean to take a photo of the ordinary and blow it up to a larger-than-life size? For him the photographs of everyday objects and situations can speak most poignantly about the texture and rhythm of an entire civilisation and they can convey most convincingly the poetics inherent to these objects. Therefore they can make us pay attention to what is often neglected or apparently unremarkable and question the many insidious ways in which our consent is manufactured.

The exhibition will be on display in Johannesburg until 30 September 2018.

Exhibition Wolfgang Tillmans "Fragile", Nairobi; Photo: Goethe-Institut / Julian Manjahi

The New NOW Moment: Yes AND No!

Essay | An attitude of tolerance, the appreciation of what one fears or does not know – for Neo Muyanga this is the appropriate mindset to face our time right NOW. The South African composer, musician and author observes the world Tillmans inhabits and also habitually reflects on and about. In his essay for the publication of the exhibition Muyanga is concerned with the complexity of the current global moment and the value of an artist who seeks to transgress.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Deer Hirsch, 1995

What Else Can a Photograph Be?

Essay | Kenyan artist Jackie Karuti reveals her thoughts about Tillmans' work and establishes a reference to several Kenyan artists and photography in Kenya. Karuti practice is largely experimental and employs the use of new media. The artist is based in Nairobi, where the exhibition "Fragile" is presented at The GoDown Arts Centre and the Circle Art Gallery from 12 April to 11 Mai. The exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of the many-facetted work of Wolfgang Tillmans.

Photo: Robert Carrubba / Goethe-Institut Kinshasa

Wolfgang Tillmans at Échangeur

Essay | ''For him, each photo is an act of love, respect and a form of embrace between himself and his photographic subjects'', says the author Patrick Mudekereza about Wolfgang Tillmans. At the beginning of the year 2018, Tillmans' exhibition ''Fragile'' was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Multimedia in Kinshasa. An essay about an extraordinary exhibition at an extraordinary place

Coming up:

09.07.2018 – 30.09.2018
Johannesburg Art Gallery
Johannesburg, South Africa

Public programme of ifa

Panel discussion "Relationality and Networks": 06.07.2018, 6:30pm, with Wolfgang Tillmans, Kabelo Malatsie, Thembinkosi Goniwe and Khwezi Gule, moderated by Molemo Moiloa. Market Photo Workshop.

Opening: 08.07.2018, 4pm, the artist will be present.

Lecture: 29.06.2018, 6:30pm, Wits School of Arts DIVA Talk: Special edition with Wolfgang Tillmans.
14.02.2019 – 31.03.2019
Modern Art Museum-Gebre Kristos Desta Center
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Exhibition catalogue

Available as soft cover book and PDF.
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Exhibition posters

Fragile. Exclusive exhibition posters of the premiere in Kinshasa.
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