Candida Höfer, Teatro Scientifico Bibiena Mantova I (2010), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts
Ben Brown Fine Arts in London presents work by German photographer Candida Höfer, showcasing the artists masterful control, precision, and detail in capturing the grandiosity of Italian Renaissance architecture. The exhibition, which features images of brightly lit, cavernous interiors of several ornate Italian buildings, depict these majestic spaces as part of the everyday, highlighting the grandeur of the Italian architectural tradition.
Höfer’s photographs are exacting, illuminating as many details as possible within the enormous spaces she photographs. Her work is defined and informed by the German concept of stimmig (inherent consistency and harmony), seeking balance and symmetry in the daunting interiors of opera houses, palaces and estates in Northern Italy. The photographs were designed to be used by the institutions that run the buildings she has photographed, removing any indication of human scale or presence.
Höfer began practicing photography in 1976, the product of courses at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie with photography instructor Bernd Becher, known for his black and white images of industrial structures. Initially she took on a documentary approach, producing images of Turkish immigrant workers and their families in Cologne and Düsseldorf, but later branched into the exploration space itself, particularly building interiors. Since then, Höfer has sought to “share the character of the space as comprehensively as possible with the viewer.”
Pictured in Höfer’s work, for example, is the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, northern Italy. The theater, completed in 1585, was commissioned to Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and begun in 1580, but he left only a sketch for the screen at the back of the stage before dying 6 months later. The famous sketch was then interpreted and finished by Vincenzo Scamozzi, and the structure was commpleted 5 years later. Höfer’s image opens space and time for a conversation about the artists who designed the structure itself, rather than focusing on the actors creating new works inside the theater.
While interested in “the effects of space and light on the human spirit,” Höfer’s depictions here are limited to the architectural. She demonstrates the ability of humans (the viewers) to interact with and relate to images of space and light alone, while simultaneously underlining their absence from the space. The audience is left to admire the functional spaces of libraries, theaters, and opera spaces as works of art in themselves, removed from the hand that created them. Her exhibition closes on April 12th.
Candida Höfer, Palazzo Ducale Mantova I, (2011), Courtesy Ben Brown Fine Arts