Behind the Scenes, Getty Research Institute, Photographs, Film, and Video

A Visit to Thomas Demand’s Studio

During my work as a Multicultural Undergraduate Intern at the Getty this summer,  I was invited to join colleagues from the Getty Research Institute on a visit to artist Thomas Demand’s studio in Culver City. It was a memorable look at his unique process.

Thomas Demand welcomes Getty visitors to his Culver City studio

Demand is a contemporary artist from Germany who works mainly in sculpture, photography, and video. He’s known for making photographs and films of 3-D life-size models, which appear in his work to be the actual rooms and spaces themselves. His paper and cardboard constructions of interiors and environments often depict historically or politically significant locations—such as the Oval Office and an embassy involved in the Iraq WMD forgeries—and create a tension between fabricated and real.

Demand was also a visiting scholar at the Getty this year. The Getty Research Institute’s Scholars Program invites scholars and artists to work at the Getty Center or the Getty Villa, doing research on  a particular theme chosen each year. The theme of this 2010/2011 program was the display of art, and each scholar spent the past year or semester doing research surrounding this theme—or in Demand’s case, making art about it.

On our visit, Demand greeted us at the door and led us past a makeshift curtain onto the set of a world of paper and cardboard. He showed us his latest project, a reenactment of a short video clip that depicts the reception area of a cruise ship as it is rocked and buffeted about by a storm.

Getty intern Lauren Graycar and artist Thomas Demand

For this piece, Demand completely recreated the scene shown in the video, fabricating the entire set out of paper products.  Then, using stop-motion animation and a team of highly skilled animators and technicians, he filmed his paper version of the film clip, miniscule step by miniscule step.

As Demand led us around the space and showed us each component he used in creating his work, this ostensibly simple project exploded into complexities and intricacies, both of technology and of construction. He and his collaborators had broken this short video down into every visual element—every toppled chair and lemon slice—as well as every millimeter of movement.

To me, one particularly interesting aspect was how they’d worked out objects that, however briefly, defied gravity in the chaos and disorder caused by the rocking of the ship. Demand pointed out a few of the tricks he’d used on different objects in the set: swinging lights suspended diagonally by invisible wires, chairs mid-topple supported by miniature stands hidden from the eye of the camera.

As a piece of art based on a YouTube video, Demand’s film is halfway between the humorous and the serious. It prompts a burst of laughter as you see the contents of a cruise ship topple to and fro, but it also explores the danger and destructive power of natural disasters that have the potential to occur anywhere, at any time. Spontaneous destruction, beautifully and painstakingly re-created.

(Photos by John Kiffe)

Tagged , , , , , , Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Trackback

  • By Constructing Realities | Photo Expressions II on September 16, 2013 at 6:13 am

    […] Demand (an article about his work can be found here) he constructs sets entirely out of paper. They are made to look like offices and […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

  • Facebook

  • Twitter

  • Tumblr

    • photo from Tumblr

      #ProvenancePeek: Winslow Homer at the Met

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      The provenance of this Winslow Homer marine, or seascape, is relatively straightforward as these things go. It was entered into the stock books of M. Knoedler and Co, prominent New York art dealers, in October of 1901. Knoedler & Co purchased the painting, titled Cannon Rock, from Chicago pastor and educator Dr. Frank Gunsaulus on October 24, 1901. Just over two weeks later, on November 9, the firm sold it to art collector and dry goods merchant George Arnold Hearn. Hearn made a gift of his collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1906, and that is where Cannon Rock has lived ever since.

      This seascape is one of Homer’s later works, notable for its flatness. Homer spent the last 25 years of his life living in coastal Maine, painting land- and seascapes that both respect and challenge nature’s authority. Cannon Rock’s mellow provenance tale belies the powerful scene it presents.

      The stock books of the Knoedler Gallery have recently been transformed into a searchable database which anyone can query for free.

      Cannon Rock, 1895, Winslow Homer. Oil on canvas, 40 x 40 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of George A. Hearn, 1906 (above); pages from the Knoedler stock and sales books listing the painting (below).


      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.


  • Flickr