Wolfgang Tillmans brings ‘Fragile’ touring exhibition to Joburg

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Fresh from Kinshasa and Nairobi, counter-culture photographer Wolfgang Tillmans’ touring exhibition, ‘Fragile’, is on at the Johannesburg Art Gallery until 30 September.

Deer Hirsch 1995. Image: Wolfgang Tillmans

Tillmans was the first photographer to win the art world’s biggest award, the Turner Prize. His work, spanning 1986 to 2017, includes club culture, abstracts, portraits and the ‘beauty of the every day’.

This exhibition is presented by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen/ Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) in collaboration with Tillmans and the Goethe-Institut and will continue to tour more African cities over the next few years. It comprises his multi-faceted work made up of still photographs, video productions, music and sculpture and attempts to display fagility as a strength.

‘I work to communicate with people. I chose photography as a medium because I can speak better with it than with words…I believe cultural exchange is very important,’ said Tillmans in an interview with Patrick Mudekereza for the Goethe-Institut when the exhibition opened in Kinshasa.

‘I toured North and South America in recent years,’ continued the German artist, ‘and then I decided I would like to visit a continent that I don’t know at all’.

Tillmans chooses to display his photographs unframed and in vastly contrasting sizes from postcard to gargantuan. The subjects of his art vary from vast landscapes to intimate portraits, everyday objects and politically motivated works, such as the anti-Brexit/ pro-EU campaign he designed in 2016 ahead of the British referendum.