Inbox: Thomas Ruff

May 20–Jun 10, 2014


Thomas Ruff (German, born 1958). Nacht 2 I. 1992. Chromogenic color print. Gift of Dr. Mathias Boehringer. © 2017 Thomas Ruff/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Germany
  • MoMA, Floor 1, Museum Lobby Museum Lobby

Thomas Ruff has been testing the limits of photography for more than two decades, using a variety of methods to complete over a dozen separate series. The Museum recently acquired several photographs that represent some of his most important achievements.

For the series l.m.v.d.r., of 2000, Ruff was commissioned to photograph newly renovated buildings by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; the photograph here shows the Villa Tugendhat, in the Czech Republic city of Brno. Ruff’s manipulations of the picture by digital and other means complicate the notion of a documentary image.

In the early 2000s, Ruff turned his attention to the exponentially increasing number of images circulating on the Internet and began to make a group of works, including Jpeg tr01, without using a camera. Downloading low­-resolution images from the Internet, he enlarged them to monumental scale, greatly exaggerating the pixilation of the files to produce near-abstract pictures. Photographic detail and sharpness are lost and attention is focused on the surface of the image, on the ordered geometry of the pixels that constitute it, and on their shifts in color. In the past few years, Ruff has been using 3D computer programs to make photographs. Based on renderings of mathematical curves, zycles 7044, which is printed on canvas, blurs the lines between photography, drawing, and painting.

Ruff insists that his photographs capture only “the surface of things.” Indeed, through all his series, various and variously produced, he works to illuminate the conditions that determine photographs as they are made­—a focus that calls into question the notion of photographic truth.

  • This installation is part of Inbox.

    If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

    MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

    If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


    This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].