AGO presents first major Canadian solo exhibition by Thomas Ruff as part of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Ruff to give lecture as part of AGO/CONTACT International Photography Talks series on April 26

TORONTO — “An image is just an image,” Thomas Ruff told Aperture magazine in 2013. “It all depends on what you do with it.” Since the early 1990s, the celebrated German photographer (b. 1958) has manipulated found images as one approach in his exploration of the means and possibilities of photographic representation. In his first major solo Canadian museum exhibition, Ruff presents works from five series that feature found or collected photographic materials. Opening in Toronto on April 28, 2016, Thomas Ruff: Object Relations is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and presented in partnership with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

Curated by Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s Associate Curator of Photography, the exhibition takes its title from Ruff’s deep engagement with the history of photography. A highlight of the AGO’s Year of Photography, Object Relations features over 40 large-scale photographs including works from the artist’s ongoing series negatives (2014 – ongoing), in addition to his acclaimed series Sterne (1989 – 1992), Zeitungsfotos (1990 – 1991) and Maschinen (2003 – 2004).  Also included in the exhibition are works from Ruff’s own personal collection of photographic materials, including an 1885 study of a spark by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot; electrocardiograms from 1909; nude studies from 1923; and two majestic photograms by Arthur Siegel from the 1940s.

Thomas Ruff: Object Relations marks the debut of four new works, never before shown, from the artist’s latest series, press++ (2015 – ongoing).  By merging images from mid-20th-century press photographs with the captions, stamps, marks and inscriptions found on their versos, Ruff has created large-scale montages that explore the constructed nature of such images while deepening our understanding of the original source material.

“Thomas Ruff’s ongoing interest in the uses and limits of photographic images over time is very much about trying to understand how photographs transform and direct what see,” says Hackett. “We are very pleased to be partnering with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, during the AGO’s Year of Photography, to highlight this significant thread in Ruff’s oeuvre and to debut new works by one of the most thoughtful and significant artists working in photography today.”

For over three decades, Ruff has been making photographs that combine analogue and digital technologies. For Sterne, his first series to include found materials, he purchased negatives from the European Southern Observatory in the Andes. Fascinated by astrophotography, he used these negatives tocreate details presented in enlarged formats. In Maschinen, Ruff digitally manipulated 1930s glass plate negatives from a machine and tool manufacturer. In these portraits of industry, often replete with white cloth backdrops, each machine has been colourized, highlighting its form rather than its potential use.

Ruff will join Sophie Hackett in conversation on April 26, 2016 as part of the AGO/CONTACT International Photography Talks. Tickets for the talk, which begins at 7 p.m. in the AGO’s Baillie Court, are on sale now.

Thomas Ruff: Object Relations is included with the price of general admission and is free to AGO members. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at 

Born in 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach, Germany, Thomas Ruff attended the Staatlichen Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf from 1977 to 1985. Ruff explores a vast range of themes that are reflected in the variety of techniques he employs: analogue and digital exposures, computer generated imagery, photographs from scientific archives, and pictures culled and manipulated from newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent venues internationally. In 2014, Thomas Ruff: Lichten was presented at Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.) in Ghent. Consisting of five series by the artist spanning the 1970s to the present day, the exhibition traveled to Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. In 2012, a large-scale, comprehensive survey was presented at Haus der Kunst in Munich. Work by the artist is held in museum collections worldwide.

Thomas Ruff: Object Relations is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and presented in partnership with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

This exhibition is generously supported by Phil Lind.

AGO/CONTACT International Photography Talks are supported by Penny Rubinoff. 

With a collection of more than 90,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of Ontario is among the most distinguished art museums in North America. From the vast body of Group of Seven and signature Canadian works to the African art gallery, from the cutting-edge contemporary art to Peter Paul Rubens’s masterpiece The Massacre of The Innocents, the AGO offers an incredible art experience with each visit. In 2002, Ken Thomson’s generous gift of 2,000 remarkable works of Canadian and European art inspired Transformation AGO, an innovative architectural expansion by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry that in 2008 resulted in one of the most critically acclaimed architectural achievements in North America. Highlights include Galleria Italia, a gleaming showcase of wood and glass running the length of an entire city block, and the often-photographed spiral staircase, beckoning visitors to explore. The AGO has an active membership program offering great value, and the AGO’s Weston Family Learning Centre offers engaging art and creative programs for children, families, youth and adults. Visit to learn more.

Mar. 12 – May 29, 2016: Outsiders: American Photography and Film, 1950s-1980s

July 1 – Sept. 11, 2016: The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris

Oct. 22, 2016 – Jan. 29, 2017:  Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, Van Gogh and more

The Art Gallery of Ontario is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO members, donors and private-sector partners.


For hi-res images and other press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; Senior Communications Officer 
416-979-6660, ext. 403, [email protected]

Caitlin Coull; Manager, Communications
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