Boris Becker – Bunkers

Photographs of Architectures and Artefacts | Exhibition of Die Photographischen Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur | On view: 6 September 2019 to 9 February 2020

Boris Becker: Bunker, Hamburg, Löwenstraße, 1987 © Boris Becker, VG Bild-Kunst, 2019

This is the first show to be dedicated to Boris Becker’s (b. 1961) bunker series, which he worked on between 1984 and 1990. To make the selection, the artist sifted through his archive of bunker images, considering them from a contemporary perspective.

The photographs were taken in over 45 German towns. They take us back to a dark chapter of German history, the years of the Second World War, but also to the 1980s, because the photographer shows in his pictures how the bunkers were put to new use in the post-war era. Becker presents the buildings in their mostly urban surroundings, incorporating adjacent houses, streets, parked cars, and in some cases posters and signage into his compositions. Using both black-and-white and colour photography, he explores the various structural forms taken by the bunkers while also zeroing in on surface textures and details.

Boris Becker, Bunker, Hamm, Südring, 1987, © Boris Becker, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2019

Becker did his bunker series while a student in Bernd Becher’s class at Düsseldorf’s Art Academy. Becher’s influence can be felt in the neutral, detailed and authentic style of Becker’s motifs as well as in his methodical compilation of artistically and historically significant image series with an archival character. Whereas the functions of the industrial structures photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher were usually explicitly apparent, the opposite is often the case with the bunkers Becker depicts. Air-raid shelters in particular were expressly designed to disguise their function. Architectural camouflage was used, for example, so that bunkers were made to look like an ordinary home, a church or a fortress.

Boris Becker: Kurmuschel, 2014 © Boris Becker, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2019

As he photographed them, the artist found himself wondering to what extent our visual perception is guided by our subjective point of view and external influences. How congruent is an object’s appearance with its true nature, and what are we to make of this clandestine interference with our image of reality? For Boris Becker, the cursory and reflexive way we have of looking at the world is a central artistic parameter, which he investigates in his work based on various types of motif. To expand on this idea, the exhibition includes, for example, some more recent large-format works in colour that are related in formal and associative terms, underscoring the artist’s interest in historical themes and manifest architectural forms.

A catalogue is being published by Snoeck Verlag in three languages, with texts by Roland Augustin and Gabriele Conrath-Scholl as well as a poem by Marcel Beyer. “Boris Becker: Bunkers” features over 890 photographs that Becker took with both medium- and large-format cameras.

Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Im Mediapark 7, 50670 Köln, tel.: +49 221/888 95 300, email: photographie( at )sk-kultur.de, www.photographie-sk-kultur.de

Current exhibitions are open daily except Wednesdays from 2 to 7 p.m.

Admission: €5.50 (reduced €3), free the first Monday of the month! Regular guided tours: Every Sunday at 3 p.m., cost: regular admission + €2 for the tour

Closed on 1 November (All Saints’ Day) and 24–26 December, open 27–30 December, closed 31 December 2019 and 1 January 2020, open 2 January 2020

The Foundation Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz, Saarland Museum - Moderne Galerie, is cooperation partner and second stop of the exhibition.

The project was created with the kind support of the Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland.