Bernd Becher (German, 1931–2007) and Hilla Becher (German, b.1934) are best known for their photographs of industrial archetypes, such as water towers, pitheads, and coal bunkers. In the mid-1970s, they taught photography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, in Germany, and their students, who adapted the style of the Bechers, became known as the Düsseldorf School of Photography. Bernd Becher was born in the Siegen and studied at the Academy of Art in Stuttgart and Düsseldorf. Hilla Becher, born in Potsdam in 1934, also studied at the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf and met Bernd while they were both studying painting.

The Bechers began working together in 1959 by photographing constructions related to industry and mining, some of which were on the verge of disappearance. Their photographs present these structures as landmarks that could be preserved as architectural heritage. The gelatin silver prints are usually grouped according to the type of structure and are arranged in grids on the gallery wall. Noted photographers such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, and Candida Höfer have all been students of the Bechers. In 2004, the Bechers received the Hasselblad Award. Their work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Kunstverein Munich, and the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, among other institutions. Hilla Becher currently lives and works in Düsseldorf.

Timeline

1931
Bernd Becher born in Siegen District, Germany
1934
Hilla Becher born in Berlin, Germany
1953–1956
Bernd Becher studied lithography and painting at the Staatliche Akademie der Blidenden Künste, Stuttgart, Germany
1959
The two artists collaborated for the first time
1957–1961
Bernd Becher studied typography at the Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
1961
The two artists got married
1963
Had their first gallery show in Siegen at the Galerie Ruth Nohl
1991
Recipient, the Leone d'Oro award for sculpture at the Venice Biennale
2002
Recipient, the Erasmus Prize
2007
Bernd Becher died in Rostock, Germany

Exhibitions

2013
Schenkung Herbert Lange: Fotografien 1925 - 2009, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Chemnitz, Germany
neu gesehen: Sammlung + documenta-Erwerbungen - Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany
2012
Bernd & Hilla Becher: Coal Mines. Steel Mills, Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic
2011
Bergwerke und Hütten – Industrielandschaften, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland
2010
Der Westen leuchtet, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany
2009
1968. Die große Unschuld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany
Art of Two Germanys / Cold War Cultures 1945-1989, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin/Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg, Germany
Made in Munich, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany
2008
Die Hande der Kunst, MARTa Herford, Herford, Germany
Second Thoughts, The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hundson, USA
2007
20 ans du Musee d'Art Moderne - L'art apres 1960 dans les collections, Musee d'Art moderne de Saint-Etienne, Saint-Etienne, France
2006
Düsseldorf School of Photography and Contemporary Western Masters, Hannart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong
2004
Early works, Andre Simoens Gallery, Knokke, Belgium
2002
The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910-1934, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
Augenblick – Foto/Kunst in der Sammlung Essl, Sammlung Ess, Klosterneuburg, Austria
Positionen der Fotografie, Galerie Fahnemann, Berlin, Germany
documenta 11, Kassel, Germany
2001
Bernd & Hilla Becher, Gallery Zwirner & Wirth, New York, USA (solo)
1999
Photographische Sammlung – SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne, Germany (solo)
1994
Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster, Germany (solo)
1993
Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, USA (solo)
1991
Galerie Ascan Crone, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
1990
Sonnabend Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
Galerie Max Hetzler, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Dia Art Foundation, New York, USA (solo)
Typologies, XLIV Venice Biennale, Kolnischer Kunstverein, etc. Italy; Germany; Cambridge, USA; Cleveland, USA (solo)

Public Collections

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), Chicago, IL, USA
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Indianapolis Museum of Art - IMA, Indianapolis, IN, USA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art - LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NY, USA
MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY, USA
National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), Tokyo, Japan
MUDAM - Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg
Berardo Museum - Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, Lisbon, Portugal
Museu d´Art Contemporani de Barcelona - MACBA, Barcelona, Spain
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland
Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds, England
Tate Britain, London, England
Tate Modern, London, England
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig - MUMOK , Vienna, Austria
SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Musée d'Art moderne de Saint-Etienne, Saint-Etienne, France
IAC - Institut d'art contemporain Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes, Villeurbanne, France
CAPC - Musée d'art contemporain, Bordeaux, France
Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany
Museo D'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina - MADRE, Naples, Italy

Literature

Wassertürme, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1988
Klaus Bussmann: Bernd & Hilla Becher – Typologien - Typologies, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1990
Pennsylvania Coal Mine Tipples, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1991
Häuser und Hallen, Hrsg. Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt 1992
Grundformen, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1993
Fabrikhallen, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1994
Zeche Hannibal, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1995
August Sander, Karl Blossfeldt, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Bernd und Hilla Becher – Vergleichende Konzeptionen, Hrsg. Photographische Sammlung, Köln 1997
Thierry de Duve: Basic Forms, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1999
Fachwerkhäuser, Hrsg. Martina Doppe, Museum für Kunst der Gegenwart, Siegen 2001
Industrielandschaften, Schirmer/Mosel, München 2002
Gasbehälter, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1993/2002
Hochöfen, Schirmer/Mosel, München 1990/2002