Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968) rose to fame as a documentary-style photographer, with a focal point on London’s gay community. He studied at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design in England from 1990 to 1992. He spent the next several years moving between London and New York with Jochen Klein (German, 1968-1997), a painter.
Klein’s death from AIDS-related complications made a notable impact on Tillmans and his work. The photographer began his career covering gay pride events for magazines such as i-D, Interview, and Spex magazines. Later, his casual, family-photo style shots of important gay figures in the arts world would appear on their covers. In 1997, Tillmans became the coeditor of Spex Magazine. The following years were filled with a wide range of projects, including the labor-intensive Concord Grid on display at the Chisenhale Gallery in London, in 1997. The presentation followed airplane flights at Heathrow Airport from various locations around the city. His 1998 collection Total Solar Eclipse Grid, made up of 21 photographs, similarly documents a solar eclipse. Tillmans won the Turner Prize based on the installation. He was the first photographer, and the first non-English, to receive the award. He received an honor once again in 2001, when his design was selected as the basis for an AIDS memorial in Munich, Germany.
During the 2000s, Tillmans turned toward Abstract expression, using photographs themselves to create sculptures or by exploiting mistakes during the development process. This began with a presentation in an issue of Parket in 1998, in which the artist displayed years worth of damaged negatives. This tied back to an earlier interest in photocopied creations, making up the heart of his debut exhibit in 1983, Approach. This thread continues to run through his work even today in works such as his film project Kopierer in 2010, a ten-minute film showing a laser copier printing documents. Tillmans is represented by Maureen Pauley in London, Galerie Daniel Buchholz in Berlin, the Andrea Rosin Gallery in New York, Regen Projects in Los Angeles, and Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris. He is an Artist Trustee of the Tate Board, was a professor at Städelschule in Frankfurt (2003-2006), and runs a nonprofit gallery for new or glossed-over artists of note at his studio in London.