Bernd & Hilla Becher
  • Introduction

  • Bio

  • Exhibitions

  • Publications

The typological series of black-and-white gas tanks, grain silos, cooling- and water towers have become classics of photo history and are represented today in most important collections. In the late 1950s Bernd and Hilla Becher began photographing industrial utility buildings in Siegerland with a 13 x 18 plate camera, thereby setting an end to the rather humanistic tradition that had governed photography until then. The defining concept they began with was decisive, ensuring the stark objectivity intended for the photographs. Anything  superficial or narrative would be excluded. Positioned in the center before a never-changing background of grey, cloudless sky, the Bechers captured various representatives of the same type of architecture in groups.

The needle-sharp series of industrial architecture revolutionized the medium of photography and was crucial in winning its revaluation as an art form. The photographs had a high information density and allowed comparability. The so-called typologies had such a strong presence that they appeared to be presenting themselves. All at once, the overlooked aesthetic of the technological, the beauty of industry became obvious. For this achievement the Bechers and their photographs were awarded the Golden Lion for Sculpture at the 1990 Venice Biennale. The Bechers succeeded in establishing photography as an independent, contemporary, aesthetic form of expression, giving it equal standing to the classic genres such as painting and sculpture for the first time. Numerous honors and monographs to their work, which is also recognized in the framework of conceptual art and minimalism, attest to the great influence the Bechers have had on art. An outstanding generation of new photographers with a growing influence on photography  have emerged from the Bechers’ now legendary classes at the Düsseldorf Art Academy.

Petra Prahl

Bernd Becher



1931 Born in Siegen
1947-1950 Decorative painting studies in Siegen
1953-1956 Painting studies with Karl Rössing at the Art Academy in Stuttgart
1957-1961 Typography studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy
1959 Beginning of collaboration with Hilla Wobeser
1961 Marriage to Hilla Wobeser
1972-1973 Guest lecturer at the School for Fine Arts in Hamburg










Hilla Becher
1934 Born in Siegen
1951-1953 Apprenticeship as a photographer in Potsdam
1957 Moved to Düsseldorf
1958-1961 Photography studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy
1959 Beginning of collaboration with Bernd Becher
1961 Marriage to Bernd Becher
1972-1973 Guest lecturer at the School for Fine Arts in Hamburg; lives and works in Düsseldorf

Collections (Selection)

Staatspreis des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen, 2002
Erasmus Prize, Erasmus Foundation, Amsterdam, 2002
Kaiserring der Stadt Goslar, 1994
Golden Lion of the 44th Venice Biennial, 1990
Will-Grohmann-Prize, 1997

Solo Exhibitions (Selection)

2001Bernd & Hilla Becher, Gallery Zwirner & Wirth, New York
1999Photographische Sammlung (Photographic Collection) - SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne
1994Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster
1993Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
1991Gallery Ascan Crone, Hamburg
1990DIA Art Foundation NY, New York
 Typologies, XLIV Venice Biennale, Kölnischer Kunstverein, other locations in Italy, USA and Germany
 Sonnabend Gallery, New York
 Gallery Max Hetzler, Cologne
 Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne
1988Sonnabend Gallery, New York
 Gallery K. Fischer, Düsseldorf
 Kunstverein, Munich
 Centre National d´Art Contemporain, Grenoble
1986Art Gallery, Pittsburgh
 Chuo-ku, Tokyo
 Architecture Museum, Basel
1985Museum Folkwang, Essen
 Sonnabend Gallery, New York
1981Sonnabend Gallery, New York
 Kunstverein, Siegen
 Bernd and Hilla Becher: Hochöfen (Furnaces), Hoesch Museum Dortmund
 Absage an das Einzelbild (Rejection of the Single Image), Museum Folkwang, Essen
1980Gallery K. Fischer, Düsseldorf
 Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster
1979Gallery Sonnabend, Paris
 Kunstraum, Munich
 Kunst- und Museumsverein, Wuppertal
1978Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee
 Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal
1977Sonnabend Gallery, New York
 Halle für Internationale Kunst, Zürich
 Gallery Tanit, Munich
1976Kunsthalle, Tübingen
 Gallery K. Fischer, Düsseldorf
1975D. Weinberg Gallery, San Francisco
 Gallery Sonnabend, Paris
 Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn
 Museum of Modern Art, New York
1974Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
 National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
 Kabinett für aktuelle Kunst, Bremerhaven
1973Sonnabend Gallery, Paris
 Gallery K. Fischer, Düsseldorf
 Gallery Forma, Genua
1972Sonnabend Gallery, New York
 Museum of Photography, Rochester (New York)
1970City Museum, Ulm
 Moderna Museet, Stockholm
 Gallery K. Fischer, Düsseldorf
1969Anonyme Skulpturen. Formvergleiche industrieller Bauten (Anonymous Sculptures. Form Comparisons of Industrial Constructions), Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf
1968Institute Prof. K. Wachsman, Los Angeles
 Stedelijk Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven
 Gallery R. Nohl, Siegen
 Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach
1967Industriebauten 1830-1930. Eine photographische Dokumentation von Bernd und Hilla Becher (Industrial Constructions 1830-1930. A Photographic Documentation by Brend and Hilla Becher), The New Collection, Staatliches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Munich
1966State Art Academy, Düsseldorf
1965Pro Gallery, Bad Godesberg
1963Gallery R. Nohl, Siegen

Group Exhibitions (Selection)

2004Early works, Andre Simoens Gallery, Knokke
2002The Russian Avant-Garde Book 1910-1934, Museum of Modern Art, New York
 Augenblick - Foto/Kunst in der Sammlung Essl (Moment - Photo/Art in the Essl Collection), Essl Collection, Klosterneuburg, Austria
 Positionen der Fotografie (Positions of Photography), Gallery Fahnemann, Berlin
 documenta 11, Kassel
2001Pathos der Sachlichkeit - Industrielandschaft in Meisterwerken der Fotografie (Pathos of Objectivity - Industrial Lanscape in Masterpieces of Photography), Ludwig Gallery Palace, Oberhausen
 Erstpräsentation (First Represantations), Museum for Contemporary Art, Siegen
 Art Fashion, Weimar Art Collections, Schlossmuseum, Weimar
2000How you look at it, Sprengel Museum, Hannover
 Contemporary Art from Germany - German Festival in India 2000-2001, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai
 Birla Academy of Art & Culture, Calcutta
 HausSchau. Das Haus in der Kunst (House Show. The House in Art), Deichtorhallen, Hamburg
1999Bilder, Fotografien und Handschriften (Pictures, Photography and Manuscripts), Volker Kahmen Collection, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf
 Zwischen Abbildung und Experiment (Between Depiction and Experiment), Garnatz Collection, Karlsruhe
1998Deep Storage - Collecting, Storing and Archiving in Art, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York
 Signaturen des Sichtbaren - Ein Jahrhundert der Fotografie in Deutschland (Signatures of the Visible - A Century of Photography in Germany), Galerie am Fischmarkt, Erfurt
1997Positionen künstlerischer Photographie in Deutschland seit 1945 (Positions in Art Photography in Germany Since 1945), Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
 summer-visitors, Gallery Schönewald und Beuse, Krefeld
1995Scharfer Blick (Penetrating Gaze), Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn
1992Photographie der deutschen Gegenwartskunst (Photography in Germany Contemporary Art, Museum Ludwig, Cologne
 Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
1991Aus der Distanz (From a Distance), Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
1989Museum Ludwig, Köln
 Centre National des Arts Plastiques, Paris
1988Centro de Art Reina Sofía, Madrid Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
1984Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
 Sonnabend Gallery, New York
1983The Museum of Modern Art, New York
 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
 ARS 83, Helsinki
 Photography in Contemporary Art, Tokyo
1982Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
 documenta 7, Kassel
1979Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
 Biennale of Sydney, Sydney
 Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf
 Kunstverein, Kassel
1978Halle für Internationale Kunst, Zürich
 Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe
 Sonnabend Gallery, New York
1977documenta 6, Kassel
 Biennale, Sao Paulo
 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
 Gallery Philomene Magers, Bonn
 Tendenzen der Kunst in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Trends in Art in the Federal Republic of Germany), Budapest
 Visual Art Museum, New York
 Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington
1976Centre d´Arts Plastiques Contemporains, Bordeaux
 Musée Rennes, Rennes
1975Malmö Konsthall, Malmö
1974Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
 Kunstverein Heidelberg, Heidelberg
1973Incontri Internazionali d´Arte, Rom
1972documenta 5, Kassel
1971Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf
1970The Museum of Modern Art, New York
1969Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf
 Städtisches Museum, Leverkusen

Books/Catalogs (Selection)

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

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