Thomas Demand
House of Card

M Leuven, Leuven
October 9, 2020 – April 18, 2021

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M presents HOUSE OF CARD, a retrospective of the work of the German artist Thomas Demand (1964) with contributions by Arno Brandlhuber, Martin Boyce, Caruso St John and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Demand was trained as a sculptor. He gained a reputation in particular through his photographs of life-size models, made of coloured paper or cardboard and often based on existing visual materials. After taking pictures of these models, he discards them. Instead of the actual models, then, their photographical representation basically serves as his artistic work.
Demand’s work is often based on pre-existing historical and contemporary found images taken from the media, from books or online sources. By meticously constructing photographs based on self-made models, he delibaretely removes his compositions from the images they are supposed to depict.

The exhibition in M is the first to concentrate in-depth on the role of architecture in Demand’s work. It provides an overview of his different approaches to building over the past fifteen years. Demand's works focus on the model, the décor or scenography, although his buildings are also inextricably linked to architecture. At the same time, HOUSE OF CARD highlights the similarities between Demand's projects and those of other artists or architects such as Martin Boyce, Arno Brandlhuber, Caruso St John and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

The title refers to the precariousness of Demand's practice as a builder. Whereas architecture generally equates with permanence, Demand prefers to explore the limits of the ephemeral, as is evidenced in his use of paper and cardboard.

HOUSE OF CARD centres on Demand’s ongoing series of 'Model Studies', works in which the concept of the model takes a central place as the space between creative idea and execution. In ‘Model Studies’, Demand abandons his usual practice. Here, for the first time, he does not photograph his own self-built scale models, but rather those of other artists, architects and designers, including John Lautner, SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa), Hans Hollein and Azzedine Alaïa.

In addition to his series of ‘Model Studies’, the exhibition provides an overview of Demand’s architectural interests and designs covering the past fifteen years. It presents several rarely exhibited projects, such as 'Black Label' from 2009, ‘Embassy’ from 2007 (a collaboration with the German architect Arno Brandlhuber), ‘Nagelhaus’ from 2010 (a non-realized project in collaboration with Caruso St John), and ‘Kvadrat pavilions’, involving a design by Demand which is currently being executed next to the head office of textile giant Kvadrat in Denmark.

In the context of the exhibition, a new monograph on the work of Thomas Demand will appear. Published by M Leuven and MACK London, the book’s design is by Julie Peeters. This monograph contains essays by Maristella Casciato & Emily Pugh, Aude-Line Dulière, Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Valerie Verhack and Adam Caruso, as well as the text of a conversation between Thomas Demand, Hal Foster and David Chipperfield. The book also contains visuals contributions by Martin Boyce, Arno Brandlhuber and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Thomas Demand, Nagelhaus, 2011, Copyright of the artist 
Thomas Demand, Model Studies II, University 66, 2015, copyright of the artist 
Thomas Demand, Model Studies II, Sphere 31, 2015, Copyright of the artist, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 
Thomas Demand, Segel #49, Model Studies I, 2011, Copyright of the artist, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 
Thomas Demand, Learning Center 50, Model Studies II, 2015, Copyright of the artist, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 

Feature image: Thomas Demand, Model Studies IV, kinglet, 2020, Copyright of the artist, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

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