Fine Art Photography Series
Jeff Wall

Biograpy of Canadian Art Photographer.

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Jeff Wall (b.1946)


Jeff Wall's Photography
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Most Expensive Photo by Jeff Wall
Other Famous 20th Century Photographers

For a brief explanation of technical
and historical terms, please see:
Art Photography Glossary.

Jeff Wall's Photography

The most famous practitioner of "staged photography", camera artist Jeff Wall is one of Canada's greatest photographers of the 20th century. Challenging the notion of photography as a medium that records the "real", Wall has been producing carefully staged photos since the end of the 1970s. Largely involving everyday scenes conveying an iconographic link to classical painting, they are often presented as large-format back-lit cibachrome photographs. His lens-based tableaux often feature a mixture of natural beauty, urban decay and industrial wasteland as their backdrop. Since the 1990s he has ranked among the most internationally controversial photographers, although he has also been described as one of the most advanced thinkers in contemporary art. He achieved initial recognition through his large-format diapositives presented in light boxes, presenting posed scenes in recognizable urban environments. Despite their use of contemporary technology, his images recall paintings from the era of the Old Masters. For that reason, they are typically discussed with respect to their iconography, their compositional principles, and their ideological content. A famous example of such an image is Wall's photographic transparency A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) (1993, Tate Collection, London). A Professor of Fine Art and an active figure in Vancouver's postmodernist art scene since 1970, he has written essays on the work of other postmodernist artists such as Rodney Graham, Ian Wallace and Ken Lum.

Important photo: Jeff Wall "A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)" (1993)
Photograph by Jeff Wall. A form of postmodernist pictorialism.

For more about the early inventions upon which today's lens-based art is founded, see: History of Photography (c.1800-1900).


1964-1970, studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. 1970 MA. (Art History thesis on Berlin Dada and the Notion of Context). 1970-1973, period of postgraduate research at the Courtauld Institute, London, under the Edouard Manet scholar T.J. Clark. 1974-1975, assistant professor in the Art History Department of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax in Nova Scotia. 1976-1987, associate professor at the Centre for the Arts of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. 1987-1999, professor in the Fine Arts Department of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. 1967, takes first photographic images. Influenced by Eugene Atget (1857-1927). At the end of the 1970s creates large-format colour works conveying an iconographic nearness to classical painting. As a rule stages images with a narrative content, conspicuously presented in the form of oversized (inspired by contemporary advertising practices) light boxes.

Since the mid-1990s has also produced black-and-white works on paper, as well as montages of individual negatives, fusing them into what appears to be a single photograph using digital technology. Undoubtedly among the most controversial postmodern art photographers. Represented several times at the documenta in Kassel. Numerous honors and prizes include the Munich Art Prize (1996), the Hasselblad Award (2002), and the Roswitha Haftmann Award (2003).

For a short guide to the aesthetics and artistic nature of lens-based works, see: Is Photography Art?

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1979 Victoria (Canada) (Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
1982 Kassel (documenta - 1987, 1997, 2002) group show
1983 Chicago (The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago)
1984 London (Institute of Contemporary Arts)
1984 Basel (Kunsthalle) SE// 1987 Basel (Museum fur Gegenwartskunst)
1988 Villeurbanne (France) (Le Nouveau Musee)
1988 Munster (Westfalischer Kunstverein)
1990 Vancouver (Vancouver Art Gallery)
1991 Humlebaek (Denmark) (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art)
1992 Frankfurt am Main (Museum fur Moderne Kunst)
1993 Lucerne (Switzerland] (Kunstmuseum)
1994 Madrid (Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid)
1994 Dusseldorf (Kusthalle Dusseldorf)
1995 Chicago (The Museum of Contemporary Art)
1995 Paris (Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume)
1996 Wolfsburg (Germany) (Kunstmuseum)
1997 Washington DC (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden)
1997 Los Angeles (The Museum of Contemporary Art)
1997 Munich (Lenbachhaus)
1997 Los Angeles (The Museum of Contemporary Art)
1999 Cologne (Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur)
2001 Frankfurt am Main (Museum fur Moderne Kunst)
2003 Vienna (Museum Moderner Kunst/Stiftung Ludwig)
2005 Basel (Schaulager)
2005 London (Tate Modern)
2007 London (White Cube)
2007 New York (Museum of Modern Art, MoMA)
2007 Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago)
2008 San Francisco (SFMoMA)
2008 Mexico City (Tamayo Museum)
2008 Vancouver (Vancouver Art Gallery)
2010 Dresden (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen)
2011 Brussels (Palais des Beaux Arts)

Wall has received many awards for his photography, including: the 2002 Hasselblad Award, and British Columbia's Audain Visual Arts Prize for Lifetime Achievement. In 2006, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Most Expensive Photo by Jeff Wall

In 2006, his photograph Untangling (1994) was sold privately for Australian $1,000,000. In May 2012, Dead Troops Talk (1992) was auctioned for $3,666,500 at Christie's New York, making it the most expensive photograph by Jeff Wall ever sold.

Photographs by Jeff Wall are regularly shown in some of the best galleries of contemporary art across America.



Other Famous 20th Century Photographers

For early pioneers, see: 19th-Century Photographers. Also, in addition to those mentioned above, here is a short list of the best known camera artists of the 20th century.

Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946)
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971) Berlin Dada Photomontage Artist
Man Ray (1890-1976)
Paul Strand (1890-1976)
John Heartfield (Helmut Herzfeld) (1891-1968)
Walker Evans (1903-75)
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004)
Robert Capa (1913-54)
Irving Penn (1917-2009)
Richard Avedon (1923-2004)
Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007) (b.1934)
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-89)
Nan Goldin (b.1953)
Cindy Sherman (b.1954)
Andreas Gursky (b.1955)

• For more about lens-based artists, see: Homepage.

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