Michael Wolf on view at M+, Hong Kong
Installation view of Hong Kong: Here and Beyond in Main Hall Gallery
Photo: Lok Cheng, M+
Courtesy of M+, Hong Kong
Michael Wolf’s 2005 photograph, Architecture of Density #8b, is now on view at the newly reopened Herzog & de Meuron-designed M+, located in the West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong, as part of the museum's inaugural exhibition, Hong Kong: Here and Beyond.
In the artist’s most highly regarded architectural series, Architecture of Density, Michael Wolf embraces the volume of brutalist architecture that comprises most of the Hong Kong’s skyline to create visually compressed flattened photographs that emphasize the city’s density. These seemingly abstract images make us wonder about the people that inhabit these spaces. While Hong Kong is all but deserted, Wolf only captures subtle signs of life (often taking the shape of clothing hanging off the sides of buildings to dry).
In Architecture of Density, Wolf also traced and celebrated the city’s history by carefully selecting his subjects. Architecture of Density #8b depicts the Choi Hung Estate: one of Hong Kong’s earliest public estates comprised of seven eight story buildings that, together, house nearly 43,000 residents. This Palmer & Turner-designed complex holds importance in Hong Kong’s social history as an urban development project that raised standards of living through the inclusion of private kitchen and toilet facilities in each unit.
Hong Kong: Here and Beyond, looks to Hong Kong’s visual culture from 1960 to today, as told through individual and collective histories from various intersecting perspectives. In addition to work by Michael Wolf, this exhibition includes works by other groundbreaking artists, architects, designers, and film makers, such as Zaha Hadid, Tsang Tsou-Choi (King of Kowloon), Ellen Pau, Greg Girard, and Holly Lee.
Hong Kong: Here and Beyond is not the first occasion where Michael Wolf has been exhibited at M+. In 2012, Wolf participated in M+’s five-person Bamboo Theatre Exhibition with a commissioned suite of photographs entitled, Portraits of Cantonese Opera Singers. Over 70 artworks by Michael Wolf can be found in the M+ collection including works from Architecture of Density, Bastard Chairs, and Portraits of Cantonese Opera Singers.
Michael Wolf (1954-2019) is known for his continuous study of life in cities, capturing the architecture and dwellers of hyper-dense metropolises such as Hong Kong, Chicago, Paris, and Tokyo.
Much of the artist’s work stems from his background in press photography and its social/anthropological nature, driven by his concern for those living in dense urban environments and the effects rapid urbanization can have on contemporary civilization. Through this work, Wolf created his iconic “no exit” style of framing, removing the sky and empty space from all architectural photographs, placing an emphasis on density and architectural congestion. In the artist’s later series, he redefined street photography by photographing sites such as Paris and New York through Google Street View, using this new technology as a readymade.
Born in Munich in 1954, Michael Wolf began his studies at the University of California Berkeley (1972-1973). From 1973-1976, Wolf continued his education in photography and visual communications at the University of Essen, studying under Otto Steinert, gaining a degree in Visual Communications.
More than thirteen monographs have been published on the artist’s work. Michael Wolf received first place in the World Press Photo Award Competition in 2005 and 2010, receiving honourable mention in 2011. In 2010 the artist was awarded the Prix Pictet Photography Award.
Wolf’s first major retrospective, Michael Wolf—Life in Cities, was held in 2017, premiering at the prestigious Rencontres de la Photographie festival in Arles, traveling to The Hague Museum of Photography (2018), the Fondazione Stelline in Milan (2018), Deichtorhallen Hamburg (2018–2019), and Urania, Berlin (2019).
Other solo exhibitions include those mounted at the Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop (2019); K11 Art Foundation, Shanghai (2014); Bienal de Arquitetura, Sao Paulo (2014); ivam institut d’art modern, Valencia (2012); Hong Kong and Shenzhen Biennial of urbanism/architecture, Hong Kong (2012); M+, Hong Kong (2012); Venice Biennale of Architecture, Venice (2010); Aperture Foundation, New York (2009); Museum for Contemporary Photography, Chicago (2008); Museum Center Vapriikki, Tempere (2008); among others.
Works by Wolf have been exhibited in group exhibitions organized by M+, Hong Kong (2021-2022); Honolulu Museum of Art, Hawaii (2014); Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto (2012); Museum of Design, Zurich (2011); Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Florence (2011); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2008); Mass. MoCA, North Adams (2008); Goethe Institute, Hong Kong (2008); Museum Folkwang, Essen (2006); Ruhrland Museum, Essen (2004); Bauhaumuseum, Dessau (2004); among others.
Work by the artist are held in public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; M+, Hong Kong; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Brooklyn Museum, New York; San Jose Museum of Art, California; Museum Folkwang, Essen; the German Museum for Architecture, Frankfurt; among others.
The artist has been represented by Bau-Xi Gallery since 2013.