Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bernd Becher by Andreas Gursky

Published in The Art Newspaper, a letter from Andreas Gursky to his teacher, mentor and friend Bernd Becher on his passing (I think this fits somewhere in Alec Soth's recent musings on teaching art):

Yesterday I received the very unexpected news of your death. This news is made all the more painful for me as we did not get to see each other in the past year. You do know, however, how enormously important your influence was—and is—not only to me, but also to a whole generation of younger people.

You and Hilla have produced an invaluable and multi-faceted body of work that has served as an invaluable point of reference for us. We adapted and developed many stylistic characteristics of your technique. Yet, in my opinion, there is another crucial factor that ensured the uniqueness of the Becher School: teacher-artists can be found anywhere, but only a few succeed in transmitting your kind of drive to their students.

You were never a power-hungry man, abusing your international fame for political or institutional influence, but, instead, you stoically endured the criticisms of your academic peers. These made you all the more determined to pursue your unconventional teaching methods, which included affording absolute priority to your own and your students’ artistic visions.

When your students came to you with their work, you often reflected upon it late into the night, and took the time to comment, using apt art-historical examples. By the end of these private tutorials, not only were your floors covered with books, but books were also perched on top of the many red-labelled Agfa film cartons, tripods and ladders that were strewn about your studio. A permanent chemical odour signalled the authenticity of your work and living space—where, for the lifeof me, I cannot remember ever seeing a comfy sofa. Having spent my childhood and youth in over-designed advertising studios, it was a key experience to have such an insight into your world. I still remember my tipsy walk home—through that enchanted gateway in front of your studio, past that red van, which was packed with your heavy ladders of all sizes.

Bernd, I thank you for this important time in my life and hope that you will continue quietly to guide me through today’s art circus with your dry humour and carefree attitude.

In friendship,


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