They consist of seat shells screwed on to crates, upholstery supported by bricks or they might be held together with pieces of string: we’re talking about parts of old chairs that have had new life breathed in to them thanks to the creative improvisation of their owners. Michael Wolf primarily found and photographed these pragmatic examples of recycling in China and Hong Kong – his adopted home.
The pictures are part of a retrospective by the former photographer at German magazine Stern whose projects have in the meantime made him one of the leading contemporary photographic artists. The exhibition will run at the Rencontres d’Arles art festival until 27 August 2017. He chose the Église des Frères Prêcheurs as the venue. This erstwhile Dominican church is used for cultural events nowadays. As a place of tranquillity and contemplation, the Gothic building from 1499 provides an exciting contrast to Michael Wolf’s works. Because the theme of his exhibition is life in big cities.
The Real Toy Story is one of the installation’s centrepieces. It shows more than 20,000 plastic toys that Wolf had collected at markets and in second hand shops in the US. Dotted here and there are portraits of Chinese female workers who make the cheap plastic junk. But Michael Wolf’s well known works from the Architecture of Density series are also on show in Arles. These are impressive close-ups of the gigantic blocks of flats where people in Asian megacities live in the most cramped of conditions. And last but not least, the Tokyo Compression series shows how the dignity of the individual is crushed in an age of mass mobility.
In 2003 Wilkhahn sponsored Michael Wolf’s first European exhibition in the August Kestner Museum in Hanover and has since enjoyed a friendly relationship with the now world-famous photographic artist.
Anyone unable to enjoy the exhibition in Arles can also see Life in the Cities at the Hague Museum of Photography from January 2018 onwards.