Bernd and Hilla Becher

Facades, Photographed After 1970

Bernd and Hilla Becher

Ratingen, Düsseldorf, 1992 © Bernd und Hilla Becher

The German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher will receive the Erasmus Prize on 23 October 2002. Each year this prize (€150,000) is awarded to a person or institution of exceptional value to Europe in the cultural, social or scientific fields. This year the prize goes to photography, under the motto ‘photo and document’. On the occasion of the award, Huis Marseille is showing the series entitled Facades, which holds a noteworthy place in the oeuvre of the Bechers.

Since 1959, Bernd (1931) and Hilla Becher (1934) have worked continuously on an oeuvre that has broken new ground in both documentary and art photography. They almost exclusively document the ‘anonymous architecture’ of industrial complexes. In that registration, they strive for exactitude and comparability. Their systematic series of one type of building cause the individual deviations within a particular type to stand out. The historical urgency lies in the fact that the motifs present themselves particularly when demolition looms. The Facade series similarly makes the ‘old economy’ visible, in the form of postwar housing. The Bechers portray this functional, unadorned, serialised architecture in the same non-romantic way. An important reason for their being granted the award is the great influence that their vision has had. As a professor at the Dusseldorf Academy, Bernd Becher has taught three generations of photographers, many of whom have gained international fame, including Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Thomas Struth and Simone Nieweg. It is precisely the ‘Becher School’ approach to documentary photography – the sober, legible image reduced to the essence – which has repeatedly made a link to visual art.


With the awarding of the Erasmus Prize, a Festschrift for Bernd and Hilla Becher will be brought out, edited by Susanne Lange with texts by Els Barents, Rudi Fuchs, Sol LeWitt, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer and Ileana Sonnabend, among others. Published by Schirmer/Mosel. Texts in English and German.