In a massive, eight-foot-wide photograph, a group of tourists stands dwarfed beneath the immense dome of the Pantheon in Rome, gazing upward into sunlight streaming down from the oculus of the ancient building. At German-born artist Thomas Struth’s hand, these tourists appear timeless; if their contemporary clothing didn’t give them away, they could be anyone from any period in history. A new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art surveys Struth’s hyperrealistic oeuvre in 25 photographs, from images shot on the streets of New York in the 1970s to those made within the past five years.
In photographing people among famous artworks, Struth proves his remarkable ability to render his human subjects pieces of art, too. In The Restorers at San Lorenzo Maggiore, Naples, four art historians stand in a huge light-drenched room, surrounded by dozens of centuries-old religious paintings. Each restorer is uniquely posed; all cross their arms distinctively or distribute their weight differently from the others. In this way, it’s as if they are a 17th-century artist’s models themselves, their postures and the folds of their clothes echoing those of the painted figures behind them.
But, as the Met demonstrates, Struth presents industrial equipment with as much elegance as the images in his "Museum Photographs" series, making even the grimiest of subjects seem enchanted.
Through February 16, 2015, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; metmuseum.org