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View of “Wolfgang Tillmans,” 2017, Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Photo: Mark Niedermann.

Wolfgang Tillmans

Fondation Beyeler

View of “Wolfgang Tillmans,” 2017, Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Photo: Mark Niedermann.

FOR A PREVIOUS EXHIBITION at the Fondation Beyeler in 2014, Wolfgang Tillmans was invited to pair his own pictures with works from the museum’s collection. The artist showed two large, seemingly abstract landscape-format pieces—Ostgut Freischwimmer, left and Ostgut Freischwimmer, right, both 2004—alongside works by Picasso, Matisse, and Max Ernst. That installation was, in a sense, a precursor to Tillmans’s vast new survey at the same institution: Both asked how and why his practice might respond to an architectonic and institutional setting built on modernist claims for the autonomy of the work of art. If the earlier exhibition allowed him to challenge the individuality of the artwork—and the medium specificity of photography and painting—by setting his pictures in dialogue with those of acclaimed modern masters, the more recent show, by contrast, seeks to

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