Encountering the photo portraits of Thomas Ruff (born in 1958, living in Düsseldorf) for the first time, one may easily just look past them and go on to the next attraction. That's how natural, down-to-earth, and pragmatic their effect is. But these are precisely the qualities also leading the viewer back to them. With minimal means, the portraits avoid equating reproduction and reality.

Thomas Ruff has found a precise and open pictorial formulation for portraits, a theme which has become so ticklish. The pictures succeed in charging the sober presence of the faces with individuality and emotion, without at any time obscuring the fact that on their surface a different, strange and inaccessible world commences.

The catalogue of the exhibitions at Museum Schloß Hardenberg, Velbert, and Portikus, Frankfurt, is limited to an excerpt; it presents a series of 39 portraits from the years 1981 to 1987. This sequence of colour photographs documents in an exemplary manner Thomas Ruff's oeuvre of portraits and highlights - following the characteristic of a book - the aspect of creating a series, which is important for him. The experience of viewing these motifs as large-format photos can, of course, only be conveyed in exhibitions.