Headlight by Wolfgang Tillmans


Wolfgang Tillmans, Headlight (b), 2012. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz,

If you’ve ever gazed deeply into the mystic lens of even your average contemporary runabout, you may well have been struck by the odd beauty of car headlamps. If so, you’re in lofty company. Turner Prize winning artist and photographer Wolfgang Tillmans has recently presented a full size, technically exact, mysteriously beautiful detail of a car headlight lens as part of his current crop of (quite amazing) images.

For us, the image, presented here as a totem of high art despite its prosaic nature, whispers of a future that is actually here and being experienced now – on every street corner of the developed world. The fact that such an aesthetically pleasing, technically functional and near ubiquitous object is transformed into high art once you stick it in a gallery is nothing new.

Ever since 1917, when French surrealist nutter Marcel Duchamp put a urinal in a gallery to a world-wide scandalous response – common objects have been given the high culture treatment by being paid overt, focused attention by the art world.

This however, goes one step further. The image is completely and utterly realistic – and yet it has an amazing impact, apparently, on the viewer. We’re looking forward to seeing the picture up close and personal – but we love the irony of Tillmans’s focusing on something so utterly profane in the sacred space of an art gallery.