In 1941, while in exile in Amsterdam Max Beckmann (1884–1950) created a series of prints on the Apocalypse according to St. John. Beckmann’s initial drafts (27 individual sheets) were transported secretly to Frankfurt, where lithographs were made of them. Beckmann then used watercolors to color one set of these printed illustrations. Long believed to have been lost, these prints recently resurfaced and were acquired by a Frankfurt collector.
Berlin-based artist Thomas Demand (born 1964) was prompted by Max Beckmann's colored apocalypse to take them as the starting point for a work of his own. While Beckmann explicitly refers over and above the Biblical text to the horrors of the Second World War, Demand resorts to an awful event in the most recent past. What interests Demand is less the actual event and more the notion and fantasies that were conveyed by the press photo coverage of the scene. First of all, the press photos attest to an interest in exploring the scene where it happened.
What counts for Demand are not the events themselves; instead, his subject is that diffuse shadowy existence the events have in the shadowy diffuse realm of our collective memory, i.e., the traces the events leave in the media, tracks that are blurred from the outset. Demand's photographic images of his models, themselves modeled after photographs, are thus from the outset based on loss, on the blurred memories of the events. The complex being shown at the invitation of the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst consists of five photographs. These present different aspects of a building at different points in time, each of which was relevant to the history of the edifice.