Rut Blees Luxemburg


  • Rut Blees Luxemburg
  • Area

    School of Arts & Humanities


    Reader in Urban Aesthetics

  • Rut Blees Luxemburg is reader in Urban Aesthetics at the Royal College of Art. Her work as an artist and photographer concerns the representation of the city and the phenomenon of the urban, combining several formats, ranging from large-scale photographic works, through public art installations and operatic mise-en-scène. Blees Luxemburg has been the subject of a monograph, Commonsensual,  which details projects including the opera, Liebeslied/My Suicides, devised with the philosopher Alexander Garcia Düttmann, and documents public art installations such as Caliban Towers, with muf architects, and Piccadilly’s Peccadilloes in Heathrow Airport. She is also responsible for the iconic cover for the The Streets’ Original Pirate Material.

  • Biography

  • Rut Blees Luxemburg studied Political Science in Duisburg, Germany, before attending the London College of Printing to complete her BA in Photography in 1993. She graduated with an MA in Photography from the University of Westminster in 1996.

    Her first monograph, London – A Modern Project, appeared in 1997 and included an essay by Michael Bracewell; it was followed by Liebeslied/My Suicides, with text by Alexander Garcia Düttmann in 2000. In 2004, the photobook, ffolly, with texts by Cerith Wyn Evans, Patrick Lynch, Douglas Park, was published by ffotoworks. The most comprehensive monograph on her work, Commonsensual, was published by Black Dog in 2009 and includes a critical essay by Regis Durand. In 2012, the Museum Simeonstift in Trier, Germany held a survey show of her work, Lustgarten.

    Rut Blees Luxemburg has exhibited widely throughout the UK, including the solo exhibition Phantom, a photographic exploration of Modernity’s imprint on the architecture of Dakar, Senegal, at Tate Liverpool in 2003. In 2007, she was commissioned to create a public art installation for the London Underground at Terminal 4, Heathrow Airport and produced a work titled, Piccadilly’s Peccadilloes.

    Rut Blees Luxemburg frequently contributes to a range of discursive platforms. In 2012 she was a guest on The Forum: Night - Friend or Foe, a programme produced by BBC World Service, while in 2013 she participated in the event, Photography and the Ethnographic Archive, at the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt.

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  • Practice

  • Selected Solo Exhibitions
    (2012–13) Lustgarten, Stadtmuseum Simeonstift, Trier, Germany  

    (2010) Black Sunrise, Galerie Dominique Fiat, Paris

    (2004) Liebeslied/My Suicides – An Opera, ICA, London

    (2003) Phantom, Tate Liverpool

    Selected Commissions

    (2008–2009) Normandie – voyages pittoresques, photographic commission by Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg, France

    (2007) Piccadilly’s Peccadilloes – Public art Installation in Heathrow Airport, commissioned by Platform for Art

    Selected Group Exhibitions


    Nouvelles Vagues, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France

    Scharf Belichtet, Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, Germany

    creation/destruction, Holden Gallery, Manchester

    Convulsive Walls, Departure Lounge, Luton


    My Battaille, Bruno Glint Gallery, London

    Dérives et des Rêves,  Utopian architectural practices and artists, Chateau d’Oiron, France

    Critical Dictionary, Work Gallery, London

    Observers, Photographers of the British Scene from the 1930’s to now, British Council exhibition, Galeria de Arte do Sesi, Sao Paulo, Brazil


    Haunting the Chapel: Photography and Dissolution, Galerie Daniel Blau, London

    Alias, Krakow Photomonth, Krakow, Poland

    New Narrative, Digital Arts Centre, Taipei, Taiwan 

    Veilleurs de nuit, Le Centre d’art de l’Yonne, Chateau Tanlay, France

    On the Ephemeral in photography, Hotshoe Gallery, London 


    Fototage, Museum Simeonstift, Trier, Germany 

    The City and The Stars, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland

    Le Havre Images sur commande, Musee Malraux, Le Havre, France


    elles @ centrepompidou, Centre Pompidou, Paris 

    Voyages pittoresques, Musée des Beaux-Arts Caen, France 

    Strange Places, Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston 

    Making Space, Royal Academy of Arts, London

    Shake it: An Instant History of the Polaroid, Pump House Gallery, London

    OPERA, film screening, Espai Liceu, Barcelona

    Auto, Sueno y Materia, LaBoral, Gijon and Dos de Mayo Art Centre, Madrid, Spain 

    Selected Publications

    Blees Luxemburg, R. (ed.) (forthcoming 2014) Science & Fiction, London: Black Dog

    Blees Luxemburg, R. (ed.) (2013) Waving Flags, (Photography and Translation), London: Black Dog

    Blees Luxemburg, R. (ed.) (2012) Seeing for Others, 2012, London: Black Dog

    Blees Luxemburg, R. (ed.) (2011) Hardcover – Image Perspectives, London: Black Dog


    Durand, R., Park, D. and García Düttman, A. (2009) Commonsensual: The Works of Rut Blees Luxemburg, London: Black Dog Publishing

    Lynch, P., Park, D. and Wyn Evans, C. (2003) ffolly, ffotogallery/Glynn Vivian

    García Düttmann, A. (1999) Liebeslied/My Suicides, London: Black Dog Publishing

    Bracewell, M. (1997) London – A Modern Project, London: Black Dog Publishing

    Selected Conferences, Talks and Debates

    Painting vs. Photography, Intelligence sq., Phillips de Pury, London, 2010

    Photography and the Practice of Walking, Urban Encounters, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2010

    The City and the Stars, STILLS Gallery, Edinburgh, May 2010

    National Photography Symposium, Derby, Keynote, 2010

    Rut Blees Luxemburg and David Campany in conversation, The Arts Institute, Bournemouth, 2010

    Photography and the Changing City, British Library, London, 2010

    Photography as Alternative Modernism, Architecture Foundation, London, 2009

    Photographie contemporaine with Michel Poivert, Le Point du Jour, Cherbourg, France, 2009

    Commonsensual, ArcSoc, University of Cambridge, 2009

    Pitfall and Potential: Image, art and the public, Symposium, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008

    Framing Duration: Contemporary Photographic Art and the City, Bargehouse, Kingston University, 2007

    Walking, strolling, passing, drifting, stalking, cruising and getting lost in the city as art, Artalk, Cyprus, 2007

    Cities & Photography, Tate Modern, 2006

    Blees Luxemburg's work has been widely written about, with recent scholarly treatments including:

    Campion, David (ed.) (2003) Art and Photography, London: Phaidon

    Grosenick, U. and Seelig, T. (eds) (2008) Photo Art - The new world of photography, London: Thames & Hudson

    Poivert, M. (2010) La Photographie Contemporaine, Paris: Flammarion

    Pontbriand, C. (2011) Perspectives On Photography, Germany: Steidl

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    • External collaborations

    • Black Dog Publishing, London

      Rut Blees Luxemburg edits a series of photography publications: an annual collaboration between the RCA Photography Programme and Black Dog Publishing, London. The publication investigates a conceptual conduit connected to photography and contemporary art practice. Its production connects students to an interdisciplinary framework that includes international philosophers, artists and theoreticians, such as Jean-Luc Nancy, Celine Conderelli and Simon Baker. The publication is distributed worldwide, providing the Photography programme at the RCA with a global platform.

      Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt

      Rut Blees Luxemburg has developed a group research project at the Weltkulturen Museum in conjunction with the Photography Programme of the Royal College of Art. Selected students,  Ph.d candiates and alumni as well as Professor Olivier Richon were researching in the museum’s object collection and photographic archive. The outcome of the group research was exhibited at the Weltkulturen Museum’s Green Room project space in 2013 under the title Scharf belichtet - Objects of desire in ethnographic collections. Selected works from the research project will be shown in a major exhibition opening at the Weltkulturen Museum in January 2014, entitled Foreign Exchange – field report from an ethnographic collection.   

      Architecture Review

      In 2009, Rut Blees Luxemburg wrote a monthly column about photography and space for the journal Architecture Review; amongst others, she wrote about the work of Hannah Collins, Karen Knorr, Steffi Klenz, Eva Stenram and Bromberg and Chanarin. 

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    Selected work


    Research interests

    Rut Blees Luxemburg works with large-format photography to investigate the relationship between public urban spaces and their contemporary representation. She is presently focusing on the understanding of iconoclasm as an alternative entry point for representation. The installation of the photographic work, beyond the constraints of the frame, is significant to her current research.

    Current and recent research

    London Dust

    London Dust (2011–13) is a series of photographs and a film that trace the rapid architectural transformation of the City of London. The photographs continue Blees Luxemburg’s on-going research into urban aesthetics and the representation of contemporary cities. Reflecting on the ‘lumicity’ of each location, the work projects the hidden tensions and desires that affect the shaping of the future city.

    Photographs from London Dust are featured in photomonitor with an essay by Blees Luxemburg titled ‘Space and Light’. Selected works were shown in the publication New Narrative at the Digital Art Center, Taipei (2011). Other exhibitions where this work has been shown include Dérives et des Rêves, Chateau d’Oiron, France (2012) which brought together the utopian architectural works of Archigram, OMA, Coop Himmelblau in relation to artists’ representation of future cities.

    Blees Luxemburg will present this research in a paper, ‘London Apex – Urban Photography between Construction and Vision’, as part of a symposium at the School of Architecture at the University of Frankfurt.

    Objects of Desire in an Ethnographic Collection – Research in the Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt

    The research investigated the Museum’s ethnographic collection and image archive, with Blees Luxembourg conducting fieldwork in its stores and archives. Historically, photography has played an important part in the representation of foreign cultures, and these photographic records speak of the complexities of the colonial, as well as the ethnographic, gaze. The group research analysed the different ways in which ‘tribal art’ and ethnographic objects have been staged in studio photography, as well as the systems and categories with which the Museum operates to store and accumulate its archive and collection. The exhibition focused on the research aspect of the investigation, and included work in progress, books and other related research materials.

    A further selection of the photographic works, made by Rut Blees Luxemburg  during her research, will be shown in the   exhibition Foreign Exchange – field report of an ethnographic collection at the Weltkulturen Museum in January 2014, accompanied by a publication with texts by ethnographers, historians and social anthropologists.


    Blees Luxemburg’s survey exhibition Lustgarten presented large-scale photographs exploring global cities such as London, Dakar, Santiago and New York. The work investigates how to develop an alternative reading of urban space, through focusing on mnemonic fragments and luminous compositions, which de-construct established representations of the urban realm.

    A catalogue, including texts in German and English by art historian Anne Hoffmann and sociologist Richard Sennett, was published in conjunction with the exhibition. 

    Blees Luxemburg developed the ideas that underpinned Lustgarten at conferences including: Yingxiang Today (Shadow Image), Fifth Annual Conference of CCVA, The Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing and China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China (2011); Photography and The City, University of Westminster, London (2011); Exhibiting Photography, International Conference, University of Westminster, London (2011); Photography and the Practice of Walking, Urban Encounters, Goldsmiths College London (2010). 


    This monograph is a comprehensive survey of the work of Rut Blees Luxemburg covering the period 1995-2009. Thematic passages reconfigure Blees Luxemburg’s practice and include the artists forays into opera and public art.   The title ‘Commonsensual’ refers to Blees Luxemburg’s interest into an understanding of the city that is formed by the sensory and sensual qualities of an urban perception, such as intensities of light, sensuality of surfaces and the proximity of the ground.  


    Research students