Tillmans actually had his MoMA debut in the '90s, as one of seven artists featured in New Photography 12 – an interaction of MoMA’s series introducing up-and-coming artists making significant development in photography. Furthermore, in 2006 he exhibited Freedom From The Known at MoMA PS1, and MoMA’s collection has featured some of his work several times. To Look without Fear is a tremendous exhibition occupying eleven rooms at the museum’s sixth floor, it is his largest exhibition to date.
Between 2012-2013 Tillmans held his then largest exhibition at The Contemporary Modern Museum of Stockholm, Sweden, in collaboration with Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Exactly a decade after that, The Museum of Modern Art MoMA in New York, repeats the exhibition with the obvious enhancements and new work added by the artist through this period. As a matter of fact, the exhibition will take place at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto between April to October and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from November 2023.
Tillmans studied in London where he had the opportunity to contribute to some A-list media including Interview Magazine, Spex, and i-D. He documented Europride, London and Berlin techno club and nightlife, and he also was commissioned portraying actors and musicians such as Morrissey, Damon Albarn, Phillip Glass, Miss Kittin, Richie Hawtin, John Waters, Kate Moss, and Chloë Sevigny. He pays particular attention to nuances of “pose, expression, and context” (Artbook D.A.P 2022).
Tillmans contracted HIV at the age of 26, his boyfriend the German artist Jochen Klein, died from AIDS in 1997. It is known Tillmans’ respect for life and its vulnerability. To Look Without Fear is perhaps his advice to an American audience, his gentle approach to the mainstream to declare there is nothing to be afraid of, we are different individuals, we are vulnerable, humans are beautiful and there are many great things around us to enjoy their beauty and the harmony in life.
Hence the exhibition thought eleven rooms blended several photographic genres including documentary image, portrait, snapshots, astrology, still life, fine art explorations. Furthermore, the unconventional exhibition’s structure and viewership has his work hanged on the walls in different sizes, collage-like presentation where nothing is framed – perhaps another analogy to blur any boundaries in life – rejecting the usual high-end photography presentation and conveying his own architectural vision of it, connecting images with his own strategy and storytelling, “for re-thinking traditional hierarchies and developing new directions that are foundational to the contemporary art,” as Glenn D. Lowry, The David Rockefeller director at MoMA explains on his foreword to the exhibition.