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M Leuven present's Thomas Demand's House of Card
Thomas Demand, dunnock, 2020. © the artist, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

LEUVEN.- Is architecture a subject in the oeuvre of Thomas Demand? Or is it rather a system within his work, aimed at shaping space? These questions lie at the heart of HOUSE OF CARD. For the first time, this exhibition explicitly places architecture in relation to the artistic practice of Thomas Demand. It provides an overview of his different approaches to building over the past 15 years. Demand's works focus on the model, the décor or scenography, although his buildings are also inextricably linked to architecture. At the same time, House of Card highlights the similarities between Demand's projects and those of other artists or architects such as Martin Boyce, Arno Brandlhuber, Caruso St John and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

The title refers to the precariousness of Demand's practice as a builder. Whereas architecture generally equates with permanence, Demand prefers to explore the limits of the ephemeral, as is evidenced in his use of paper and cardboard. It is with these materials that Demand, in his studio, recreates full-scale models from found media images: generally witnesses of important events from a recent past. He records these models on camera and subsequently destroys them. Demand's final photographic images exhibit no traces of time or the building process; in this way they deliberately create distance in relation to the photographs they are supposed to depict.

The exhibition centres on Demand’s ongoing series of “Model Studies,” works in which the concept of the model takes a central place as the space between creative idea and execution. In “Model Studies,” Demand abandons his usual practice. Here, for the first time, he does not photograph his own self-built scale models, but rather those of other artists, architects and designers, including John Lautner, SANAA (Kazuyo Sejima + Ryue Nishizawa), Hans Hollein and Azzedine Alaïa.

In addition to his series of “Model Studies,” the exhibition provides an overview of Demand’s interest and involvement in architecture of the past 15 years. It presents several rarely exhibited projects, such as Black Label from 2009, Embassy from 2007 (a collaboration with the German architect Arno Brandlhuber), Nagelhaus from 2010 (a non-realized project in collaboration with Caruso St John), and the Kvadrat pavilions, designed by Demand and currently under construction in Ebeltoft, Denmark.

The exhibition is curated by Valerie Verhack.

On the occasion of the exhibition, a new publication will be published by M Leuven and MACK, in a design by Julie Peeters. The book contains essays by Maristella Casciato & Emily Pugh, Aude-Line Dulière, Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Valerie Verhack and Adam Caruso, and a conversation between Thomas Demand, Hal Foster and David Chipperfield. In addition, Martin Boyce, Arno Brandlhuber and Rirkrit Tiravanija made visual contributions to the book.

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