From Functional to Conceptual: The Influence of Bernd and Hilla Becher

One of the most significant items from the Bill Diodato collection is a suite of 12 Industrial Facades photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher, the German artists known for their images of industrial buildings. Their work, typically grouped by subject and presented in a grid, was a tremendous influence on Minimalism and Conceptual Art. Diodato himself reflects that their work, “moved me in their formal scientific approach and their notion of the photograph-as-record. I never get tired of looking at their work.”

The auction also features a copy of the Bechers’ 1970 book Anonyme Skulpturen, Eine Typologie technischer Bauten [A Typology of Technical Constructions].

The Bechers, a husband-and-wife team, captured architectural forms throughout northern Europe and the U.S., which they referred to as “anonymous sculpture.” Their extensive series of water towers, blast furnaces, coal mine tipples and other vernacular industrial architectural sites comprise an in-depth study of the intricate relationship between form and function, a principle that has dominated modernity since the 1920s. 

Another Becher title is Typologien Typologies.

Their distinct signature style relies on a frontal depiction of a building or structure against a cloudless sky. Using a large-format (film) view camera for absolute clarity and precision, each unit is centered in the picture frame and printed in a neutral tone. The cool objectivity of the pictures recalls the dynamic visual presentations of engineers.

Diodato’s copy of Fabrikhallen is signed by the Bechers.

The Bechers taught at the Arts Academy of Düsseldorf, in Germany, where they influenced Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer and Thomas Ruth. Since her husband’s death, Hilla Becher has continued to photograph and exhibit their work.