grotto installation by thomas demand at fondazione prada
grotto installation by thomas demand at fondazione prada grotto installation by thomas demand at fondazione prada
dec 12, 2015

grotto installation by thomas demand at fondazione prada

using 30 tons of grey cardboard, shaped by a computer and laid out to form a stratification with 900,000 sections, german artist thomas demand reproduced the rock chamber, stalactites and stalagmites of a grotto on the island of mallorca.


demand creates huge complex environments in cardboard, photographs them and then he destroys the models, as the digital image is THE art work. first shown by prada in venice in 2007, the italian fashion house persuaded him to make an exception and allow them to keep the grey cardboard sections. in fondazione prada‘s new arts complex designed by rem koolhaas / OMA, this grotto motif returns as ‘processo grottesco’ (grotesque process), for which demand also sets documentary materials including postcards, books, tour guides, catalogue illustrations, various advertisements and the massive reconstruction of the spanish grotto, alongside the artwork, the photograph ‘grotto’. 

thomas demand fondazione prada designboom 
the grotto is a sculpture which the artist worked for more than two years
image courtesy of fondazione prada (also main image)



in this manner, the artist allows visitors to explore the creative process that led to the realization of the photograph, opening a window onto the way the artwork has been transformed over the course of time through continuous investigation. the grotto theme is a recurring subject in the history of art and architecture, and implies a provocative, bizarre approach, typical of painting techniques of the 1500s known as ‘grottesca’ (grotesque).

thomas demand’s processo grotto, a single permanent installation, first shown by prada in venice in 2007
image courtesy of fondazione prada



one of the characteristic elements of ‘processo grottesco’ is the use of virtual computer technology, which demand employed for the first time ever to cut, following a 3D model, the various layers of cardboard used to create the three dimensional reconstruction. in this permanent installation, the use of a highly technological instrument makes it possible to imitate nature, thanks to its accelerated deciphering and natural stratifications that have developed incredibly slowly over a long period of time.

exhibition view of the 36-ton cardboard model he constructed for the monumental photograph
image © designboom



the ‘grotesque process’ is animated by a contrast that informs demand’s representation of reality, as the artist is in turn inspired by a real place that is ultimately revealed as an ‘unreal’, perhaps even surreal, space thanks to its subterranean, mysterious and disturbing connotations; exalted in this definitive work on the underground level of fondazione prada’s cinema.

exhibition view
image © designboom

exhibition view
image courtesy of fondazione prada

exhibition view
image © designboom

in 2006, thomas demand used a postcard as the starting point to recreate a grotto on the island mallorca
image courtesy of fondazione prada

image © designboom

graphic analysis of caves by thomas demand
image © designboom

the various layers of cardboard used to create the three dimensional reconstruction
image © designboom

sketch by thomas demand, 2005
image © designboom


    have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
    all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

    comments policy
    LOG IN
    designboom's comment policy guidelines
    generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
    the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

    what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
    let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

    - please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
    - please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
    - please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
    - please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
    - please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
    (there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
    in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
    the best 100-200 entries too.)

    a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


    a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

    art news

    keep up with our daily and weekly stories
    492,661 subscribers
    - see sample
    - see sample