Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf was born in 1954 in Munich, Germany. He works and lives in Hong Kong and Paris.

Michael Wolf is known for his large-format architectural photos of Chicago and primarily of Hong Kong, where he has lived for more than 15 years. His series „Backdoor" is a surprising and at times shocking visual journey through the narrow streets and urban wastelands of one of the most densely populated corners of the world. Wolf captures the lives and living conditions of his neighbours through the traces they leave on the city's dense architecture and dark back alleys. He explores the idiosyncratic ways that Hong Kong’s residents adapt to their environment and improvise within their urban locale. It’s a humanistic tribute to the ingenuity of city-dwellers.

Big cities can sometimes seem like immense visual abstractions. The jam-packed juxtapositions of diverse styles of architecture — all compressed into dense overlapping vertical spaces — can be seen as things of rare, man-made beauty. These soaring glass-walled environments also invite a sometimes perverse delight in voyeurism. Michael Wolf’s series The Transparent City captures both of these aspects nearly perfectly in his recent photographic study of downtown Chicago. Wolf positions himself on rooftops or in the windows of opposite buildings to achieve the most amazing vantage points for each scene. He waits for perfect light at the time of day when twilight and interior light render the building walls nearly invisible.

Wolf’s work has been exhibited in numerous locations, including the Architecture Biennale, Venice; Aperture Gallery, New York; Museum Centre Vapriikki, Tampere, Finland; Museum for Work, Hamburg; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; the Hong Kong Shenzhen Biennial and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. His work is held in many permanent collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum; the San Jose Museum of Art, California; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Museum Folkwang, Essen and the German Museum for Architecture, Frankfurt.


Studied with Otto Steinert at the Folkwang Academy in Essen Werden, Germany

Selected solo exhibitions


„Life in cities“ Fotomuseum Den Haag / Les Rencontres d’Arles, Arles, France


„Informal solutions“ MOTi Museum, Breda, Netherlands

„Informal solutions“ Michael Wolf's studio / Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong, China

„Paris Rooftops“ Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, Canada


„Paris Rooftops“ m9 Project Space, Shanghai, China

„Blind Walls and Night Trees“ Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen, Amsterdam, Netherlands

„Hong Kong Narratives“ Michael Wolf's studio / Blue Lotus Gallery, Hong Kong, China

„Hong Kong Inside Outside“ Tin Shed Gallery, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


„Urban Spirit“ Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland

„Paris Abstract“ Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, United States

„My favorite thing“ Wouter van Leeuwen Galerie, Amsterdam, Netherlands

„Hong Kong Flora“ Michael Wolf's studio / Blue Lotus Gallery, Hongkong, China

„Architecture Of Density“ Flowers Gallery, London, Great Britain

„The real toy story“ K11 Art Foundation, Shanghai, China

„Small God, Big City“ M97 Gallery, Shanghai, China
„Industrial Architecture“ M97 Gallery, Shanghai, China

„Transparent City“ Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto, Canada
„Architecture Of Density“ X Bienal de Arquitetura, Sao Paulo, Brazil
„Tokyo compression“ Rencontres Gaspesie, Canada 

„Small god, big city“ 25books, Berlin, Germany
„Architecture of Density / the scout shots & small god, big city“ Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen, Amsterdam, Netherlands

„Street View Portraits“ Galerie Wouter van Leeuwen, Amsterdam, Netherlands
„Total City“ Ivam Institut d’Art Modern, Valencia, Spain
Hong Kong And Shenzhen Biennial of Urbanism/Architecture, Hong Kong, China
„Portraits Of Cantonese Opera Singers“ Bamboo Theater, Museum M+, Hong Kong, China

„Life in Cities“ Christophe Guye Gallerie, Zurich, Switzerland
„Untitled Flowers“ London, Great Britain
„Real Fake Art / Tokyo Compression Revisited“ 25 Books, Berlin, Germany
SH Contemporary, Shanghai, China
„Metropolis“ Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, United States
„I’m Watching You“ Elipsis Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey
„Fear In The City“ Monnaie De Paris, France
„Tokyo Compression“ Forum für Fotografie, Cologne, Germany

„Hong Kong Corner Houses“ Upper Station Street Gallery, Hong Kong
„We Are Watching You“ La Galerie Particulière, Paris, France
Gallery Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium
„Tokyo Compression“ 25 Books, Berlin, Germany
„Iseeyou“ Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York, United States
„Life In Cities“ M97 Gallery, Shanghai, China
Venice Biennale Of Architecture, Venice, Italy
Art HK 2010, Hong Kong, China
„Paris Street View“ Curated by Foam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Goethe Institute Hong Kong, China

„Transparent City“ Aperture Gallery, New York, United States
„Metropolis“ La Galerie Particulière, Paris, France
„Aipad“ The Photography Show – New York, United States
„Transparent City“ Gallery Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium
„Transparent City & Architecture of Density“ Entropy Art, Naples, Italy
The Armory Show, Modern, New York, United States

„Transparent City“ Museum for Contemporary Photography, Chicago, United States
„Butterfly Dream“ Shanghai Moca Envisage Ii Moca, Shanghai, China
„Translocalmotion“ Shanghai Biennale, China
Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai, China
„Hong Kong Back Door“ Lumenvisum Gallery, Hong Kong, China
„Heritage“ Hong Kong Corner Houses Goethe Institute, Hong Kong, China
„Real Fake Pictures & Architecture of Density“ Galerie Wouter Van Leeuwen, Amsterdam, Netherlands

„Pieces of China“ A Retrospective of Michael Wolf’s China Projects Museum Center Vapriikki, Tampere, Finland
„Two Photographers in Dialog. Michael Wolf's 'Architecture of Density' & Stephen Canhams 'Traveling Gypsie’s Homes'“ Hallische Gallerien, Dresden, Germany
„China Projects“ Gallery M97, Shanghai, China
„Fake – Portraits of Chinese Copy Art“ Goethe Institute, Hong Kong, China

„Architecture Of Density / China Copy Artists“ Gallery Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium
„Hong Kong Front Door Back Door“ German Museum For Architecture, Frankfurt, Germany
„100 x100“ Gallery of the Goethe Institute, Hong Kong
Daegu Photo Biennale, Korea
„Architecture of Density“ 798 Photo Gallery, Beijing, China
„Architecture of Density / 100 x 100“ Gallery Laif, Cologne, Germany
„The Real Toy Story“ Museum For Work, Hamburg, Germany
„Architecture Of Density“ Janet Oh Gallery, Seoul, Korea
Hasted-Hunt Gallery, New York, United States
1918 Artspace, Shanghai, China
„Sitting in China“ Kap Forum, Cologne, Germany

„Hong Kong front door/back door“ Gallery Colette, Paris, France
„useful, cute and collected“ the photographed animal Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
„Architecure of Density“ Ping Yao photography Festival, Ping Yao, China

„The real Toy Story“ John Batten Gallery, Hong Kong, China
„Hong Kong the back Door“ Hong Kong art walk, Hong Kong, China
„Architecture of Density“ Bryant Park during New York Fashion Week, New York, United States

„Portraits of Chinese People“ John Batten Gallery, Hong Kong, China
„Sitting in China“ Kestner Museum, Hannover, Germany
„Images against War“ Galerie Lichtblick, Cologne ,Germany

„Otto Steinert and Students“ Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany

„Neighborhoods“ Eugene Richards/Michael Wolf, Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany

„Portraits of Craftsmen in Essen“ curated by ute Eskildsen, room 315 of the University of Essen, Germany

Selected group exhibitions


„Photography and Contemporary Experience“ Portland Art Museum, Portland, United States

„In and/or Out: Seiichi Furuya and Michel Wolf“ Grisebach, Düsseldorf, Germany

„The Soul of Money“ DOX centre for contemporary art, Prag, Czech Republic


„Digital Conditions“ Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover, Germany

„Words Matter“ Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco, United States


„Urban Spirit“ Christophe Guye Galerie, Zurich, Switzerland

„Icones“ Musée des beaux-arts de Liège, Belgium
„Architecture of density“ x bienal de arquitetura, Sao Paulo, Brazil,
„Tokyo compression“ recontres gaspesie, Canada,
„small god, big city“ 25books, Berlin Germany

„Privat“ Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany
„Von Sinnen: Wahrnehmung in der Zeitgenoessischen Kunst“ Kunsthalle Zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany
„Public: Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces“ The Museum Of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, Canada
„Making History“ Frankfurter Kunstverein, Franfurt, Germany
„The Near and Elsewhere“ PM Gallery, London, Great Britain
WEF, Davos, Switzerland

Prix Pictet: Growth Fotodoks, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich, Germany
„Infinite Balance: Artists and the Environment“  Museum Photographic Arts, San Diego, United States
„Cities: Visionary Places“ Torrance Art Museum, Los Angeles, United States
„Metropolis. City Life In The Urban Age“ Noorderlicht Photo Festival, Groningen, Netherlands
Sifest #20 Savignano Immagini, Savignana sul Rubicone, Italy
„Hail Traveler!“ Rick Wester Fine Art, New York, United States
NY Temporary: The City through Photography, Film & Video Muse Center of Photography, New York, United States
Street Photography Now Uno Art Space, Stuttgart, Germany

Street Photography Now Contributed, Berlin, Germany
„Renversements De Faits“ Abstractions Photographiques Le Château d’eau, Toulouse, France
Street Photography Now Third Floor Gallery, Cardiff, Great Britain
Alles Wieder Anders Ruhr Museum, Essen, Germany
Bredaphoto, Breda, The Netherlands
„Meer“ Voorkamer, Lier, Belgium
„City Flâneur“ Social Documentary Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong, China
„From The Vanishing Point – Demolished Public Housing Estates In Hong Kong“ 1a Space, Hong Kong, China
The New York Photo Festival, New York, United States
„Index 1.0“ Gallery Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium
„Homelesshome“ Museum On The Seam, Jerusalem, Israel

„Cities – Places Visionaires“ Group Auditorium Arte, Rome, Italy
„The Bare Necessity of Art“ Etherton Gallery, Tucson, United States
„Parallax“ M97 Gallery, Shanghai, China
„Landscape as Dream“ Studio La Citta, Verona, Italy

China Design Now Victoria And Albert Museum, London, Great Britain
„Eastern Standard, Western Artists In China“ Mass Moca, North Adams, United States

Bac! Centre De Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
„Facades“ Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, United States
Contemporary Art from the Permanent Collection San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, United States
Ulisphotofest 2007 Ulisphotofest, Istanbul, Turkey

Shanghai Biennale, Artspace 1918, Shanghai, China
„Made in China“ Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, United States

„Truth! Photography’s Promise of Reality“ Ruhrland Museum, Essen Germany

„Post Chicago“ Gallery 400, University of Illinois, Chicago United States

„Peking Shanghai Shenzhen: Cities of the 21st Century“ Bauhaus Museum, Dessau, Germany

„Wie lebt man im Ruhrgebiet“ Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany


World press photo, 1st prize, ‘Daily Life’

World press photo, 1st prize, ‘Contemporary Issues stories’


Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, United States
The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, New York, New York, United States
San Jose Museum of Art San Jose, California, United States
Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Microsoft Corp, Art Collection, Redmond, Washington, United States
German Museum for Architecture, Frankfurt, Germany