Florian Reinhardt

Fotograf, Deutschland

Durch seinen Beruf als TV-Produzent und Regisseur von non-fiktionalen und fiktionalen Stoffen rast Florian Reinhardt in einem atemberaubenden Tempo durch die Welt. In den Metropolen der Kontinente sind ihm dabei die verschiedensten Exit-Schilder aufgefallen, die er seit 16 Jahren fotografiert und die zu seinem Markenzeichen geworden sind. Sie sollen die Möglichkeit symbolisieren, in einer immer fremdbestimmteren Welt, in der man funktionieren muss, Sachen ganz bestimmt los zu lassen. Es gibt immer eine Möglichkeit, einfach einmal inne zu halten und auch Dinge bewusst zu beenden, um sein Leben so zu gestalten, wie man das möchte. Seine erste EXIT-Strategie traf der in Köln lebende Künstler mit 19 Jahren, als er anstatt Regie zu studieren direkt anfing, Filme zu produzieren und als Regisseur zu arbeiten.

Durch den berühmten Kunsthändler Rudolf Budja, der sein Interesse an den EXIT-Fotografien bekundete, katapultierte der Künstler förmlich aus dem Nichts in den internationalen Kunstmarkt. Seine Werke werden in Miami, New York und Salzburg ausgestellt.

„Most ideas that are successful are ludicrously simple. Successful ideas generally have the appearance of simplicity because they seem inevitable.” Sol Lewitt, Paragraphs on Conceptual Art Snaps of exit signs: deliberately affectless, depersonalized, repetitious. Ubiquitous snapshots, that became the most common type of photography, have developed in contemporary art into a coherent pictoral strategy featuring the sensory presence of everyday life. Florian Reinhardt has shot, over a period of almost 10 years, altogether 1024 exit signs from all over the world.

He photographs with the iPhone camera: a spontaneous gesture, not planned and not staged, always emerging from a specific situation. He refuses to use any different camera than that of a smartphone, since for him the act of snapping a photo needs to be impulsive and at the spur of the moment. The majority of the signs are shown as close-ups, with no further references in the background – they deprive the viewer of any sense of scale or cultural reference to the environment since exit signs have become global, regardless of a country’s language. In a world overwhelmed by signs, Reinhardt focuses and delivers the view of an inverted telescope on mundane and omni-present signifiers of daily life. These signifiers, be they exit signs, words, arrows, circles, squares or pictograms, are universally understandable. In his present series, Reinhardt universalizes exit signs, framing their type as if they were specimens pinned onto a card.

In this context, the Exit series is to be understood as a reception of both Ed Ruscha’s proto-conceptual approach to photography and of Duchamp’s appropriationism. All three artists apply the iconoclastic principle of Dada by displaying images of so-called readymades: industrially-manufactured objects shown with no alteration. This form of transgression and appropriation of everyday objects was most prominently employed in pop art. Reinhardt’s collages of 25 images as a direct reflection on Warhol’s genre of multiplied and repeated portraits, which he referred to as the ‘assembly line effect’.

However, Reinhardt takes the abstraction of Warhol’s critical reflection on uniqueness even further, by using identical images. Reinhardt’s exit signs, seemingly objectively accumulated without a conscious imposition of artistic selection or hierarchy, are unlike Ruscha’s series a narrative character, and are thus subjective and breaking the boundaries of documentary and dipping into conceptual art. The photographs are complex and layered: over the affectless, depersonalized, repetitious of never-ending industrial exit-signs comes the narrative layer of the contextual physical act of photographing the images.

Each exit signs corresponds to an exit situation, narrating a particular moment in time, of instances of being physically present, but mentally not. As a consequence, Reinhardt’s photography is not only an archive of readymades in a Duchampian sense but also an archive of subjectiveness as formulated by Theodor Adorno’s notion of mimesis.

On this conceptual basis, Reinhardt decided – in cooperation with curator Anne Avramut – to design the exit series globally and participatory: in the course of the exhibition at the Rudolf Budja Gallery a platform will go online on his homepage (www.exit.art), where everyone is able to upload his/her own exit sign photographs and inherent story and whereby these collective means an Encyclopedia of Exit will come into existence. Florian Reinhardt works all over the world and lives in Cologne.

Grew up with his mother and two sisters in a rural area near Koblenz, Germany. At an early age he began a career as a competitive athlete with the goal of becoming a tennis professional. At the age of 18 he made his first EXIT and ended this project. He finished school, refused military service and moved to Bristol, England, to study ‚Creative Music Technology‘ at Bath Spa University, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts.

For several years he gained experience as a sound engineer in the context of commercial record productions in order to later deal increasingly with sound design and film scoring. In 2009 he moved to Cologne, Germany, and joined a TV production company. There he composed series and commercial film music and set up a post-production department. His focus was increasingly on moving image processing and as a result, he was significantly involved in the design and production of a large number of successful German TV projects until spring 2020. With the advent of the corona pandemic, he left the production company and Cologne. Since then he has lived and worked on a friend’s sailing boat and traveled the world‘s seas. Change of perspective. EXIT.“


“What you see are my stories and my development — as an artist and as a person. I started photographing details and signs about 20 years ago as a spontaneous, compulsive action rooted within – for me, taking a snap is like breathing: it’s about the instinct and the inevitability. There is a certain reflective solace in focusing on small details, on signs everybody sees, but no one recognizes. ‘Exit’ is one of these omnipresent signs we automatically overlook.

For me EXIT means to live in the here and now, a reminder that it is always your conscious decision either to stay in the moment or leave. In a world that is increasingly alienating the individual with its speed, looking and actually seeing details is a form of grounding oneself. The photographs happen in the moment, I always shoot with my iPhone: I see a sign, I recognize it, I relate to it and I capture it in a matter of seconds. All my EXIT signs are connected to a story, an experience I had in that moment and a lesson I learned.

Exit is a way of opting out of unavoidable situations, physically present – mentally not. My pieces for Exit are the story of how I grew as a person and I want to give everyone the opportunity to reflect on their own EXIT moments, experiences, and lessons. In doing so I want to open up the possibility of relating more to each other as people, which in the end is the ultimate scope of art. “

Florian Reinhardt lives and works in Cologne, Germany.