Archive for the 'African photography' Category

12
Nov
22

Exhibition: ‘Samuel Fosso: The Man with a Thousand Faces’ at The Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Burlafingen, Germany

Exhibition dates: 29th May – 20th November 2022

Curators: Clothilde Morette, Iheanyi Onwuegbucha, and Clara Stratmann

 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) '70's Lifestyle' 1974-1978 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
70’s Lifestyle
1974-1978

 

 

“Samuel Fosso was only 13 years old when he started his own photography studio in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, in September 1975. The previous year, he had carried out a five-month-long apprenticeship with a local photographer, thanks to the support of his uncle’s wife… [his uncle] bought him a large camera in Cameroon and agreed to open a photography studio for him. Fosso named it Studio Photo National, to reflect how the Central African Republic had gained independence from France in 1960.” (Press release)

In the evening, his commercial work complete, he would finish off a Kodak roll by taking staged self-portraits. Can you imagine being a precocious 13 year-old, running your own commercial studio, and then at the end of the day creating sets and costumes and taking on roles to reflect his interest in African and Black American style. As a young man he is finding his own identity through pose and play. “Using the camera as a mirror, he takes on and explores various roles. It’s a game of trying on identities that is familiar to teenagers in particular the world over, a game we play in an attempt to find ourselves, or rather to construct an individual identity.”1 It’s not just playing dress ups or charades: the photographs are an exciting investigation into the desire to find oneself, as an artist and as a human being. Whom am I, who can I be in this life?

Fast forward 20 years or so, and “Tati, the French, low-budget department store, commissioned Fosso, as well as the eminent Malian photographers Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé, to make a group of self-portraits recreating the African photo-studio environment. Upon learning that Keïta and Sidibé had already made their pictures in black-and-white, Fosso asked if he could make his in colour. His goal was to take a new direction in his work and capture a different mood from the images associated with African photography.” (press release) Fosso’s goal was to register a different mood of the African imagination, and not the images that were already associated with African photography.

This is where it takes the courage of your own convictions, an inherent sense of your creativity as an artist, and respect for yourself as a human being … to strike out and do something different from everyone else, to recognise the chance of taking a different path, to use your imagination to create something fresh and new. Fosso understood this was a crossroads in his life. He could carry on down the same path as Keïta and Sidibé or he could take a chance and strike out on his own, to create “a unique and long-term photographic project that critically and playfully examines identity, sexuality, gender, and African self-representation” through “self-portraiture and performative photography, transforming his body and envisioning compelling variations of postcolonial African identities.”

Fosso was on his way. More insightful series followed which reflect the artist’s personal and artistic trajectory and global politics, which oscillate between personal introspection and collective narratives: reenacting historical photos of pan-African liberation and civil rights movement leaders and celebrities, performing an imaginary Black Pope, embodying Mao Zedong in the series Emperor of Africa which highlights the neo-colonial relationship between China and debt-ridden African countries, and posing as members of the French colonial military sporting uniforms from the First and Second World War.

“By centering himself in performative photographic processes, Fosso’s ideas transcend mere self-representation or self-reflection to encompass explorations of what Okwui Enwezor called “self-constituted theatre of postcolonial identity.” In this “theatre,” there is a manifestation of the paradox of guise and masking, where Fosso does not attempt to recreate an individual but the idea of that person as “characters in a larger human drama.”” (press release)

By placing himself at the centre of the theatre of postcolonial identity, and at the centre of (sometimes tragic) human dramas, the artist acts (it being theatre), and performs as a prosopopoeia (Greek) which is a rhetorical device (one which conveys a meaning with the goal of persuading the viewer towards considering a topic from a perspective), in which the artist communicates to the audience by speaking as another person. The term literally derives from the Greek roots prósopon “face, person”, and poiéin “to make, to do;”. Prosopopoeiae are used mostly to give another perspective on the action being described.2

Fosso is both himself and the Black Pope; Fosso is himself and he is also the Chairman. Indeed, Fosso offers a complex conceptual framework in order / in disorder, to understand alternative histories of postcolonial identity. What if there was a Black Pope? What if the Chinese bankroll the finances of African governments and then make them subservient to the will of the Chinese government? How are the privileges of colonial occupation and disenfranchisement being played out on Black bodies and Black cultures even to this day?

Through his different personas the artist allows himself to perform what would otherwise be hidden from view, crossing the threshold between reality and fiction. Crossing such a threshold through performative photography and ritual, “makes possible the emergence of a space of play which asserts that the world does not express a determinate and final order but is infinitely open to the emergence of new… forms of self-organization”3

New forms of identity that critique colonial and world histories. In this sense, Fosso is saying that African creativity and representation matters.

“So, when you ask me why I privilege my self-portraits, I believe the answer is rooted in the condition of my life and the meaning of self-representation.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Anonymous. Press release from the exhibition Ladies and Gentlemen: The Camera as a Mirror at the Moderna Museet, Malmö, Sweden, February – April 2012. Press release
  2. See Anonymous. “Prosopopoeia,” on the Wikipedia website Nd [Online] Cited 12/11/2022
  3. Massie, Pascal. “Masks and the Space of Play,” in Research in Phenomenology Vol. 48, No. 1 (Feb 2018), p. 119. Abstract. Brill publishers.

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Many thankx to The Walther Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All images Courtesy of The Walther Collection.

 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) '70's Lifestyle' 1974-1978 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
70’s Lifestyle
1974-1978

 

 

“My initial encounter with photographic images outside of the Central African Republic was purely through pictures in magazines, brought by young American Peace Corps volunteers who came to the Central African Republic to visit Pygmies. I was especially excited by the images of the African Americans and their sense of style. I was also very much taken with the style of the popular singer and musician Prince Nico Mbarga, who was very hot around West Africa in 1976 and 1977 with his record Sweet Mother. I wanted to replicate these two stylistic approaches in the studio with me, posing as a model.”

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) '70's Lifestyle' 1974-1978 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
70’s Lifestyle
1974-1978

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) '70's Lifestyle' 1974-1978 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
70’s Lifestyle
1974-1978

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) '70's Lifestyle' 1974-1978 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
70’s Lifestyle
1974-1978

 

 

Samuel Fosso was only 13 years old when he started his own photography studio in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, in September 1975. The previous year, he had carried out a five-month-long apprenticeship with a local photographer, thanks to the support of his uncle’s wife. Acknowledging his nephew’s precocious talent, Fosso’s uncle, a cobbler with whom he was living, bought him a large camera in Cameroon and agreed to open a photography studio for him. Fosso named it Studio Photo National, to reflect how the Central African Republic had gained independence from France in 1960.

Besides photographing families and friends and taking people’s passport photos, he captured popular occasions, weddings, baptisms and ceremonies. In the evening, his commercial work complete, he would finish off a Kodak roll by taking staged self-portraits. “If I hadn’t finished the film, I used the last two or three for my own account, and I benefited from that to make my own works,” says Fosso when we meet at the home of his long-standing agent, Jean-Marc Patras, in Paris.

There were two other reasons why Fosso became impassioned about photography. One was that he desperately wanted to send photographs of himself to his grandmother in Nigeria. “Whenever I would make my self-portraits, I would send one picture to my grandmother to reassure her that everything was going well for me and keep one for myself,” Fosso says. The other reason is linked to his early infancy. Born in 1962 in Kumba, south-western Cameroon, to Nigerian parents of Igbo ethnicity, Fosso was born partly paralysed. His mother took him to Nigeria – where his grandfather was a ‘native doctor’, or ‘priest healer’ – to be cured, so he could walk normally. He remained there with his grandparents during the Biafran War, during which time his mother died. After the war ended, his uncle collected him and the pair returned to Cameroon for one year before moving to Bangui.

Fosso had missed out on the tradition of being photographed as a three-month-old baby due to his health condition. In an interview with the late Okwui Enwezor (the influential Nigerian-born curator, for a forthcoming Steidl monographic book, Samuel Fosso: Autoportrait), Fosso recounts: “Even though my mother believed I was a normal child, despite the fact that I was paralysed, there was still no photograph commissioned, even after one year, because my father did not see the need to waste money on a paralysed child. So, when you ask me why I privilege my self-portraits, I believe the answer is rooted in the condition of my life and the meaning of self-representation.”

As if to compensate for what had been denied to him, Fosso began asserting his identity and marking his presence, existence and vitality for life by experimenting with self-portraiture, nurturing the freedom this offered. It is a selection of these seminal photographs, titled Autoportrait/Self-portrait from 70s Lifestyle (1975-1978), made between the ages of 13-16… They show the young, slim-framed Fosso striking poses in front of theatrical backdrops and wearing elegant outfits made by a local tailor with fabrics he had purchased. In one image, Fosso – dressed in a white shirt, dark flared trousers and patterned jacket – is bowing slightly, a smile across his face, as if imagining that he is about to meet someone. In others, he has gloved hands on his hips, sporting just a pair of underpants, or he dons tasselled trousers and high-heeled boots.

For inspiration for his looks, Fosso would peruse catalogues, magazines and album covers. “I used American magazines, especially photos of black musicians like James Brown, and showed the magazine pictures to the tailor,” he recalls. “During the colonial years, [African] ministers were obliged to wear a suit and tie, so I chose to make seven photos of me wearing suits like the French. I would also design the décor.” Providing an insight into Fosso’s studio, the photographs show a large picture of Bangui on the wall and several curtains being used for backgrounds. They also offer a social commentary about modern life in Bangui during the post-independence years. Coincidentally, Fosso was making these works at the same time as Cindy Sherman was developing her Murder Mystery series (1976) and Bus Riders (1976) in New Jersey before her iconic Untitled Film Stills (1977-1980). In a similar vein, Fosso was becoming his own director and character, developing his form of self-expression.

Anna Sansom. “Me, Myself & I,” on the 1854 photography website 3 May 2020 [Online] Cited 23/10/2022

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) '70's Lifestyle' 1974-1978

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
70’s Lifestyle
1974-1978

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) '70's Lifestyle' 1974-1978 

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
70’s Lifestyle
1974-1978

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'La femme américaine libérée des années 70' (The Liberated American Woman of the 1970s) 1997

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
La femme américaine libérée des années 70 (The Liberated American Woman of the 1970s)
1997
From the series Tati

 

 

“That’s how my Tati series (1997) began, because I did not want to go back to the black-and-white style as Keïta and Sidibé had done for their Tati commissions. Since there were three African photographers, I wanted my project to register a different mood of the African imagination, and not the images that were already associated with African photography. My goal was to take a new direction in my work.”

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Le Rocker' (The Rocker) 1997

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Le Rocker (The Rocker)
1997
From the series Tati

 

 

Three years later, Tati, the French, low-budget department store, commissioned Fosso, as well as the eminent Malian photographers Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé, to make a group of self-portraits recreating the African photo-studio environment. Upon learning that Keïta and Sidibé had already made their pictures in black-and-white, Fosso asked if he could make his in colour. His goal was to take a new direction in his work and capture a different mood from the images associated with African photography.

In each photograph in the Tati (1997) series, Fosso changes like a chameleon, masquerading as various figures, exploring issues around gender and stereotypes. His image titled The Chief (the one who sold Africa to the colonists), above, which was printed on the cover of the catalogue of the travelling exhibition, Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent (2004-2007), questions the role of African chiefs in the slave trade. Fosso also transforms himself into a liberated woman, wearing brightly coloured trousers, high heels and a Panama hat, a bourgeois woman in a sequinned top holding a white fur, and to a sailor.

How did people react to these pictures? “People asked if I was homosexual and why I wanted to disguise myself as a woman; wearing women’s clothes was taboo,” he replies. “Now the mentality is changing a bit. Now people are asking why I wanted to do it. I thought of doing something about how black Americans were liberated in the 1960s and 70s, and the liberated woman.”

Anna Sansom. “Me, Myself & I,” on the 1854 photography website 3 May 2020 [Online] Cited 23/10/2022

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'The Chief (who sold Africa to the Colonists)' 1997

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
The Chief (who sold Africa to the Colonists)
1997
From the series Tati

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'The Golfer' 1997

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
The Golfer
1997
From the series Tati

 

 

Conceptual Framework

The Walther Collection presents a retrospective exhibition of photographic works by Samuel Fosso (b. 1962), one of the most renowned contemporary African artists working today. Spanning his five-decade career, Samuel Fosso: The Man with a Thousand Faces revisits bodies of work that explore issues central to the contemporary art scene. The exhibition retraces a career that oscillates between personal introspection and collective narratives through major series and lesser-known works from his youth.

Since the mid-1970s, Samuel Fosso has dedicated his artistic practice to self-portraiture and performative photography, transforming his body and envisioning compelling variations of postcolonial African identities. His early studio experiments and later series created innovative imagery that questioned ethnographic views of Africa as well as the economic imperatives of studio portraiture. Samuel Fosso: The Man with a Thousand Faces is presented across two galleries of The Walther Collection’s White Cube, bringing together a selection of works from all the artist’s series: early studio photography from the 1970s to 1990s is exhibited in the upper gallery and later works reflecting the artist’s personal and artistic trajectory and global politics are shown in the main gallery space.

Fosso’s work reflects the shifts that occurred in the history of photography in Africa when Africans began to turn the camera onto themselves and began to visualise and embody postcolonial perspectives. In 1975, at the age of thirteen, Fosso opened his Studio Photo Nationale in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. By day he photographed paying clientele, highlighting their fashion and individual styles, depicting them in sometimes exuberant poses. At night, he focused the camera on himself. Fosso’s expressive black-and-white self-portraits from the 1970s reference West African popular culture, formulating a unique and long-term photographic project that critically and playfully examines identity, sexuality, gender, and African self-representation.

Another significant theme that runs through Fosso’s oeuvre is fashion as a powerful tool for expression, transformation, and image-making. In his words, ‘clothes help me tell the character’s story and share their own emotions… but most of all the clothes help me understand them.’ Several of his series examine how self-styling and (manipulation of) the mass media have shaped the representation of social and political ideals and selves.

While the series Tati (1997) investigates the transformative power of fashion through satirical representation, other photo essays such as Mémoire d’un ami (2000) explore themes of memory and ritual. Reconstructing a night in 1997, when the artist’s friend and neighbour was murdered by armed militia in Bangui, Fosso reflects on global socio-political issues through his photographic performance with astonishing vulnerability.

For the series African Spirits (2008), Fosso reenacted historical photos of pan-African liberation and civil rights movement leaders and celebrities, examining the power of iconography. The African and African-American figures represented in the series, like Angela Davis, Malcom X or Haile Selassie, are instantly recognisable through their iconic fashion and adopted poses, their masterful utilisation of self-styling imbuing them with undeniable power to create social and political impact.

Five years later, Fosso embodies Mao Zedong in the series Emperor of Africa (2013), manifesting the relationship between style and image again in a powerful project of political portraits, while at the same time highlighting the neo-colonial relationship between China and debt-ridden African countries.

The selection of two diptychs from the series ALLONZENFANS (2013) depicts Fosso’s intervention into the fraught history of France’s relationship with its former colonies. Fosso poses as members of the military sporting uniforms from the First and Second World War, alternating between a stern-looking soldier at attention and a smiling soldier at ease, drafted for the French regiments. Like African Spirits and Emperor of Africa, ALLONZENFANS illustrates the artist’s ongoing engagement with specific episodes of Africa’s and Europe’s history.

With the Black Pope (2017), Fosso confronts politics of religion between Europe and Africa, addressing the fact that, despite high populations of Roman Catholics on the continent, there has never been a pope of African heritage. While African Catholics hoped that this would be corrected during the 2013 conclave without success, Fosso’s evocative body of work created four years later, teases our imagination, and invites us to consider the improbable event of an African on the papal seat.

By presenting a wide spectrum of Fosso’s work, this comprehensive retrospective offers generous insight into how the artist’s practice deviates sharply from West African studio photography traditions established by Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé during the 1950s and 1960s – from his early work examining postcolonial African society’s burgeoning desires to his later conceptual work which explores the way photographs travel the world and change meaning over time. By centering himself in performative photographic processes, Fosso’s ideas transcend mere self-representation or self-reflection to encompass explorations of what Okwui Enwezor called “self-constituted theatre of postcolonial identity.” In this “theatre,” there is a manifestation of the paradox of guise and masking, where Fosso does not attempt to recreate an individual but the idea of that person as “characters in a larger human drama.”

Samuel Fosso was born in Kumba, Cameroon, in 1962 and raised in Nigeria. He fled the Biafran War as an adolescent, and in 1972 was taken in by his uncle in Bangui in the Central African Republic. After learning about photography from a neighbour, he set up his own photo studio at the age of 13.

Fosso was awarded the Afrique en Création prize in 1995 and was the recipient of the prestigious Prince Claus Award in 2001. His self-portraits are represented in the collections of international museums such as Tate Gallery in London, Centre Pompidou and musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris. In 2017, a solo exhibition of his work was held at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In 2020, the monograph Autoportrait, the first comprehensive survey of Fosso’s photographs was published by Steidl and The Walther Collection. Samuel Fosso lives and works between Nigeria and France.

 

Publications

On the occasion of the retrospective Samuel Fosso at MEP in 2021, Steidl has published a French edition of Autoportrait, the first comprehensive survey of Samuel Fosso’s oeuvre – originally co-published by The Walther Collection in 2020 – with essays and research by leading scholars and writers. Edited by Okwui Enwezor, it includes contributions by Quentin Bajac, Simon Baker, Yves Chatap, Elvira Dyangani Ose, Chika Okeke-Agulu, Oluremi C. Onabanjo, Jean Marc Patras, Terry Smith, Claire Staebler, James Thomas, and Artur Walther, as well as an in-depth conversation between Samuel Fosso and Okwui Enwezor.

SIXSIXSIX consists of 666 large-format Polaroid self-portraits, produced in an intensive process by Samuel Fosso with a small team in his Paris studio in 2015 and 2016. Shot against the same rich, coloured backdrop, these striking photographs depart from Fosso’s earlier self-portraits through their understated and stripped-back approach. Fosso’s challenge was to create 666 self-portraits each with a different bodily expression, reminding us of the link between his performances and photography. The publication opens with a conversation between Fosso and curator and critic Hans Ulrich Obrist.

 

About the Exhibition

Samuel Fosso: The Man with a Thousand Faces is a touring exhibition organised by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris) in collaboration with The Walther Collection (Neu-Ulm) and Huis Marseille (Amsterdam), with the support of Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne.

Text from The Walther Collection website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Mémoire d'un ami' 2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Mémoire d’un ami
2000

 

 

“When I work, it’s always a performance that I choose to undertake. It’s not a subject or an object; it’s one more human being. I link my body to this figure, because I want to translate its history.”

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Mémoire d'un ami' 2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Mémoire d’un ami
2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Mémoire d'un ami' 2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Mémoire d’un ami
2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Mémoire d'un ami' 2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Mémoire d’un ami
2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Mémoire d'un ami' 2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Mémoire d’un ami
2000

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Self-Portrait (Martin Luther King, Jr.)' 2008

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Self-Portrait (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
2008
From the series African Spirits

 

 

“I see slavery as connected to all these questions of freedom, liberation, colonialism, and power. To me, slavery was the source, and I wanted to deal with it in a really deep way. My goal was to restage key images and figures in this history from King during the American civil rights movement to Kwame Nkrumah, Léopold Sédar Senghor, and Aimé Césaire during the independence and liberation of Africa. To my mind, all these struggles had one thing in common, and that is the history of slavery. And these figures were committed to the idea of freedom for black people in order to reclaim their culture and human dignity. This was the underlying concept of African Spirits.

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Self-Portrait (Angela Davis)' 2008

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Self-Portrait (Angela Davis)
2008
From the series African Spirits

 

 

Fosso’s quest to pay homage to historical, political figures that had fought for black civil rights became more precise in his black-and-white series, African Spirits (2008), produced in Patras’ former gallery in Paris. Marking a decisive shift in direction, each photograph is based on a specific image of one of Fosso’s heroes that he faithfully reinterpreted, casting himself as a different character each time. This involved creating elaborate backdrops, hiring costumes and imitating facial expressions. In one, Fosso interprets Martin Luther King Jr’s mugshot following King’s arrest in Alabama in 1956 for his leadership role in the Montgomery bus boycott. Others see him assuming the identities of African-Americans such as Muhammad Ali and the political activist Angela Davis (above), African leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Léopold Senghor and Aimé Césaire, who co-founded the Négritude movement to restore the cultural identity of black Africans, and Keïta.

Anna Sansom. “Me, Myself & I,” on the 1854 photography website 3 May 2020 [Online] Cited 23/10/2022

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Self-Portrait (Muhammad Ali)' 2008

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Self-Portrait (Muhammad Ali)
2008
From the series African Spirits

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Self-Portrait (Malcolm X)' 2008

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Self-Portrait (Malcolm X)
2008
From the series African Spirits

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Emperor of Africa' 2013

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Emperor of Africa
2013
From the series Emperor of Africa

 

 

“We cannot accept, because of Chinese money, the destruction of our environment. We must also preserve it for our children and for generations to come. This is what I wanted to say in Lagos, in 2013, on the occasion of my first exhibition in Nigeria, where my series Emperor of Africa was also presented for the first time. In this series, Mao is the emperor of this Africa that the Chinese have come to invade. It is the question of economic independence which arises after that of political independence.”

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Emperor of Africa' 2013

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Emperor of Africa
2013
From the series Emperor of Africa

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Emperor of Africa' 2013

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Emperor of Africa
2013
From the series Emperor of Africa

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'ALLONZENFANS' 2013

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
ALLONZENFANS
2013

 

 

“I want to show the black man’s relationship to the power that oppresses him.”

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'ALLONZENFANS' 2013

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
ALLONZENFANS
2013

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Black Pope' 2017

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Black Pope
2017

 

 

“Samuel Fosso’s Black Pope explores the way religion and its symbols and objects that are used to create the narrative of a papal figure are so removed from the African context and culture that it almost promotes this idea of whiteness and white supremacy. In the history of the papacy, there has never been a black pope, while today the greatest number of Roman Catholics is actually in Africa.”

Azu Nwagbogu, 2017

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Black Pope' 2017

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Black Pope
2017

 

 

Next came the series Allonzenfans (2013), in which Fosso reflects upon how France conscripted men from its West African colonies to fight in the First and Second World Wars, followed by Black Pope (2017), above. For the latter, Fosso was awarded the Infinity Art Award 2018 from the International Centre of Photography in New York. At the Rencontres de Bamako in 2017, one enlarged image from the series was presented alongside contact sheets comprising dozens of shots of Fosso enacting the Pope. In total, 70 unique portraits are being produced, according to Patras. In some, Fosso is reading the Bible, praying or holding the papal ferula while standing on a meteorite – an evident pun on Maurizio Cattelan’s sculpture, La Nona Ora (1999), an effigy of Pope John Paul II being crushed by a meteorite. The series alludes to Fosso’s hope that one day the Catholic Church will have a black pope. “I asked myself why there has never been a black pope, but now there’s been a Polish pope [John Paul II], a German pope [Benedict XVI] and now a pope from South America [Francis], so perhaps one day there’ll be a black pope,” Fosso says.

Anna Sansom. “Me, Myself & I,” on the 1854 photography website 3 May 2020 [Online] Cited 23/10/2022

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'Black Pope' 2017

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
Black Pope
2017

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'SIXSIXSIX' 2020

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
SIXSIXSIX
2020
Polaroid

 

 

“It’s neither the body that smiles, nor the body that cries, but a representation of life and all the misfortunes that strike us deep within. In the end, it’s about buried emotions that we ourselves create, and about exorcising my own resentment in the face of this situation.”

Text from the Samuel Fosso website / more images from the series can be found on the website

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'SIXSIXSIX' 2020

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
SIXSIXSIX
2020
Polaroid

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'SIXSIXSIX' 2020

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
SIXSIXSIX
2020
Polaroid

 

 

Fosso’s series, SixSixSix (2015) – presented at the National Portrait Gallery in 2017 – is the subject of a second new Steidl book due later this year. Over three weeks in a Parisian studio, Fosso posed shirtless, sitting on a chair, two or three times a day in front of a crimson backdrop, staring at the camera. This culminated in 666 unique Polaroid images that capture Fosso’s varying emotional states, from glum, sad, angry to happy. The classical framing of each self-portrait depicting Fosso’s face and shoulders, his body almost merging into the background, is identical. What differs is the emanating mood and facial expression, no two images being exactly the same.

The title of the series referring to the evil connotation of the figure 666 in the Bible, the work was made partly in response to the Central African Republic’s civil war from 2012-2014. “My house, studio and photography accessories were completely destroyed,” laments Fosso, who eventually managed to escape the violence and catch a flight to France as he had a French passport. Although his archive has been preserved by Patras and the negatives of his series are with Griffin Editions in New York, Fosso lost some of his early colour photographs when his studio was set alight. “Unhappiness has often struck my path – illness and war in my childhood, then wars and wars,” Fosso says.

Anna Sansom. “Me, Myself & I,” on the 1854 photography website 3 May 2020 [Online] Cited 23/10/2022

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962) 'SIXSIXSIX' 2020

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
SIXSIXSIX
2020
Polaroid

 

 

The Walther Collection
Reichenauer Strasse 21
89233 Neu-Ulm, Germany

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Public tours Saturday and Sunday at 3pm by appointment only

The Walther Collection website

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17
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective’ at the Serpentine North Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 19th May – 24th October 2021

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Portrait of James Barnor in front of some of his photographs, Accra' 1957

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Portrait of James Barnor in front of some of his photographs, Accra
1957
Courtesy Autograph

 

 

It’s late, but it’s better late than never

After a life of giving – putting his photographs out into the world, generous of his energy and spirit – this ‘Ever Young’ artist is, finally, getting the recognition that he so richly deserves.

In the tradition of Black African photographers such as Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keïta and Sanlé Sory, Barnor’s photographs present people of all ages and all walks of life – whether in Accra, Ghana or in the suburbs of London, England – through direct and honest studio portraits or in more candid documents of the communities that surrounded him. Barnor’s work “is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters.”

In all of Barnor’s work their is a sensitivity to subject matter. Noticeably, in the work from the 1960s onwards there is a freeing up of the picture plane, a playfulness and freshness in these images, which capture the spirit which is naturally embedded within African culture. I look at his photographs and they make me smile. For example, the glorious presence of the women in Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James’ cousin (late 1970s, below) or the radiant women with the Christmas tree on top of the television in At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin (c. 1970-1971, below). People at ease in front of the camera, with no overt acting up, no pretension. His Afro-modernist colour photographs of people in Accra in the 1970s are magnificent for their refined use of limited colour palettes and the relaxed ease of the subjects. As the press release states, “These images are drawn from a long lifetime of capturing people and places with the camera, a lifetime in which Barnor acts as witness, maker, interpreter and storyteller.” As he says, the story is the picture.

But what pushes Barnor’s photographs further than other Black African photographers is that he ventured to another, foreign land to photograph Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Imagine arriving in London in 1959 where you couldn’t get work as a Black photographer, and all the racism that this statement entails, to then continue to photograph for Drum magazine the vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community. In the ‘Swinging Sixties’ where ‘Black was Beautiful’, Barnor’s photographs were “affirming the place of black bodies in public and encouraging the active mixing of multinational cultural markers… Bridging between the world of Africa and Europe gave Barnor a unique perspective, and the best of his photographs simmer with cross-cultural style and verve.”1 This can be seen particularly in his personal images from parties, weddings, and family outings and in his cover work for Drum, where his models are in public – happy, proud and free. It is wonderful for me to see pictures such as A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey’s wedding, London (c. 1966, below) for its depiction of a world where skin colour does not matter, should never matter. For too long has this world been ruled by hatred and division.

Barnor’s photographs plant the seed of equality and happiness as a way of transmitting this knowledge to others. “He is a living archive, a link between the birth of photography in West Africa and the development of the discipline for the modern era.”2 It is his passion and feeling for the practice of photography, the stories that it tells and his engagement with the spirit of the people that he encounters – as a conversation between equals – that intuitively ground his work in the history of photography and the history of Black culture and makes them forever young. As the article on the L’Officiel website by Kleaver Cruz observes, “… it is his calling to connect with his subjects, to create space for them to be free, and to capture their essence for the record, for the sake of our existence as Black and African peoples, and for what has become an important archive of the lives he has interacted with over the course of his own long and rich life.”

Lives across time and space, across this life and the next.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1/ Loring Knoblauch. “James Barnor, The Roadmaker,” on the Collector Daily website, June 18, 2021 [Online] Cited 17/10/2021

2/ Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

3/ Ibid.,

.
Many thankx to the Serpentine Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I came across a magazine with an inscription that said: “A civilisation flourishes when men plant trees under which they themselves will never sit.” But to me it’s not only plants – putting something in somebody’s life, a young person’s life, is the same as planting a tree that you will not cut and sell during your lifetime. That has helped me a lot in my work. Sometimes the more you give, the more you get.”

.
James Barnor

 

“I wish the recognition that I’m getting now had come to me when I was about 65. And I wish when I was 60, 65, 70, my work was regarded as ‘iconic,’ or whatever people call it now. Then I would have had the chance to approach people for assignments and I would not have been taken for granted. And I’d have been able to buy the type of equipment I needed or wanted, and sold pictures at places that understood my work. It’s late, but it’s better late than never.”

.
James Barnor

 

“It took me a long time to understand the art of photography. There is a big difference between doing art and doing photography. I have come to realise that, when you get an education, as soon as you see a picture, you already know this should be here, that should be there. You form the story before you take the pictures: you take two or three, and you are on the way.”

.
James Barnor, Frieze Magazine, May 2021

 

“You can google all the technical stuff. It’s the ideas that you have that’re important. The community development, the self-involvement. Go and learn and be knowledgeable and take the camera. The story is the picture.”

.
James Barnor

 

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Mr. Blavo and friends at a Youth Development Club party, Scout Headquarters, Accra' 1953

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mr. Blavo and friends at a Youth Development Club party, Scout Headquarters, Accra
1953
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

As a young person, Barnor was active in Youth Development Clubs and other social activities organised for young people in Accra. In this image, he captured some new and old friends during a camping-style party hosted at the Boy Scout Headquarters in the capital city. At the centre of the group is someone Barnor was less familiar with, but remembered as a classmate and one of the first trained health workers in the country; on her left is E. Quarshie Blavo, a prominent Scout and youth leader who was “always coming up with ideas to get the youth united and to learn and do things and give service;” to her right is another friend of Barnor’s, Mr. Kitson-Mills who worked as a Tax Controller. Barnor was also part of developing the youth hostel system in Ghana, which offered affordable options for young Ghanaians who wanted to travel and get better acquainted with all their home country had to offer.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Eva, London' 1960s, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Eva, London
1960s, printed 2010
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

A celebration of the great Ghanaian photographer, who established his Ever Young studio in Accra in the early 1950s, and documented London during the swinging 60s as a photojournalist for Drum magazine. Capturing the mood of Ghana as it transitioned to independence in the 1950s, Barnor’s work remains an important reference for painters, photographers and film-makers.

The Serpentine presents a major survey of British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor, whose career spans six decades, two continents and numerous photographic genres through his work with studio portraiture, photojournalism, editorial commissions and wider social commentary.

Born in 1929 in Ghana, James Barnor established his famous Ever Young studio in Accra in the early 1950s, capturing a nation on the cusp of independence in an ambiance animated by conversation and highlife music. In 1959 he arrived in London, furthering his studies and continuing assignments for influential South African magazine Drum which reflected the spirit of the era and the experiences of London’s burgeoning African diaspora. He returned to Ghana in the early 1970s to establish the country’s first colour processing lab while continuing his work as a portrait photographer and embedding himself in the music scene. He returned to London in 1994.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters. Barnor’s desire to bring communities with him along his journey extends to his lifelong passion for education, not just as a means of furthering his own skills but also as a way of transmitting his knowledge to others. The recent digitisation of his archive of 32,000 images has enabled him to adopt the daily practice of revisiting his pictures with fresh eyes and memories to share his extraordinary life and work with a new generation.

Organised in broadly chronological order, James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective moves between the two countries, and includes portraits taken at his first studio, Ever Young; images taken in and around the independence movement in Ghana; Barnor’s era-defining work for South African anti-apartheid / Black lifestyle publication Drum and extensive photography of life in 1960s London; plus work from his time managing the first colour-processing laboratory in 1970s Ghana.

Text from the Serpentine North Gallery website

 

 

 

James Barnor at Serpentine 2021

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at centre, Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra (c. 1953, below), and at left The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra (1955, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1953

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1953
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra' 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra
1955
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Roy Ankrah and an unknown boxer in a remote area of Ghana' 1952

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Roy Ankrah and an unknown boxer in a remote area of Ghana
1952
James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

 

 

John Theophilus Oti Ankrah (25 December 1925 – 28 May 1995), better known as Roy Ankrah, was a Ghanaian featherweight contender during the 1950s. He was given the nicknames “The Black Flash” and “Mr. Perpetual Motion” because of his fast hands and crafty footwork. Ankrah held the Commonwealth featherweight title from 1951 to 1952 and had his biggest fight against then-reigning NBA, NYSAC, and The Ring bantamweight world champion in a non-title fight as both fighters weighed above the 118lbs limit of bantamweight.

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at right Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London (1966, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London' 1966, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London
1966, printed 2010
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) ''Drum' magazine cover with Constance Mulondo, East Africa edition' August 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
‘Drum’ magazine cover with Constance Mulondo, East Africa edition
August 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Marie Hallowi, 'Drum' covergirl, Kent' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Marie Hallowi, ‘Drum’ covergirl, Kent
1966

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation views, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine), the bottom image showing Barnor cover photographs for the magazine Drum
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

 

“There weren’t magazines or newspapers showing Black models – Drum started it,” he said. “Any time I saw a Drum cover in London, side by side with international magazines, I felt really satisfied. I knew I was recording something. I knew I had to take care of my negatives.” ~ James Barnor

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at third right Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London (1966, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London
1966

 

 

At 24 years old, Muhammad Ali, then the heavyweight champion of the world, was scheduled to defend his title against Brian London in the UK’s capital in 1966. Barnor was commissioned by Drum to capture Ali during his preparation for the big fight. “I didn’t talk to him at all. I should have asked him to do this or that for me. I’m sure that he would have done anything I asked him to do – ‘turn this way’ or ‘you do that,’ he would have done it. But he was so fascinating,” Barnor says of photographing the young star. Consistent with his intuitive spirit, Barnor chose to focus on the icon’s back rather than his face. “Nobody would have thought of photographing somebody’s back,” he recalls. Barnor shot this image with a Mamiya he had acquired from trading the camera he came to London with following the completion of his studies at Medway College of Art in Kent.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Self Portrait with Nkrumah, Roy Ankrah and his Wife, Rebecca, Accra' Nd

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Self Portrait with Nkrumah, Roy Ankrah and his Wife, Rebecca, Accra
Nd
Courtesy Autograph, London

 

 

James Barnor’s career as a studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer spans six decades, recording major social and political changes in Accra and London. His pioneering, resolutely modern work has influenced generations of photographers in Africa and around the world. James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective, focuses on the period 1950-1980, selected from more than 32,000 available images.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether making family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and his images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters.

Organised in broadly chronological order, James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective moves between the two countries, and includes portraits taken at his first studio, Ever Young; images taken in and around the independence movement in Ghana; Barnor’s era-defining work for South African anti-apartheid / Black lifestyle publication Drum and extensive photography of life in 1960s London; plus work from his time managing the first colour-processing laboratory in 1970s Ghana. His life-long passion for music is visible through portraits of musicians and performers.

“James Barnor’s work reminds us how thrillingly expansive life is; his photographs offer the possibility of connection and exchange across continents and through time. These images are drawn from a long lifetime of capturing people and places with the camera, a lifetime in which Barnor acts as witness, maker, interpreter and storyteller. We are immensely proud to be able to present this show atSerpentine this summer. We are so grateful to James Barnor for his vision, his unfailing energy and for sharing his memories so generously.”

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, and Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, Serpentine

This exhibition is part of Serpentine’s commitment to programming pioneering artists achieving wider recognition later in their careers, including exhibitions in recent years by Rose Wylie (2017), Luchita Hurtado and Faith Ringgold (both 2019).

 

About James Barnor

Born in 1929 in Accra, Ghana, Barnor came from a family of photographers. He initially trained under a photographic apprenticeship with his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo, before establishing Ever Young, his first studio, in the early 1950s. Barnor likened Ever Young to a community centre, and it was there that he captured a nation on the cusp of independence in an environment of lively conversation and music. During this time, he also undertook assignments for the Daily Graphic newspaper, documenting key events and figures in the lead-up to Ghana’s independence in 1957, which established him as the first photojournalist in the country. Enticed by a friend’s promise that ‘London was the place for him’, Barnor left Accra in 1959 and spent the next decade furthering his studies, continuing assignments for Drum, and photographing his ever-growing circle of family and friends. He returned to Accra a decade later to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in Ghana. Barnor settled permanently in the UK in 1994 and lives in West London.

On the occasion of the exhibition Serpentine is publishing a catalogue, Accra/London – A Retrospective, with Koenig Books, which is co-produced with MASI Lugano and Detroit Institute of Arts. Richly illustrated and designed by Mark El-khatib, it includes contributions by head of the photographic collection at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, Christine Barthe; architect Sir David Adjaye OBE; artist David Hartt; curator Alicia Knock, and a personal recollection from former Drum magazine model, Erlin Ibreck, who worked with Barnor on numerous shoots during the 1960s in London. The catalogue also includes a conversation between Barnor and Serpentine Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Press release from the Serpentine North Gallery website

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Revolution in the public transport ticketing system, Accra' c. 1950s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Revolution in the public transport ticketing system, Accra
c. 1950s
Courtesy Autograph, London

 

 

On March 6, 1957, the nation known today as Ghana gained its independence from British colonial rule, marking a growing tide of independence movements across the continent. In the capital city of Accra, where Barnor grew up, many waves of change occurred, including an upgraded bus system. Recalling today, Barnor describes the busyness of the capital city and how the municipal bus system transported people throughout the metropolitan area and its suburbs, as well as the enhancement of its technology, evidence of which we see in the suited conductor issuing paper tickets detailing the price and distance which each passenger was travelling. Barnor also notes elements of interaction between different classes, which is apparent in the dress and accessories of the woman on the far right in contrast to the other passengers. In regard to the people looking directly into the lens, Barnor recalls the excitement and curiosity when he showed up with a camera; after all, Barnor was the nation’s first newspaper photographer and, when people saw him, many understood that their image could potentially appear in the next day’s publication. “Oh yes… somebody with a camera coming, you know, people would ask, ‘What are you shooting for?’ By all means, everybody looks at you,” he says.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Naa Jacobson as Ballroom Queen, Ever Queen Studio, Accra' 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Naa Jacobson as Ballroom Queen, Ever Queen Studio, Accra
1955

 

 

There are so many stories here;
I have a special relationship with many of my models.
This is my comfort zone because I am inspired:
distracted and also attracted by so many details!
These are some of the people I enjoyed photographing most,
But there are so many more stories to tell.

~ James Barnor

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Four Nurses (graduates of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital), Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1957

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Four Nurses (graduates of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital), Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1957
Courtesy Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Nigerian Superman. Old Polo Ground, Mantse Agbona Park, Accra' 1958

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Nigerian Superman. Old Polo Ground, Mantse Agbona Park, Accra
1958
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A car accident outside Accra Brewery' Nd

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A car accident outside Accra Brewery
Nd
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929). 'Untitled, Studio X23, Accra' 1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Untitled, Studio X23, Accra
1975
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James' cousin. Amanomo, Accra' Late 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James’ cousin, Amanomo, Accra
Late 1970s
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Ghanaian traditional hairstyle at Studio X23, Accra' c. 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Ghanaian traditional hairstyle at Studio X23, Accra
c. 1970s, modern print
Inkjet print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

In 1973 Barnor converted a small storeroom given to him by his cousin Albert M. Quarcoopome into a darkroom before expanding into a building. This became his second studio Studio X23 (1973-1994) where alongside a multifaceted commission practice he continued working as a portrait photographer for twenty years.

 

Ever Young Studio, Jamestown, Accra

 

Ever Young Studio, Jamestown, Accra
Credit: James Barnor

 

 

Barnor’s studio was like a “community center,” he remembers, and he made “people feel at home,” by talking to and getting to know them. “Young men would come by to have a chat and have their photograph taken,” he said. “Most people had confidence in me already. Everybody knew me in Ghana as a successful photographer – they knew they would be satisfied.”

Barnor says he believes the photographs he took during this time showed a different, stylish view of his home country – one that belied assumptions. “When I had my studio in Ghana people thought we (Ghanaians) didn’t dress up,” he said. “But all my sitters, my friends, were fashion conscious – women would often request full-length photos with shoes, a handbag and their accessories.”

Emma Firth. “From Accra to London, how photographer James Barnor captured decades of style,” on the CNN style website 20th June 2020 [Online] Cited 10/07/2021

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'AGIP with Graphic Designer' 1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
AGIP with Graphic Designer
1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Print in progress, Studio X23. Accra' 1972

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Print in progress, Studio X23, Accra
1972
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Kids dressed in identical suits. Accra' 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Kids dressed in identical suits, Accra
1970s
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Ever Young studio. Accra' 1954

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Ever Young studio, Accra
1954
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'J Peter Dodoo Jnr., Yoga student of "Mr Strong", Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
J Peter Dodoo Jnr., Yoga student of “Mr Strong”, Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1955, modern print
Inkjet print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Accra in the 1950s was a decade marked by the significant transformation of nation building and the rise of cosmopolitanism. Photography served as an important medium for sitters to articulate their own self-actualisation. Barnor described his first studio Ever Young (1953-1959), in the Jamestown district of the city, as a community centre filled with music and conversation, a drop-in space that embodied precisely this spirit of reinvention through the frame.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Evelyn Abbew, Ever Young Studio, Accra' 1954

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Evelyn Abbew, Ever Young Studio, Accra
1954
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Emma Christiana Bruce Annan, Drum Party, Chorkor Beach, Accra' 1954-56

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Emma Christiana Bruce Annan, Drum Party, Chorkor Beach, Accra
1954-1956
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Introduction

Throughout his career, British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor has captured images of societies in transition and transformation. Moving between Accra and London to cultivate a practice that encompasses the genres of studio portraiture, photojournalism and social documentary photography, Barnor witnessed and recorded major social and political changes during a career that spans over six decades and two continents. This exhibition, the largest survey of his work to date, is drawn from his extensive archive and focuses on the decades 1950-1980.

Born in 1929 in Accra, Ghana, Barnor came from a family of photographers. He initially trained under a photographic apprenticeship with his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo, before establishing Ever Young, his first studio, in the early 1950s. Barnor likened Ever Young to a community centre, and it was there that he captured a nation on the cusp of independence in an environment of lively conversation and music. During this time, he also undertook assignments for the Daily Graphic newspaper, owned by the Mirror Group, documenting key events and figures in the lead-up to Ghana’s independence in 1957, which established him as the first photojournalist in the country. Enticed by a friend’s promise that ‘London was the place for him’, Barnor arrived in London in December 1959 and spent the next decade furthering his studies, continuing assignments for the influential South African magazine Drum, and photographing his ever-growing circle of family and friends. He returned to Accra a decade later to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in Ghana. Barnor settled permanently in the UK in 1994 and now lives in West London.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters. Barnor’s desire to bring communities with him along his journey extends to his lifelong passion for education, not just as a means of furthering his own skills but also as a way of transmitting his knowledge to others. The recent digitisation of his archive of 32,000 images has enabled him to adopt the daily practice of revisiting his pictures with fresh eyes and memories to share his extraordinary life and work with a new generation.

 

Ever Young Studio

Barnor first developed his photographic skills while serving an apprenticeship under his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo before going out on his own to establish Ever Young Studio in the early 1950s. Initially a modest, outdoor set-up with a darkroom in his aunt’s vacant room, the studio later moved to the Jamestown district of Accra in 953. Ever Young was a hive of activity, a drop-in space for people of all ages and all walks of life: ‘My studio was at a spot where everything happened in Accra, where young and old people met from various backgrounds, free to talk about everything and anything.’

Barnor took the name Ever Young from the story of Iduna’s Grove that he learned in school as a child. In the myth ‘Iduna, the beautiful young goddess of the Norsemen, lived in a pretty grove called Ever Young. She had a golden casket full of the most beautiful apples. A hero might come, tired and weary to Iduna’s Grove, feeling that he was growing old. Then Iduna would give him an apple and as soon as he had eaten it he would feel fresh and young again. It is not surprising that Iduna’s Grove was never lonely. As soon as the last rosy fruit had been given away, the casket was filled again by an invisible hand.’

The ethos of the name Ever Young can be felt in Barnor’s youthful energy and commitment to inspiring younger generations. The name also refers to his photographic training and process: ‘The essence of my studio profession is retouching, that’s the training I had, even though I wasn’t perfect. I thought that if someone came in, I’d make them look younger. So, if I open a studio, what should I call it? Ever Young.’

 

Accra Life

Barnor’s early work depicting life in and around Accra in the 1950s resisted the formal quality and rigid structure associated with large-format studio portraiture, becoming progressively more candid as he documented the communities around him using a small camera.

‘For me it was like living in two worlds: there was the careful handling of a sitter in my “studio” with a big camera on a heavy tripod, and then running around town chasing news and sports! … If I needed a picture, or a new story, I would rush to the Makola market, where people behave most like themselves. I enjoyed this more than studio photography. I would use a small camera. It was good for finding stories.’

Barnor became great friends with Drum magazine’s energetic proprietor, Jim Bailey. Drum was an influential South African politics and lifestyle magazine that also served as an anti-apartheid platform. When visiting Ghana, Bailey would host impromptu, often legendary, parties for the Drum community. One gathering was organised by Barnor at his studio, with another taking place on the beach, where he recounts that ‘people were swimming under the moon’.

 

Independence

In 1957, Ghana became the first West African country to gain independence from British colonial rule when Dr Kwame Nkrumah was elected its Prime Minister. Nkrumah’s political trajectory compounded by ‘philosophical consciencism’, an ideology for decolonisation to enable social revolution, saw him organising extensively with scholars and activists such as George Padmore and W.E.B Du Bois, who all resided in the country. Barnor was there to capture it all.

After gaining attention after one of his photographs was published in the Telegraph, Barnor was commissioned by UK-based Black Star Picture Agency and Drum magazine to photograph this time of significant historic transformation for a new nation, and the subsequent celebrations that drew people from all over the world.

‘I was the first newspaper photographer in Ghana, and I’m proud of that. Newspaper photography changed people’s lives and it changed journalism in Ghana. I was part of this moment.’

 

London

‘My friend and mentor, A. Q. A. Archampong, who had been my class teacher, had decided to go to England to study. We always kept in touch. Before he left, I said to him: “If the place is alright, write to me.” So, in his first letter to me, he wrote: “London is the place for you”.’

In 1959, two years after Ghana’s independence, Barnor arrived in London. After initially lodging in Peckham, he was introduced to Dennis Kemp by the Ghanaian Embassy, a lecturer in visual education working for the Kodak Lecture Service, who was researching Africa in preparation for a trip to document the forthcoming Nigerian independence celebrations. Kemp shared Barnor’s passion for photography and the two toured schools around the country where Kemp gave lectures using his archive of images on subjects that interested him, such as his travels, climbing and pot-holing, in order to demonstrate Kodak products as visual teaching aids. Barnor also joined Kemp on his trip to Nigeria in October 1960, and lodged at his flat in Holborn, eventually receiving a grant from the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board to support his training. Barnor and Kemp would often host coffee evenings with friends discussing approaches to photography and shared interests in African cultures and philosophies.

 

Drum

‘When I saw Drum with my photos on the cover, alongside other magazines at the newsstands, I felt like I was in heaven.’

In London, Barnor continued assignments for Drum. He captured the experiences of a vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community for the magazine, playing a key role in placing models of African descent, such as Erlin Ibreck and Marie Hallowi, on the cover. Through his work for Drum, Barnor combined studio portraiture and street photography, capturing a singular vision of a diasporic ‘Swinging Sixties’ in London. Whether picturing Hallowi gazing seductively from a convertible car, or Mike Eghan joyously floating down the steps at Piccadilly Circus, these pictorial narratives articulate the Afro-diasporic reclaiming of space and agency in self-expression.

‘You couldn’t get work in the 1960s as a Black photographer. It wouldn’t happen that a Black photographer would instruct white sitters […] If you worked for a studio in London, you worked behind the scenes in the darkroom doing odd jobs. Drum though, where I did freelance work, was different. They let me photograph the cover girls, Muhammad Ali, Mike Eghan (the BBC presenter). Drum was my home in London, my office, I got everything done there.’

 

UK 1960s

In 1960, Barnor moved to Kent, where he learned about colour photography at the Colour Processing Laboratories (CPL) in Edenbridge, the UK’s leading lab at the time. With Kemp’s encouragement he enrolled in a three-year course at Medway College of Art in Rochester. At Medway, he learned the technical aspects of colour photography, while continuing to work during the holidays at CPL. After graduating he was employed as a technician at the college before he was hired as a photographer in the design section of Centre for Educational Television Overseas (CETO).

During this period Barnor became close to Kemp’s family, who lived in Southwick, West Sussex, spending his free time rock climbing with Kemp and going on weekly outings with the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, a community group that fostered friendships between people who had recently settled in West Kent. Barnor was offered full-time employment as a colour printer by CPL in 1968.

 

Colour in Ghana

Driven by a desire to share the experience and kills he acquired while working with colour photography in the UK, Barnor returned to Ghana in 1970 as a trained manager for Sick-Hagemayer, a subdivision of the photographic equipment and materials manufacturer Agfa-Gevaert, to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in the country, where he worked until 1973 before establishing his own studio. Prior to the introduction of colour film-processing labs in West Africa in the 1970s, photographers had to improvise or send films for processing abroad. With a local colour processing lab in Accra, under Barnor’s leadership, came a greater demand and wider access to colour photography. People wanted their photographs to depict the range of vibrant life and Ghanaian fashion around them. Barnor excelled in this regard, using his knowledge of colour and singular aesthetic to capture popular dress and create a new style of portraiture.

‘Colour really changed people’s ideas about photography. Kente is Ghanaian woven fabric with many different colours, and people wanted their photographs taken after church or in town wearing this cloth, so the news spread quickly.’

 

Accra Life and Studio X23

[Barnor] established his second studio, Studio X23 in 1973. Barnor initially converted a small storeroom given to him by his cousin Albert M. Quarcoopome into a darkroom before expanding into other parts of the building. Although he returned to Ghana with little intention of continuing a studio practice, it nevertheless found him again and for the next twenty years Barnor continued his practice as a portrait photographer.

 

Commissions

Alongside his studio practice Barnor regularly took on commercial commissions, many of which were passed on to him by his friend the graphic designer Emmanuel Odartey Lamptey. Barnor shot images for clients including a promotional calendar for the Italian oil company AGIP, and publicity shots and record sleeve images for musicians like E. K. Nyame. ‘I was close to the music fraternity too. I knew E.T. Mensah, who played the trumpet and the sax and spearheaded high-life music before all the others. I knew all the musicians. I was taking their pictures.’

 

Music

While continuing to run Studio X23 and working at the United States Information Service throughout the 1970s and 80s Barnor’s attention became increasingly focussed on pursuing his passion for music through the management of children’s troupe Ebaahi Gbiko (All Will Be Well One Day), later renamed Fee Hi (All is Well). The group rehearsed in the yard of the studio every day with the understanding that they had to attend school. He felt that practising together after school kept the group out of trouble and focused on their education: ‘I don’t play drums, write music or sing, but I took them in like my own children.’ The troupe became an important part of Barnor’s life, and he accompanied them on a tour of Italy in 1983 as part of an anti-apartheid campaign focusing on the living conditions of South African children for which they had been officially nominated.

As a result of the early 1980s global economic recession, by the middle of the decade Ghana’s economy collapsed, leading to a debt crisis that spread across the African continent. This made conditions difficult for Barnor to continue his photographic practice, the troupe disbanded and in 1994 he returned to the UK. Barnor enrolled in business-management classes in the evening and secured a rehearsal space with the hope of reforming the troupe and bringing them to London but was unable to arrange work permits and relinquished the idea. Today, former members of Fee Hi are, as Barnor notes: ‘All over the diaspora. They have since joined other groups, and I feel very pleased. The memory of them will never leave me.’

Text from the Serpentine North Gallery

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck at Trafalgar Square, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck at Trafalgar Square, London
1966, modern print
C-Type Print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Throughout the 1960s James Barnor shot six covers for Drum, a leading lifestyle, culture and politics magazine on the African continent that also served as anti-apartheid platform. By combining studio portraiture and street photography, Barnor’s lens captured the experiences of a vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community in London, playing a key role in placing models of African descent such as Erlin Ibreck on the cover of Drum. Here he captured the experiences of another growing and vibrant ‘Swinging Sixties’ as articulated by the Afro diasporic community in their self-expression thus reclaiming of space and agency.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Model playing drums: Constance Mulondo, 'Drum' cover, at London University Weekend with the band The Millionaires, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Model playing drums: Constance Mulondo, Drum cover, at London University Weekend with the band The Millionaires, London
1967
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London
1967
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

As part of his work with Drum, Barnor captured the BBC’s first Black broadcaster, Mike Eghan, on the steps of the famous Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus, central London. Another photo shows street-scouted cover girl, 19-year-old Erlin Ibreck – whom he met waiting for a bus – feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Coffee night at Theobald's Road, London' 1960

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Coffee night at Theobald’s Road, London
1960
James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London
1960s
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Early morning in Covent Garden market in 1960s London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Early morning in Covent Garden market in 1960s London
1960s
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum cover girl Rosemarie Thompson, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover girl Rosemarie Thompson, London
1967
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Wedding guests, London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Wedding guests, London
1960s
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey's wedding, London' c. 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey’s wedding, London
c. 1966
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin, Amanomo, Accra' c. 1970-71

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin, Amanomo, Accra
c. 1970-1971
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) Wedding Portrait, Nii Ayi, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Accra 1970-1980

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Wedding Portrait, Nii Ayi, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Accra
1970-1980
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra' c. 1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra
c. 1975
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Sister holding Brother, Accra' 1979

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Sister holding Brother, Accra
1979
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) ''Drum' cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London

1966
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Members of the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, Relaxing after a Hot Summer Sunday Walk, Kent' c. 1968

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Members of the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, Relaxing after a Hot Summer Sunday Walk, Kent
c. 1968
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Two friends dressed for a church celebration with James' car, Accra' 1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Two friends dressed for a church celebration with James’ car, Accra
1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'James Barnor at the studio Agfa-Gevaert in Mortsel, Belgium' 1969

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
James Barnor at the studio Agfa-Gevaert in Mortsel, Belgium
1969
© James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mavis and Mary Barnor with an Agfa advertising ball' 1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mavis and Mary Barnor with an Agfa advertising ball
1970
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Miss Sophia Salomon, Kokomlemle, Accra' c. 1972

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Miss Sophia Salomon, Kokomlemle, Accra
c. 1972
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Salah Day, Kokomlemle, Accra' 1973

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Salah Day, Kokomlemle, Accra
1973
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store. Accra' 1971

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store. Accra
1971
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A store assistant on Station Road, Accra' 1971

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A store assistant on Station Road, Accra
1971
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'AGIP calendar model' 1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
AGIP calendar model
1974
October Gallery, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Model posing for Agip 1 Calendar, Accra' c. 1974-1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Model posing for Agip 1 Calendar, Accra
c. 1974-1975
© James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Fee Hii Cultural troupe' c. 1983-1984

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Fee Hii Cultural troupe
c. 1983-1984

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' book cover

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective book cover

 

 

Serpentine Gallery
Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA
Phone: 020 7402 6075

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22
May
21

Exhibition: ‘Zanele Muholi’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2020 – 31st May 2021

Curators: Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern.

 

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Zanele Muholi Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Unclassified fabulousness

There are so many words that you can say about an artist and their work. So many unnecessary words. All you have to do is look at the work. Does it speak to you? does it make you feel, does it empower you?

For me, artists either have it or they don’t… and in this case, visual activist Zanele Muholi possesses it by the bucketful. Panache, flair, downright unclassified fabulousness, call it what you want. They just have it.

They are powerful, they are strong, they are courageous, they tell great stories, they make you question history, they make you analyse what you think you know, they challenge your memories, they make you feel something about their participants, they make you want to fight for LGBTQIA+ social rights. They make you want to stand up and fight for equality and freedom for everyone. No person is an island, alone by themselves; we should all be equal under this cosmic sky.

The older I get the less tolerant I get of the stupidity of the human race and its non-evolution, in terms of spirit of self. When is the human race going to just grow up! Ditch the patriarchy, misogyny, colonialism, racial and socio-economic oppression. Appreciate difference, value the quality of every human being, debunk the dogma of religion, curtail the power of corporations and live in harmony with the earth. Not f…ing much to ask is it, after all these thousands of years.

I won’t live to see it, but with artists like Muholi, there is hope for humanity yet. Unclassifiable. Beautiful. Hail the Dark Lioness – all power to them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Tate Britain for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Tate Modern presents the first major mid-career survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi in the UK. Born in South Africa, Muholi came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that sought to envision black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives beyond deviance or victimhood.

 

 

“My mission is to re-write a Black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our resistance and existence at the height of hate crimes in South Africa and beyond.”

“In my world, every human is beautiful.”

.
Zanele Muholi

 

“Muholi prefers to be called an activist rather than an artist. Art, for them, is a means to an end, a tool to convey messages about social empowerment and visibility. “Zanele Muholi’s visual activism is not an occupation. It’s a lifestyle,” Kerryn Greenberg explains. “It’s something that occupies them day and night – whether they receive a call from someone in the community needing money to pay for a hospital appointment, or consoling those who’ve lost someone close to them in an act of violence, or giving some kind of public address at a wedding or a funeral. It’s about being a very active member of the community, and a public voice within that community.”

.
Maisie Skidmore. “Yes, but why? Zane Muholi,” on the We Present website [Online] Cited 11 April 2021

 

“The connection that Muholi has with their participants (which they are eager to distinguish from the word “subject,” which implies a distanced gaze) translates to the viewer, who, in looking at these images, is immediately welcomed into a space of understanding and empathy. Muholi also often highlights the voices of the participants in their shows, books and events. …

The political agenda of the 260 photographs on display – which critique centuries of anti-Black sentiment, oppression and erasure – echoes the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial justice reckoning it has inspired worldwide. “Muholi’s work takes on an enormous importance within the context of Black Lives Matter because of its potential to educate audiences and promote mutual understanding,” said Sarah Allen. Each piece makes a clear visual statement: not only that Black queer lives matter but also that Black queer lives are nuanced, cherished and deserve to be celebrated.”

.
Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi – ‘In My World, Every Human is Beautiful’ / Tate

Visual activist, Zanele Muholi, uses photography and film to document and explore issues of race and representation and to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa and beyond. Here they talk about how the power of images can show LGBTQIA+ people of South Africa, and QTIPOC people worldwide, that they are not alone. Watch as they introduce us to four key bodies of work and the ideas behind them.

 

 

 

Zanele Muholi: In Conversation with Lady Phyll / Artist’s Talk / Tate Exchange

Watch an in conversation between Muholi and Lady Phyll of UK Black Pride. Together, they discuss what difficult love looks like for QTIPOC communities in South Africa and Britain and the importance of chosen families.

This talk forms a part of From a Place of Love, a collaboration between Tate Exchange’s Love programme and UK Black Pride, whose theme for 2020 is home.

 

 

Born in 1972 and raised in Umlazi, a township on South Africa’s eastern coast, Muholi had a childhood shaped by the racial brutality of Apartheid – a white supremacist regime that systematically oppressed and displaced South Africa’s non white population for half a century. Muholi was an adolescent when Apartheid absolved and South Africa’s constitution was rewritten in 1996, with the intention of ushering a new era of equality. Even though South Africa’s constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, as a young queer person, Muholi was constantly reminded that the violent realities of gay life in South Africa did not align with this utopic vision of the future. Homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia remained rampant, and in South Africa, Black lesbians and transgender men are among the most at risk, and are often victims of heinous hate crimes, like “corrective” rape, abduction and murder. Drawing inspiration from the work of the American photographer Nan Goldin, whose early photographs documented queer culture and the HIV epidemic through intimate portraits of her family and friends, Muholi embarked on a mission to commemorate the battles and triumphs of her community with pictures.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi is a South African visual activist whose pronouns are they/them/theirs. Their work tells the stories of Black LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Agender, Asexual) lives in South Africa and beyond. Their photography raises awareness of injustices and aims to educate, while creating positive visual histories for under and mis-represented communities. Muholi also turns the camera on themself, making self-portraits that address race, history and representation. This exhibition charts Muholi’s emergence as an activist in the early 2000s to the present day.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political change. Apartheid was officially abolished in 1994. This was a political and social system of racial segregation underpinned by white minority rule. Anyone who was not classified as white was actively oppressed by the regime. Apartheid continued the segregation that had begun under the Dutch and British colonial regimes in the late 19th century. The apartheid regime also upheld injustice and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. While the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for prejudice, hate crimes and violence.

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 1 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Only Half the Picture (2002-6)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 1: Only Half The Picture

This room incudes work from Muholi’s first series Only Half the Picture (2002-2006). It documents survivors of hate crimes living across South Africa and its townships. Under apartheid, townships were established as residential areas for those who had been evicted from places designated as ‘white only’. The people Muholi photographs – their participants – are presented with compassion, dignity and courage in the face of ongoing discrimination. The series also includes images of intimacy, expanding the narrative beyond victimhood. Muholi reveals the pain, love and defiance that exist within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Aftermath' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Aftermath
2004
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
600 x 395mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'ID Crisis' 2003

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
ID Crisis
2003
From the series Only Half the Picture
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
325 x 485mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The exhibition opens with a group of deceptively gentle images. In the first, Aftermath (2004), a torso is cropped from waist to knees, hands modestly clasped in front of Jockey shorts, a huge scar running down the person’s right leg almost like a piece of body art. In another, Ordeal (2003), hands wring out a cloth in an enamel basin of water placed on a floor. A third image shows a cropped, seated figure, again waist to thighs, hands folded in their lap, plastic hospital ties around their wrists. These pictures have a softness and beauty which completely belies the fact that their subjects are all survivors of sexual violence and “corrective rape”.

As the caption to the last picture, Hate crime survivor I, Case number (2004) explains, “Corrective rape is a term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.” This horrific practice is by no means unique to South Africa, but the term seems to have originated there – feminist activist Bernedette Muthien used it during an interview with Human Rights Watch in 2001 – and its effects on the community resonate throughout this exhibition.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 2 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 2: Being

This room features work from Muholi’s series Being (2006 – ongoing). The portraits capture moments of intimacy between couples, as well as their daily life and routines. Muholi addresses the misconception that queer life is ‘unAfrican’, a falsehood emerging in part out of the belief that same-sex orientation was a colonial import to Africa. Each couple is shown in the private spaces they share. Muholi explains how ‘lovers and friends consented to participate in the project, willing to bare and express their love for each other.’

Commenting on this series they say, ‘my photography is never about lesbian nudity. It is about portraits of lesbians who happen to be in the nude.’ This series dismantles the white patriarchal gaze and rejects negative or heteronormative images, common in political and social systems that uphold heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation.

Since slavery and colonialism, images of us African women have been used to reproduce heterosexuality and white patriarchy, and these systems of power have so organised our everyday lives that it is difficult to visualise ourselves as we actually are in our respective communities. Moreover, the images we see rely on binaries that were long prescribed for us (heterosexual / homosexual, male/female, African / unAfrican). From birth on, we are taught to internalise their existences, sometimes forgetting that if bodies are connected, connecting, the sensuousness goes beyond simplistic understandings of gender and sexuality.

.
Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Katlego Mashiloane and Nosipho Lavuta, Ext. 2, Lakeside, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Beloved V' 2005

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Beloved V
2005
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Mdaki and Malesedi Nthute, Johannesburg
2007
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'TommyBoys' 2004

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TommyBoys
2004
From the series Being (2006 – ongoing)
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

In “TommyBoys,” a colour photograph, two muscular figures in tracksuit pants sit on a tarmac. One, in a red T-shirt, sits with her hands folded against her chest, while next to her, the second uses her white vest to wipe something from her eyes. (“Tommy Boy” is a word used in South Africa, like “butch,” to refer to a masculine-presenting lesbian.)

Text from the New York Times website

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg' 2006

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Busi Sigasa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
2006
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 3 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing in the bottom photograph the series Miss Lesbian I-VII, Amsterdam (2009)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 3: Queering Public Space

Photographing Black LGBTQIA+ participants in public spaces is an important part of Muholi’s visual activism. This room contains portraits of transgender women, gay men and gender non-conforming people photographed in public places.

Several of the locations are important in the history of South Africa. Some images are taken at Constitutional Hill, the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. It is a key place in relation to the country’s progression towards democracy. Other participants are photographed on beaches. These were segregated during apartheid. They are therefore potent symbols of how racial segregation affected every aspect of life. Participants are often shown on Durban Beach, close to Muholi’s birthplace of Umlazi.

Muholi states that ‘we’re ‘queering’ the space in order for us to access the space. We transition within the space in order to make sure that the Black trans bodies are part of this as well. We owe it to ourselves.’ Muholi often chooses to photograph participants in colour, bringing the work closer to reality and rooting them in the present day.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Miss D'vine II' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss D’vine II
2007
Lambda print
765 x 765 mm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam' 2009

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Miss Lesbian VII, Amsterdam
2009
C-print
86.5 x 60.5cm
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of visual activist Zanele Muholi.

Zanele Muholi is one of the most acclaimed photographers working today, and their work has been exhibited all over the world. With over 260 photographs, this exhibition presents the full breadth of their career to date.

Muholi describes themself as a visual activist. From the early 2000s, they have documented and celebrated the lives of South Africa’s Black lesbian, gay, trans, queer and intersex communities.

In the early series Only Half the Picture, Muholi captures moments of love and intimacy as well as intense images alluding to traumatic events – despite the equality promised by South Africa’s 1996 constitution, its LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice.

In Faces and Phases each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze. These images and the accompanying testimonies form a growing archive of a community of people who are risking their lives by living authentically in the face of oppression and discrimination.

Other key series of works, include Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos.

Muholi turns the camera on themself in the ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama – translated as ‘Hail the Dark Lioness’. These powerful and reflective images explore themes including labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics.​

Exhibition organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, Gropius Bau, Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University.

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Tate Modern presents the first major UK survey of South African visual activist Zanele Muholi. Muholi (b. 1972) came to prominence in the early 2000s with photographs that told the stories of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and intersex lives in South Africa. Over 300 photographs are brought together to present the full breadth of Muholi’s career to date, from their very first body of work Only Half the Picture, to their on-going series Somnyama Ngonyama. These works challenge dominant ideologies and representations, presenting the participants in their photographs as fellow human beings bravely existing in the face of prejudice, intolerance and often violence.

During the 1990s, South Africa underwent major social and political changes. While the country’s 1996 post-apartheid constitution was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, the LGBTQIA+ community remains a target for violence and prejudice to this day. In the early series Only Half the Picture Muholi aimed to depict the complexities of gender and sexuality for the individuals of the queer community. The collection includes moments of love and intimacy as well intense images alluding to traumatic events in the lives of the participants. Muholi also began an ongoing visual archive of portraits, Faces and Phases, which commemorates and celebrates black lesbians, transgender people and gender non-conforming individuals. Each participant looks directly at the camera, challenging the viewer to hold their gaze, while individual testimonies capture their stories. The images and testimonies form a living and growing archive of this community in South Africa and beyond.

The exhibition includes several other key series of works, including Brave Beauties, which celebrates empowered non-binary people and trans women, many of whom have won Miss Gay Beauty pageants, and Being, a series of tender images of couples which challenge stereotypes and taboos. Images like Melissa Mbambo, Durban also attempt to reclaim public spaces for black and queer communities, such as a beach in Durban which was racially segregated during apartheid. Within these series, Muholi tells collective as well as individual stories. They challenge preconceived notions of deviance and victimhood, encourage viewers to address their own misconceptions, and create a shared sense of understanding and solidarity.

More recently, Muholi has begun an acclaimed series of dramatic self-portraits entitled Somnyama Ngonyama (‘Hail the Dark Lioness’ in Zulu). Turning the camera on themself, the artist adopts different poses, characters and archetypes to address issues of race and representation. From scouring pads and latex gloves to rubber tires and cable ties, everyday materials are transformed into politically loaded props and costumes. The resulting images explore themes of labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics, often commenting on events in South Africa’s history and Muholi’s experiences as a South African black queer person traveling abroad. By enhancing the contrast in the photographs, Muholi also emphasises the darkness of their skin tone, reclaiming their blackness with pride and re-asserting its beauty. Muholi has created some new self-portraits for this series which are being shown at Tate Modern for the first time.

Zanele Muholi is co-curated by Yasufumi Nakamori, Senior Curator and Sarah Allen, Assistant Curator with Kerryn Greenberg, Head of International Collection Exhibitions, Tate and formerly Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is organised by Tate Modern in collaboration with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Gropius Bau in Berlin and Bildmuseet at Umeå University. Supported by the Zanele Muholi Exhibition Supporters Circle, Tate Americas Foundation, Tate International Council, Tate Patrons and Tate Members . Research supported by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational in partnership with Hyundai Motor.

 

About Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi was born in Umlazi, Durban and lives in Johannesburg. They studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and Ryerson University, Toronto. Co-founder of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, and founder of Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual media, Muholi is also an honorary professor at the University of the Arts Bremen, Germany. Solo exhibitions of Muholi’s work have been hosted around the world, including at the Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg (2012); Brooklyn Museum, New York (2015); Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2017); Autograph ABP, London (2017-) and Museo de Arte moderno de Buenos Aires (2018). Muholi has won numerous awards, including the Lucie Humanitarian Award (2019), the 2019 ‘Best Photography Book Award’ by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation for their book Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail, The Dark Lioness (Aperture), the Rees Visionary Award by Amref Health Africa (2019); a fellowship from the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2018); France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2017); the Mbokodo Award in the category of Visual Arts (2017);the ICP Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016); the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the Carnegie International (2013); a Prince Claus Award (2013); and both the Casa África award for best female photographer and a Fondation Blachère award at Les Rencontres de Bamako biennial of African photography (2009). Somnyama Ngonyama was shown at the 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Faces and Phases was shown at dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and the 55th Venice Biennale (2013).

Muholi’s pronouns are they, them, their.

Press release from the Tate website

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 4 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing photographs from the series Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 4: Brave Beauties

Brave Beauties (2014 – ongoing) is a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants. Queer beauty pageants offer a space of resistance within the Black LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. They are a place where individuals can realise and express their beauty outside heteronormative and white supremacist cultures. Muholi has commented that these participants ‘enter beauty pageants to change mind-sets in the communities they live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed, or worse.’

This series is also inspired by fashion magazine covers. Muholi has questioned whether ‘South Africa as a democratic country would have an image of a trans woman on the cover of a magazine.’ These images aim to challenge queerphobic and transphobic stereotypes and stigmas.

As with all of Muholi’s images, the portraits are created through a collaborative process. Muholi and the participant determine the location, clothing and pose together, focusing on producing images that are empowering for both the participant and the audience.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sazi Jali, Durban' 2020

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sazi Jali, Durban
2020
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Somizy Sincwala, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somizy Sincwala, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The series Brave Beauties, started in 2014, is “a series of portraits of trans women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people. Many of them are also beauty pageant contestants.” The queer beauty pageant is many things: a celebration – and redefinition – of beauty, a declaration of independence by contestants, a challenge to “heteronormative and white supremacist cultures,” and an attempt, as Muholi puts it, “to change mind-sets in the communities [the contestants] live in, the same communities where they are most likely to be harassed or worse.”

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Dimpho Tsotetsi, Parktown
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

What I really want to talk about is beauty. Because I think for Muholi, that’s kind of where it all stems from, is recognising beauty in things that you might not expect. Muholi has said “All I want to see is beauty. And that doesn’t mean you have to smile, or try harder. Just be.”

I think that’s very much linked to the history of Apartheid, of course […] As a Black person being told constantly ‘your hair isn’t straight enough’, ‘you should look like this’, ‘you should look like that’ and that being legislated under Apartheid. But it’s also what is in the magazines, this idea of the perfect beauty. Muholi’s counteracting them, saying actually, none of that is relevant. It’s about being the beauty that you want to be.

There’s a really great series called Brave Beauties, which […] pictures trans women and gender non-binary individuals, many of whom have been in beauty pageants, occupying space. Demanding attention. And being absolutely stunningly beautiful. And you kind think, ‘yeah, what are our notions of beauty, what are these kind of constructions that are absolutely false?’

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Eva Mofokeng II, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 5 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 5: Collectivity

Collectivity lies at the heart of Muholi’s work. Many of Muholi’s large network of collaborators are members of their collective, Inkanyiso. This means ‘light’ in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language and one of 11 official languages in South Africa. Inkanyiso’s mission is to ‘Produce, educate and disseminate information to many audiences, especially those who are often marginalised or sensationalised by the mainstream media.’ Queer Activism = Queer Media, is the collective’s motto.

Self-organisation, mentorship and skill sharing are central to Muholi’s collaborative activity. This room features images that are collaboratively made. Whether documenting public events such as Pride marches and protests, or private events such as marriages and funerals, these images form an ever-expanding visual archive. By recording the existence of the Black LGBTQIA+ community, they resist erasure.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lerato Dumse, Muntu Masombuka’s Funeral, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Room 6: Faces and Phases

Muholi began their ongoing series Faces and Phases in 2006. The project currently totals 500+ works. As a collective portrait, it celebrates, commemorates and archives the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

It is important to mark, map and preserve our mo(ve)ments through visual histories for reference and posterity so that future generations will note that we were here.

.
Many of these portraits are the result of a long and sustained relationship and collaboration. Muholi often returns to photograph the same person over time. Faces refers to the person being photographed. Phases signifies a transition from one stage of sexuality or gender expression and identity to another. It also marks the changes in the participants’ daily lives, including ageing, education, work experience and marriage. The gaps in the grid indicate individuals that are no longer present in the project, or a portrait yet to be taken. One wall in the exhibition is dedicated to the participants who have passed away.

Faces and Phases forms a living archive that visualises Muholi’s belief that ‘we express our gendered, radicalised, and classed selves in rich and diverse ways.’

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 6 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing)
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Faces and Phases is an ongoing series whereby the artist was seeking to document and photograph Black lesbians, trans men and gender non-conforming individuals. There’s now a mass of these incredibly beautiful portraits, which generally are presented in a grid, to show that, actually […] giving visibility to these people is a life’s work. There are many portraits of the same individuals over the course of a number of years. So you can see how people age, how they transition, sometimes, and how the way they present themselves, alters.

It is about acknowledging pain and trauma, and trying to heal people, and heal oneself through those images. Images that Muholi wants their community, to be proud of, and feel well represented by.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Death is a constant presence in Muholi’s community and work. The largest space in this exhibition is given to Faces and Phases (2006 – ongoing), a collection of portraits – 500, and counting. The images “celebrate, commemorate and archive the lives of Black lesbians, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.” People appear more than once. Some spots on the walls are empty, marking a portrait yet to be taken or a participant no longer there. One wall is dedicated to those who have passed away.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Tumi Mokgosi, Yeoville, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nosipho Solundwana, Parktown, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Manucha, Muizenberg, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg' 2007

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nokuthula Dhladhla, Berea, Johannesburg
2007
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. '"TK" Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
TK Tekanyo, Gaborone, Botswana
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape Town' 2010

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zukiswa Gaca Makhaza, Khayelitsha, Cape-Town
2010
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Marcel Kutumela, Alexandra, Johannesburg
2008
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg' 2011

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lungile Cleo Dladla, KwaThema, Community Hall, Springs, Johannesburg
2011
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photograph of Room 7 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020
Photo © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 7: Sharing Stories

From their earliest days as an activist, Muholi sought to record first-hand testimonies and experiences of Black LGBTQIA+ people. Giving participants a platform to tell their own story, in their own words, has been an enduring goal. They have said:

Each and every person in the photos has a story to tell but many of us come from spaces in which most Black people never had that opportunity. If they had it at all, their voices were told by other people. Nobody can tell our story better than ourselves.

.
In this room, eight participants share stories of their lives and experiences as members of the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa. Some of them feature in the Faces and Phases project in the previous room. The interviews have been conducted and produced by Muholi’s collaborators, some of whom are members of Inkanyiso. Some testimonies do not use Muholi’s preferred gender pronouns they, them, theirs.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

Installation Photograph of 'Zanele Muholi' Exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020

 

Installation photographs of Room 8 of the Zanele Muholi exhibition, Tate Modern, November 2020 showing Muholi’s series Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness
Photos © Andrew Dunkley

 

 

Room 8: Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness

Somnyama Ngonyama (2012 – ongoing) is a series in which Muholi turns the camera on themself to explore the politics of race and representation. The portraits are photographed in different locations around the world. They are made using materials and objects that Muholi sources from their surroundings.The images refer to personal reflections, colonial and apartheid histories of exclusion and displacement, as well as ongoing racism. They question acts of violence and harmful representations of Black people. Muholi’s aim is to draw out these histories in order to educate people about them and to facilitate the processing of these traumas both personally and collectively.

Muholi considers how the gaze is constructed in their photographs. In some images they look away. In others they stare the camera down, asking what it means for ‘a Black person to look back’. When exhibited together the viewer is surrounded by a network of gazes. Muholi increases the contrast of the images in this series, which has the effect of darkening their skin tone.

I’m reclaiming my Blackness, which I feel is continuously performed by the privileged other.

.
The titles of the works in the series remain in isiZulu, Muholi’s first language. This is part of their activism, taking ownership of and pride in their language and identity. It encourages a Western audience to understand and pronounce the names. This critiques what happened during colonialism and apartheid. Then, Black people were often given English names by their employers or teachers who refused to remember or pronounce their real names.

Exhibition room guide text

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Julile I, Parktown, Johannesburg
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Fisani, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Fisani, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Thulani II, Parktown' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Thulani II, Parktown
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ziphelele, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ziphelele, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'MaID IV, New York' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
MaID-IV, New York
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Yaya Mavundla, Parktown, Johannesburg
2014
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Roxy Msizi Dlamini, Parktown, Johannesburg
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Ntozakhe II, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Ntozakhe II, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Sebenzile, Parktown' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Sebenzile, Parktown
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

As Muholi’s career started to take off internationally, they were traveling a huge amount in hotel rooms. They were exposed to the usual hassles of border immigration and airports, where racial profiling is still a reality, and entering spaces that are historically white. [They were] very conscious of the feeling that perhaps they were not quite wanted there, despite having been invited.

In 2012, they began to make a series of self-portraits, which actually I think are more accurately presented as self-projections, rather than self-portraits. In them, there is this sense of unapologetic selfhood. The sense that actually, you can be Black, you can encompass many histories, and projecting that in a really powerful way.

These photographs are often taken in situations, as I said, away from home, where Muholi might not have access to the same camera each time. And the light conditions are very variable. So, you’ll see that when they’re printed, they’re at very different scales, and that is representative of the fact that they’ve been made on the hop.

The itineracy of the lifestyle is very much evident in the pictures themselves, but also in the titles. They’re often titled in isiZulu, the artist’s home language. But then there will be the place in which they’ve been made, and that could be New York, that could be Norway, you know, a whole range of different locations.

Kerryn Greenberg

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Zazi II, Boston' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Zazi II, Boston
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Xiniwe at Cassilhaus' 2016

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Xiniwe at Cassilhaus
2016
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

The unforgettable works in Somnyama NgonyamaHail the Dark Lioness are a divine ode to Black women past and present, in Africa and beyond. In this series of black and white self portraits, Muholi becomes the participant, encouraging viewers to question what they were taught to find beautiful, and why. Often adorning themselves with different domestic materials as a tribute to their mother, who was a domestic worker for a white family (and resultantly absent from Muholi’s childhood), Muholi alludes to the broader history of colonisation and enslavement. Muholi also uses symbolically loaded poses and props which both summon and challenge visual stereotypes of African women and oppressive white beauty standards. By drawing on familiar aesthetic tropes, like fashion magazine covers and advertisements, Muholi dismantles the Western narrative by replacing the typically white bodies and faces that fill these frames with depictions of radical, queer, Black beauty.

Cassidy George. “Zanele Muholi’s Photographs Celebrate Radical, Queer, Black Beauty,” on the W Magazine website 11/03/2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Vile, Gothenburg, Sweden
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Somnyama Ngonyama II, Oslo
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bona, Charlottesville' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bona, Charlottesville
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester VIII, Philadelphia' 2018

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester VIII, Philadelphia
2018
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Bester I

“This self-portrait is a special tribute to my late mother who passed on in 2009. She worked as a domestic worker for 42 years and was forced to retire due to ill health. After retirement she never lived long enough to enjoy her life at home with her family and grandchildren.

This photo is also a dedication to all the domestic workers around the globe who are able to fend for their families despite meagre salaries and make ends meet.

With this image I looked at how different people can use the materials of daily life for multiple purposes. The pegs lend an unexpected aesthetic to this photo and allow it to be read differently in the fashion world; the same goes for the striped mat. The pegs themselves can be seen as functional art in this regard. The striped doormat can also be used as shawl, but in this case it was meant for something else.

What people call a prop, I call material. The viewer is forced to rethink how they think about the materials – and their history.

I looked directly at the camera in order to create a sense of questioning or confrontation which could be read by viewers in different ways.”

~ Zanele Muholi, March 2017

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Bester I, Mayotte' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Bester I, Mayotte
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Muholi Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Buhlalu I, The Decks, Cape Town
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Qiniso, The Sails, Durban' 2019

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Qiniso, The Sails, Durban
2019
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

 

Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness

In this work, Muholi has darkened their skin and whitened their eyes, and composed the picture in the manner of a classical, perfectly-lit studio portrait, posing with found objects as “costume” – a footstool as a helmet, say. There is so much to unpick in these images – references to colonialism, Apartheid, to the politics of race and representation, to femininity and “women’s work”. Muholi presents us with a kaleidoscope of views of injustice, equal parts beautiful and brutal.

The intellectual focus of every picture is slightly different. Zamile, KwaThema (2016) shows Muholi draped in a striped blanket, as used in South African prisons during Apartheid. In Quinso, The Sails, Durban (2019) Muholi’s hair is adorned with silvery Afro combs, a symbol of African and African diaspora cultural pride. In Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy (2015) their hair is stuffed with pens – a reference to the “pencil test” whereby, under Apartheid, if a pencil pushed into a person’s hair fell out they were “classified as white”.

Anonymous. “Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern,” on the Something I’m Working On website Wednesday 30th December 2020 [Online] Cited 11/05/2021

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy' 2015

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Nolwazi II, Nuoro, Italy
2015
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington' 2017

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Lulamile, Room 107 Day Inn Hotel, Burlington
2017
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

Zanele Muholi. 'Untitled' Nd

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Untitled
Nd
Courtesy of the Artist and Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yancey Richardson, New York
© Zanele Muholi

 

FEW Stop the War on Women's Bodies poster c. 2005

 

FEW Stop the War on Women’s Bodies poster
c. 2005

 

 

Room 9: Tracing Contexts

Muholi defines themself as a visual activist. They were born in 1972 during the height of apartheid in South Africa. Today their work celebrates LGBTQIA+ identity in the new era of democracy after apartheid was brought to an end in 1994, while also addressing the ongoing risks that the community face. Muholi has spoken about this being the very means through which they ‘claim their full citizenship’. The artist’s place within South African histories of activism, both as they relate to apartheid and the emergence of queer activism, are explored in this timeline. The timeline helps to highlight particular contexts from which Muholi’s work emerges and remains deeply rooted.

 

Zanele Muholi: Glossary

The terms included in this glossary are culturally complex and nuanced. Whilst the co-authors and editors of this text have attempted to reflect this, it is worth noting that the interpretations offered here are not definitive, as the meanings of many of the terms herein are deeply subjective and are consistently contested, debated and re-evaluated.

Ally

An individual who actively supports the social movements and rights of LGBTQIA+ and other marginalised identities, but who does not identify as LGBTQIA+ or as a member of said marginalised groups.

Apartheid

A former policy / oppressive system that was officially implemented in South Africa from 1948 until 1994, to enforce racial segregation and political, economic and social discrimination against people of colour or anyone who was not classified as white. The word ‘apartheid’ is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘apartness’. The term has also been used to refer to global forms of institutionalised / systemic racial and socio-economic oppression that is still prevalent in societies across the world.

Asexual

An umbrella term used to describe those with a variation of romantic and/or sexual attraction, including a lack of attraction. The term can also describe people who are emotionally, psychologically and intellectually attracted to people, or where their attraction is not limited to physical sexual expression.

Assignment

Within the dominant culture informed by Western scientific models that classify gender and sex as binary, gender and sex are commonly assigned at birth based on external biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. A vulva-bearing child is typically assigned female at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AFAB’), while a penis bearing child is typically assigned male at birth (commonly shortened to ‘AMAB’). AFAB and AMAB are terms commonly used by transgender, gender-non-conforming and non-binary people to demonstrate that the sex and / or gender one was assigned at birth may not necessarily match one’s true gender identity.

Bisexual

An umbrella term used to describe a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards more than one gender. Bisexual people may describe themselves using one or more of a variety of terms, including (but not limited to) pansexual and queer.

Black

Capitalise when used to describe someone’s race, ethnicity or culture, unless the individual or group self-identifies otherwise.

Black Lesbian Feminism

A political identity, movement and school of thought that incorporates perspectives, experiences and politics around race, gender, class and sexual orientation, and surfaces the inextricable links between them.

Butch

A term used in queer culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically masculine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Cis / Cisgender

A term used to describe someone whose gender identity matches the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

Civil Union

Also known as a civil partnership, a civil union is a legally recognised arrangement which grants most or all of the rights, responsibilities and legal consequences of a marriage except the title itself. Civil unions were created primarily to provide recognition in law for same-sex couples and partnerships.

‘Corrective Rape’

A term used to describe a hate crime in which a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The intended consequence of such acts is to enforce heterosexuality and gender conformity.

Family

A term widely used by queer and trans people to identify other queer and trans people. Also known as ‘chosen family’.

Femme

A term used in LGBTQIA+ culture to describe someone who often (but not always) expresses themselves in a typically feminine way. This term should not be used to describe someone unless they expressly identify as such.

Gay

A term used to refer to a man, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards men. The term can also be used more broadly and colloquially to describe a same-sex or queer orientation.

Gender

Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth. One’s gender is made up of one’s gender identity (a person’s innate sense of their own gender) and gender expression (how a person outwardly expresses their gender).

Gender Binary

The system of dividing gender into two distinct categories – man and woman – thus excluding non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Gender Dysphoria

Used to describe a person’s discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity.

Gender Non-conforming / Non-conformity

A person who does not conform to the binary gender categories that society prescribes (man and woman) through their gender identity/expression.

Hate Crime

Any incident that may or may not constitute a criminal offence, perceived as being motivated by prejudice or hate. The perpetrators seek to demean and dehumanise their victims, whom they consider different from them based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, health status, nationality, social origin, religious convictions, culture, language or other characteristics.

Heteronormativity

A socio-political system that, predicated on the gender binary, upholds heterosexuality as the norm or default sexual orientation. Heteronormativity encompasses a belief that people fall into distinct and ‘complementary’ genders (men and women) with natural roles in life. It assumes that sexual, romantic and marital relations are most fitting between a cisgender man and a cisgender woman, positioning all other sexual orientations as ‘deviations’.

Homonationalism

A form of LGBTQIA+ advocacy that frames LGBTQIA+ rights in nationalistic terms that privilege North American and European expressions over those of the Middle East and the Global South, particularly Africa. Homonationalism sees the conceptual realignment of LGBTQIA+ activism to fit the goals and ideologies of both neoliberalism and the far right in order to justify racist, classist, Islamophobic and xenophobic perspectives. This framing is based on prejudices that migrant people are supposedly homophobic, and that western society is egalitarian.

Homophobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about LGBTQIA+ people.

Homosexual

A person who has a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender. ‘Homosexual’ is often considered a more medical term. The terms ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ are now more generally used.

Intersectionality

Emerging from the traditions of critical race theory, womanism and Black feminist thought, intersectionality encompasses the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. The term was formalised by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 in a discussion around Black women’s employment in the US. Intersectionality rejects the notion of universal experiences of womanhood in favour of a more holistic assessment of how one’s race, class, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, nationality and religion can impact one’s experience of womanhood or gender, but also how these social inequalities intertwine with and shape one another.

Intersex

A term used to describe a person who may have biological attributes that do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes ‘male’ or ‘female’. These biological variations may manifest in different ways and at different stages throughout an individual’s life. Being intersex relates to biological sex characteristics and is distinct from a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

isiNgqumo

A type of language used amongst the LGBTQIA+ community in South Africa, mostly among the Nguni people.

isiStabane / Stabane

A slur or derogatory isiZulu term used in vernacular language to refer to a person who is from the LGBTQIA+ community in the Southern African context. Translated into English, the term means a person who is born with both male and female ‘parts’.

Lesbian

A term used to refer to a woman, trans person or non-binary person who tends to have a romantic and / or sexual orientation towards women or non-binary femmes.

LGBTQIA+

An acronym standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. This is not an exhaustive list, as denoted by the inclusion of the plus symbol, which nods to the varying sexual orientations and gender identities that exist around the world.

Lobola

Also known as lobolo, lobola is a customary practice of marriage whereby the bridegroom’s family and kin transfer certain goods to the bride’s family in order to validate a customary marriage. Historically this was in the form of cattle, but today monetary payment is preferred, depending on the bride’s family.

MSM

An acronym standing for men who have sex with men. MSM may or may not identify as gay, queer or bisexual.

Necklacing

A practice of extrajudicial torture and execution whereby a burning rubber tyre is forced around a person’s neck. Under apartheid, necklacing was sometimes used within the Black community to punish those who were perceived to have collaborated with the apartheid government.

Non-binary

An umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’ (also often referred to as genderqueer). Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.

Outed

When an LGBTQIA+ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is disclosed without their consent.

Pansexual

A term that refers to a person whose romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by sex or gender.

Passbook (dompas) / Reference book

An identification book or document that every person of colour or anyone who was not classified as white had to carry under the pass laws of apartheid. The book was made up of two parts. One part had a laminated identity card that featured the name of the bearer, their ethnic affiliation, the date the card was issued, the signature of an official and a black and white portrait photograph. The other part included five sections which listed information on permissions to enter urban areas, record of required medical examinations, names and addresses of employers, work status and receipts for tax payments. Colloquially, among the Black South African population, these passes were often referred to derogatorily as the dompas, an Afrikaans term literally meaning ‘dumb’ / ‘stupid pass’.

Patriarchy

A social hierarchy that privileges and prioritises men over women and other gender identities.

Pencil Test

A racist, dehumanising test that was devised to assist authorities in racial classification under apartheid. When officials were unsure if a person should be classified as white or of colour, a pencil would be pushed into their hair. If the pencil fell out, signalling that their hair was straight rather than curly, kinky or coily, the person ‘passed’ and was ‘classified’ as white.

People / Person of Colour (POC)

A term used to denote someone who is not considered white. The term is used to emphasise the common experiences of systemic racism amongst people of colour.

Pinkwashing

A term with multiple meanings, but that commonly refers to the appropriation of the LGBTQIA+ movement in order to promote some corporate or political agenda. The term is used to describe the practices of entities who market themselves as ‘gay-friendly’ to gain favour with progressives, while simultaneously masking aspects of their practices that are violent and undemocratic.

Pronouns

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’, or gender-neutral pronouns such as ‘they’.

QTIPOC

An acronym standing for queer, trans and intersex people of colour.

Queer

An umbrella term used by those who reject heteronormativity. Although some people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed by the queer community, who have embraced it as an empowering and subversive identity.

Safe space

An environment that enables all persons, including sexual and gender minorities, to be free to express themselves without fear of discrimination or violation of their rights and dignity. Individual actions and reactions are key in upholding or violating a safe space.

Sangoma

A traditional African healer who specialises in treating people’s spiritual and physical diseases by looking into their past and future and connecting them with the ancestors. Healers believe that they are called by their ancestors to take on this important and respected position in society.

Sex

Sex is distinct from gender. Sex is assigned to a person at birth on the basis of biological sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive
functions.

Transgender

An umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people are binary-identified and others are not.

Transition

The steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition involves different processes. For some this involves medical intervention or gender affirming healthcare such as hormone therapy and surgeries (medical transition), but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning might also involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently, changing one’s pronouns (social transition) and changing official documents (legal transition).

Transmisogynoir

A term that characterises the marginalisation of Black trans women and transfeminine people and captures the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny. It is used to denote the fact that Black trans women experience a different, racialised form of misogyny that is compounded with transphobia.

Transmisogyny

A term capturing the interlocking discrimination of transphobia and misogyny. Transmisogyny includes negative attitudes, hate and discrimination toward transgender individuals who fall on the feminine side of the gender spectrum, particularly trans women and transfeminine people.

Transphobia

The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact that they are transgender, including the denial / refusal to accept their gender identity.

White Supremacy

A racist ideology in which people defined and perceived as white are positioned as superior to and should dominate people of other races, and the practices based on this ideology.

WSW

An acronym standing for women who have sex with women. WSW may or may not identify as lesbian, queer or bisexual.

Zulu

A Bantu ethnic group and language of Southern Africa situated within the Nguni people. They are a branch of the southern Bantu and have close ethnic, linguistic and cultural ties with the Swazi and Xhosa. The Zulu are South Africa’s largest ethnic group, with an estimated population of 10 million, residing mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

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15
Nov
20

Exhibition: ‘Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 30th November 2020

Curator: Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs

 

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary' 1917

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary
1917
Gelatin silver print
1 1/2 in. × 2 in. (3.8 × 5.1cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

 

This tiny but iconic masterpiece of twentieth-century photography is the second earliest work in the exhibition, and a gem in the Tenenbaum and Lee collection. Made while André Kertész was convalescing from a gunshot wound received while serving in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, it prefigures by some fifteen years his renowned mirror distortions produced in Paris. Displaying both Cubist and Surrealist influences, the photograph reveals the artist’s commitment to the spontaneous yet analytic observation of fleeting commonplace occurrences – one of the essential and most idiosyncratic qualities of the medium.

 

 

It’s a mystery

There are some eclectic photographs in this posting, many of which have remained un/seen to me before.

I have never seen the above version of Kertész’s Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary (1917), with wall, decoration and water flowing into the pool at left. The usual image crops these features out, focusing on the distortion of the body in the water, and the lengthening of the figure diagonally across the picture frame. That both images are from the same negative can be affirmed if one looks at the patterning of the water. Even as the exhibition of Kertész’s work at Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours that I saw last year stated that their version was a contact original… this is not possible unless the image has been cropped.

Other images by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Outerbridge Jr., Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Pierre Dubreuil, Ilse Bing, Bill Brandt, Dora Maar, Joseph Cornell, Nan Goldin, Laurie Simmons, Robert Gober, Rachel Whiteread, Zanele Muholi have eluded my consciousness until now.

What I can say after viewing them is this.

I am forever amazed at how deep the spirit, and the medium, of photography is… if you give the photograph a chance. A friend asked me the other day whether photographs had any meaning anymore, as people glance for a nano-second at images on Instagram, and pass on. We live in a world of instant gratification was my answer to him. But the choice is yours if you take / time with a photograph, if it possesses the POSSIBILITY of a meditation from its being. If it intrigues or excites, or stimulates, makes you reflect, cry – that is when the photographs pre/essence, its embedded spirit, can make us attest to the experience of its will, its language, its desire. In our presence.

The more I learn about photography, the less I find I know. The lake (archive) is deep – full of serendipity, full of memories, stagings, concepts and realities. Full of nuances and light, crevices and dark passages. To understand photography is a life-long study. To an inquiring mind, even then, you may only – scratch the surface to reveal – a sort of epiphany, a revelation, unknown to others. Every viewing is unique, every interpretation different, every context unknowable (possible).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

PS. When Minor White was asked, what about photography when he dies? When he is no longer there to influence it? And he simply says – photography will do what it wants to do. This is a magnificent statement, and it shows an egoless freedom on Minor White’s part. It is profound knowledge about photography, about its freedom to change.

.
Many thankx to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

This exhibition will celebrate the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last century, and Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee’s magnificent promised gift of over sixty extraordinary photographs in honour of The Met’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The exhibition will include masterpieces by the medium’s greatest practitioners, including works by Paul Strand, Dora Maar, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy; Edward Weston, Walker Evans, and Joseph Cornell; Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, and Cindy Sherman.

The collection is particularly notable for its breadth and depth of works by women artists, its sustained interest in the nude, and its focus on artists’ beginnings. Strand’s 1916 view from the viaduct confirms his break with the Pictorialist past and establishes the artist’s way forward as a cutting-edge modernist; Walker Evans’s shadow self-portraits from 1927 mark the first inkling of a young writer’s commitment to visual culture; and Cindy Sherman’s intimate nine-part portrait series from 1976 predates her renowned series of “film stills” and confirms her striking ambition and stunning mastery of the medium at the age of twenty-two.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1918
Platinum print
9 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (24.1 × 19.1cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This photograph marks the beginning of the romantic relationship between Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, which transformed each of their lives and the story of American art. The two met when Stieglitz included O’Keeffe, a then-unknown painter, in her first group show at his gallery 291 in May 1916. A year later, O’Keeffe had her first solo show at the gallery and exhibited her abstract charcoal No. 15 Special, seen in the background here. In the coming months and years, O’Keeffe collaborated with Stieglitz on some three hundred portrait studies. In its physical scope, primal sensuality, and psychological power, Stieglitz’s serial portrait of O’Keeffe has no equal in American art.

 

Paul Outerbridge Jr. (American, 1896-1958) 'Telephone' 1922

 

Paul Outerbridge Jr. (American, 1896-1958)
Telephone
1922
Platinum print
4 1/2 × 3 3/8 in. (11.4 × 8.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A well-paid advertising photographer working in New York in the 1930s, Paul Outerbridge Jr. was trained as a painter and set designer. Highly influenced by Cubism, he was a devoted advocate of the platinum-print process, which he used to create nearly abstract still lifes of commonplace subjects such as cracker boxes, wine glasses, and men’s collars. With their extended mid-tones and velvety blacks, platinum papers were relatively expensive and primarily used by fine-art photographers like Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. This modernist study of a Western Electric “candlestick” telephone attests to Outerbridge’s talent for transforming banal, utilitarian objects into small, but powerful sculptures with formal rigour and startling beauty.

 

Edward Weston. 'Anita ("Pear-Shaped Nude")' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Nude
1925, printed 1930s
Gelatin silver print
8 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (21.6 × 19cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Edward Weston moved from Los Angeles to Mexico City in 1923 with Tina Modotti, an Italian actress and nascent photographer. They were each influenced by, and in turn helped shape, the larger community of artists among whom they lived and worked, which included Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, and many other members of the Mexican Renaissance. In fall 1925 Weston made a remarkable series of nudes of the art critic, journalist, and historian Anita Brenner. Depicting her body as a pear-like shape floating in a dark void, the photographs evoke the hermetic simplicity of a sculpture by Constantin Brancusi. Brenner’s form becomes elemental, female and male, embryonic, tightly furled but ready to blossom.

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1926

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Boulevard de Strasbourg
1926
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 in. × 7 in. (22.5 × 17.8cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Eugène Atget became the darling of the French Surrealists in the mid-1920s courtesy of Man Ray, his neighbour in Paris, who admired the older artist’s seemingly straight forward documentation of the city. Another American photographer, Walker Evans, also credited Atget with inspiring his earliest experiments with the camera. A talented writer, Evans penned a famous critique of his progenitor in 1930: “[Atget’s] general note is a lyrical understanding of the street, trained observation of it, special feeling for patina, eye for revealing detail, over all of which is thrown a poetry which is not ‘the poetry of the street’ or ‘the poetry of Paris,’ but the projection of Atget’s person.”

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Self-portrait, Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927' 1927

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Self-portrait, Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927
1927
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Shadow, Self-Portrait (Right Profile, Wearing Hat), Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927' 1927

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Shadow, Self-Portrait (Right Profile, Wearing Hat), Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927
1927
Film negative
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Pierre Dubreuil (French, 1872-1944) 'The Woman Driver' 1928

 

Pierre Dubreuil (French, 1872-1944)
The Woman Driver
1928
Bromoil print
9 7/16 × 7 5/8 in. (24 × 19.3cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Like many other European and American photographers, Pierre Dubreuil was indifferent to the industrialisation of photography that followed the invention and immediate global success of the Kodak camera in the late 1880s. A wealthy member of an international community of photographers loosely known as Pictorialists, he spurned most aspects of modernism. Instead, he advocated painterly effects such as those offered by the bromoil printing process seen here. What makes this photograph exceptional, however, is the modern subject and the work’s title, The Woman Driver. Dubreuil’s wife, Josephine Vanassche, grasps the steering wheel of their open-air car and stares straight ahead, ignoring the attention of her conservative husband and his intrusive camera.

 

Florence Henri (French, born America 1893-1982) 'Windows' 1929

 

Florence Henri (French, born America 1893-1982)
Windows
1929
Gelatin silver print
14 1/2 × 10 1/4 in. (36.8 × 26cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A peripatetic French American painter and photographer, Florence Henri studied with László Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus in Germany in summer 1927. Impressed by her natural talent, he wrote a glowing commentary on the artist for a small Amsterdam journal: “With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase, the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today… Reflections and spatial relationships, superposition and intersections are just some of the areas explored from a totally new perspective and viewpoint.” Despite the high regard for her paintings and photographs in the 1920s, Henri remains largely under appreciated.

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998) '[Rue de Valois, Paris]' 1932

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
[Rue de Valois, Paris]
1932
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/4 in. (28.3 × 22.2cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Estate of Ilse Bing

 

 

Ilse Bing trained as an art historian in Germany and learned photography in 1928 to make illustrations for her dissertation on neoclassical architecture. In 1930 she moved to Paris, supporting herself as a freelance photographer for French and German newspapers and fashion magazines. Known in the early 1930s as the “Queen of the Leica” due to her mastery of the handheld 35 mm camera, Bing found the old cobblestone streets of Paris a rich subject to explore, often from eccentric perspectives as seen here. She moved to New York in 1941 after the German occupation of Paris and remained here until her death at age ninety-eight.

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983) 'Soho Bedroom' 1932

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983)
Soho Bedroom
1932
Gelatin silver print
8 7/16 × 7 5/16 in. (21.4 × 18.5cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Bill Brandt challenged the standard tenets of documentary practice by frequently staging scenes for the camera and recruiting family and friends as models. In this intimate study of a couple embracing, the male figure is believed to be either a friend or the artist’s younger brother; the female figure is an acquaintance, “Bird,” known for her beautiful hands. The photograph appears with a different title, Top Floor, along with sixty-three others in Brandt’s second book, A Night in London (1938). After the book’s publication, Brandt changed the work’s title to Soho Bedroom to reference London’s notorious Red Light district and add a hint of salaciousness to the kiss.

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) '[Woman and Child in Window, Barcelona]' 1932-34

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997)
[Woman and Child in Window, Barcelona]
1932-1934
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/8 in. (28.2 × 21.2cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

When Dora Maar first traveled to Barcelona in 1932 to record the effects of the global economic crisis, she was twenty-five and still finding her footing as a photographer. To sustain her practice, she opened a joint studio with the film designer Pierre Kéfer. Working out of his parents’ villa in a Parisian suburb, he and Maar produced mostly commercial photographs for fashion and advertising – projects that funded Maar’s travel to Spain. With an empathetic eye, she documents a mother and her child peering out of a makeshift shelter. Adapting an avant-garde strategy, she chose a lateral angle to monumentalise her subjects.

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Nude' 1934

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Nude
1934
Gelatin silver print
3 5/8 in. (9.2cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

The nude as a subject for the camera would occupy Edward Weston’s attention for four decades, and it is a defining characteristic of his achievement and legacy. This physically small but forceful, closely cropped photograph is a study of the writer Charis Wilson. Although presented headless and legless, Wilson tightly crosses her arms in a bold power pose. Weston was so stunned by Wilson when they first met that he ceased writing in his diary the day after he made this photograph: “April 22 [1934], a day to always remember. I knew now what was coming; eyes don’t lie and she wore no mask… I was lost and have been ever since.” Wilson and Weston immediately moved in together and married five years later.

 

 

The exhibition Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection celebrates the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last hundred years through the magnificent promised gift to The Met of more than 60 extraordinary photographs from Museum Trustee Ann Tenenbaum and her husband, Thomas H. Lee, in honour of the Museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The exhibition will feature masterpieces by a wide range of the medium’s greatest practitioners, including Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Ilse Bing, Joseph Cornell, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Helen Levitt, Dora Maar, László Moholy-Nagy, Jack Pierson, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Laurie Simmons, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Edward Weston, and Rachel Whiteread.

The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel and the Alfred Stieglitz Society.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, said, “Ann Tenenbaum brilliantly assembled an outstanding and very personal collection of 20th-century photographs, and this extraordinary gift will bring a hugely important group of works to The Met’s holdings and to the public’s eye. From works by celebrated masters to lesser-known artists, this collection encourages a deeper understanding of the formative years of photography, and significantly enhances our holdings of key works by women, broadening the stories we can tell in our galleries and allowing us to celebrate a whole range of crucial artists at The Met. We are extremely grateful to Ann and Tom for their generosity in making this promised gift to The Met, especially as we celebrate the Museum’s 150th anniversary. It will be an honour to share these remarkable works with our visitors.”

“Early on, Ann recognised the camera as one of the most creative and democratic instruments of contemporary human expression,” said Jeff Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs. “Her collecting journey through the last century of picture-making has been guided by her versatility and open-mindedness, and the result is a collection that is both personal and dynamic.”

The Tenenbaum Collection is particularly notable for its focus on artists’ beginnings, for a sustained interest in the nude, and for the breadth and depth of works by women artists. Paul Strand’s 1916 view from the viaduct confirms his break with the Pictorialist past and establishes the artist’s way forward as a cutting-edge modernist; Walker Evans’s shadow self-portraits from 1927 mark the first inkling of a young writer’s commitment to visual culture; and Cindy Sherman’s intimate nine-part portrait series from 1976 predates her renowned series of “film stills” and confirms her striking ambition and stunning mastery of the medium at the age of 22.

Ms. Tenenbaum commented, “Photographs are mirrors and windows not only onto the world but also into deeply personal experience. Tom and I are proud to support the Museum’s Department of Photographs and thrilled to be able to share our collection with the public.”

The exhibition will feature a diverse range of styles and photographic practices, combining small-scale and large-format works in both black and white and colour. The presentation will integrate early modernist photographs, including superb examples by avant-garde American and European artists, together with work from the postwar period, the 1960s, and the medium’s boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and extend up to the present moment.

Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection is curated by The Met’s Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972) 'Tamara Toumanova (Daguerreotype-Object)' October 1941

 

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972)
Tamara Toumanova (Daguerreotype-Object)
October 1941
Construction with photomechanical reproduction, mirror, rhinestones or sequins, and tinted glass in artist’s frame
Dimensions: 5 1/8 × 4 3/16 in. (13 × 10.6cm)
Frame: 9 3/4 × 8 3/4 × 1 7/8 in. (24.8 × 22.2 × 4.8cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

 

 

Joseph Cornell is celebrated for his meticulously constructed, magical shadow boxes that teem with celestial charts, ballet stars, parrots, mirrors, and marbles. Into these tiny theatres he decanted his dreams, obsessions, and unfulfilled desires. Here, his subject is the Russian prima ballerina Tamara Toumanova. Known for her virtuosity and beauty, the dancer captivated Cornell, who met her backstage at the Metropolitan Opera and thereafter saw her as his personal Snow Queen and muse.

 

Tamara Toumanova (Georgian 2 March 1919 – 29 May 1996) was a Georgian-American prima ballerina and actress. A child of exiles in Paris after the Russian Revolution of 1917, she made her debut at the age of 10 at the children’s ballet of the Paris Opera.

She became known internationally as one of the Baby Ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo after being discovered by her fellow émigré, balletmaster and choreographer George Balanchine. She was featured in numerous ballets in Europe. Balanchine featured her in his productions at Ballet Theatre, New York, making her the star of his performances in the United States. While most of Toumanova’s career was dedicated to ballet, she appeared as a ballet dancer in several films, beginning in 1944. She became a naturalised United States citizen in 1943 in Los Angeles, California.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004) 'Noto, Sicily, September 5, 1947' September 5, 1947

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Noto, Sicily, September 5, 1947
September 5, 1947
Gelatin silver print
6 × 6 in. (15.2 × 15.2cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Richard Avedon believed this early street portrait of a young boy in Sicily was the genesis of his long fashion and portrait career. On the occasion of The Met’s groundbreaking 2002 exhibition on the artist, curators Maria Morris Hambourg and Mia Fineman described the work as “a kind of projected self-portrait” in which “a boy stands there, pushing forward to the front of the picture. … He is smiling wildly, ready to race into the future. And there, hovering behind him like a mushroom cloud, is the past in the form of a single, strange tree – a reminder of the horror that split the century into a before and after, a symbol of destruction but also of regeneration.”

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934) 'Philadelphia' 1961

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Philadelphia
1961
Gelatin silver print
12 1/16 × 17 15/16 in. (30.7 × 45.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Philadelphia is the earliest dated photograph from a celebrated series of television sets beaming images into seemingly empty rooms that Lee Friedlander made between 1961 and 1970. The pictures provided a prophetic commentary on the new medium to which Americans had quickly become addicted. Walker Evans published a suite of Friedlander’s TV photographs in Harper’s Bazaar in 1963 and noted: “The pictures on these pages are in effect deft, witty, spanking little poems of hate… Taken out of context as they are here, that baby might be selling skin rash, the careful, good-looking woman might be categorically unselling marriage and the home and total daintiness. Here, then, from an expert-hand, is a pictorial account of what TV-screen light does to rooms and to the things in them.”

 

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937) 'Self-Service – Milan, New Mexico' 1962

 

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
Self-Service – Milan, New Mexico
1962
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 × 4 11/16 in. (11.9 × 11.9cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Ed Ruscha

 

 

This intentionally mundane work by the Los Angeles–based painter and printmaker, Ed Ruscha, appears in Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), the first of sixteen landmark photographic books he published between 1963 and 1978. The volume established the artist’s reputation as a conceptual minimalist with a mastery of typography, an appreciation for seriality and documentary practice, and a deadpan sense of humour. Early on, he was influenced by the photographs of Walker Evans. “What I was after,” said Ruscha, “was no-style or a non-statement with a no-style.”

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953) 'Ivy in the Boston Garden: Back' 1973

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Ivy in the Boston Garden: Back
1973
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 20 × 16 in. (50.8 × 40.6cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
© Nan Goldin

 

 

While still in college, Nan Goldin spent two years recording performers at the Other Side, a Boston drag bar that hosted beauty pageants on Monday nights. This black-and-white study of Ivy, Goldin’s friend from the bar, walking alone through the Boston Common is one of the artist’s earliest photographs. The portrait evokes the glamorous world of fashion photography and hints at its loneliness. In all of her photographs, Goldin explores the natural twinning of fantasy and reality; it is the source of their pathos and rhythmic emotional beat. A decade after this elegiac photograph, she conceived the first iteration of her 1985 breakthrough colour series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which was presented as an ever-changing visual diary using a slide projector and synchronised music.

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949) 'Woman/Interior' I 1976

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
Woman/Interior I
1976
Gelatin silver print
5 3/4 × 7 1/2 in. (14.6 × 19.1cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Laurie Simmons
Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

 

 

Laurie Simmons began her career in 1976 with a series of enchantingly melancholic photographs of toy dolls set up in her apartment. The accessible mix of desire and anxiety in these early photographs resonates with, and provides a useful counterpoint to, Cindy Sherman’s contemporaneous “film stills” such as Untitled Film Still #48 seen nearby. Simmons and Sherman were foundational members of one of the most vibrant and productive communities of artists to emerge in the late twentieth century. Although they did not all see themselves as feminists or even as a unified group of “women artists,” each used the camera to examine the prescribed roles of women, especially in the workplace, and in advertising, politics, literature, and film.

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled Film Still #48' 1979

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #48
1979
Gelatin silver print
6 15/16 × 9 3/8 in. (17.6 × 23.8cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A lone woman on an empty highway peers around the corner of a rocky outcrop. She waits and waits below the dramatic sky. Is it fear or self-reliance that challenges the unnamed traveler? Does she dread the future, the past, or just the present? So thorough and sophisticated is Cindy Sherman’s capacity for filmic detail and nuance that many viewers (encouraged by the titles) mistakenly believe that the photographs in the series are reenactments of films. Rather, they are an unsettling yet deeply satisfying synthesis of film and narrative painting, a shrewdly composed remaking not of the “real” world but of the mediated landscape.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989) 'Coral Sea' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Coral Sea
1983
Platinum print
23 1/8 × 19 1/2 in. (58.8 × 49.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This study of a Midway-class aircraft carrier shows a massive warship not actually floating on the ocean’s surface but seemingly sunken beneath it. The rather minimal photograph is among the rarest and least representative works by Robert Mapplethorpe, who is known mostly for his uncompromising sexual portraits and saturated flower studies, as well as for his mastery of the photographic print tradition. Here, he chose platinum materials to explore the subtle beauty of the medium’s extended mid-grey tones. By rendering prints using the more tactile platinum process, Mapplethorpe hoped to transcend the medium; as he said it is “no longer a photograph first, [but] firstly a statement that happens to be a photograph.”

 

Robert Gober (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled' 1988 (detail)

 

Robert Gober (American, b. 1954)
Untitled (detail)
1988
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 × 9 7/16 in. (16.5 × 24cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Robert Gober, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

 

 

Although Robert Gober is not often thought of as a photographer, his conceptual practice has long depended on a camera. From the time of his first solo show in 1984 Gober has documented temporal projects in hundreds of photographs, and today many of his site-specific installations survive as images. His photography resists classification, seeming to split the difference between archival record and independent artwork. Here, across three frames, flimsy white dresses advance and recede into a deserted wood. Gober sewed the garments from fabric printed by the painter Christopher Wool in the course of a related collaboration. Seen together, Gober’s staged photographs record an ephemeral intervention in an unwelcoming, almost fairy-tale landscape.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948) 'Imperial Montreal' 1995

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948)
Imperial Montreal
1995
Gelatin silver print
20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 61cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A self-taught expert on the history of photography and Zen Buddhism, Hiroshi Sugimoto posed a question to himself in 1976: what would be the effect on a single sheet of film if it was exposed to all 172,800 photographic frames in a feature-length movie? To visualise the answer, he hid a large-format camera in the last row of seats at St. Marks Cinema in Manhattan’s East Village and opened the shutter when the film started; an hour and a half later, when the movie ended, he closed it. The series (now forty years in the making) of ethereal photographs of darkened rooms filled with gleaming white screens presents a perfect example of yin and yang, the classic concept of opposites in ancient Chinese philosophy.

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955) 'Prada II' 1996

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
Prada II
1996
Chromogenic print
65 in. × 10 ft. 4 13/16 in. (165.1 × 317cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Andreas Gursky / Courtesy Sprüth Magers / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

To produce this quasi-architectural study of a barren luxury store display, Andreas Gursky used newly available software both to artificially stretch the underlying chemical image and to digitally generate the billboard-size print. At ten feet wide, the work is a Frankensteinian glimpse of what would transform the medium of photography over the next two decades. Gursky seems to have fully understood the Pandora’s box he had opened by using digital tools to manipulate his pictures, which put into question their essential realism: “I have a weakness for paradox. For me… the photogenic allows a picture to develop a life of its own, on a two-dimensional surface, which doesn’t exactly reflect the real object.”

 

Rachel Whiteread (English, b. 1963) 'Watertower Project' 1998

 

Rachel Whiteread (English, b. 1963)
Watertower Project
1998
Screenprint with applied acrylic resin and graphite
20 in. × 15 15/16 in. (50.8 × 40.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Rachel Whiteread

 

 

How might one solidify water other than by freezing it? In New York in June 1998, a translucent 12 x 9-foot, 4 1/2-ton sculpture created by Rachel Whiteread landed like a UFO atop a roof at the corner of West Broadway and Grand Street. The artist described the work – a resin cast of the interior of one of the city’s landmark wooden water tanks – as a “jewel in the Manhattan skyline.” This print is a poetic trace of the massive sculpture, which was commissioned by the Public Art Fund. The original work of art holds and refracts light just like the acrylic resin applied to the surface of this print.

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962) 'Untitled' 2005

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled
2005
Chromogenic print
57 × 88 in. (144.8 × 223.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Gregory Crewdson describes his highly scripted photographs as single-frame movies; to produce them, he engages teams of riggers, grips, lighting specialists, and actors. The story lines in most of his photographs centre on suburban anxiety, disorientation, fear, loss, and longing, but the final meaning almost always remains elusive, the narrative unfinished. In this photograph something terrible has happened, is happening, and will likely happen again. A woman in a nightgown sits in crisis on the edge of her bed with the remains of a rosebush on the sheets beside her. The journey from the garden was not an easy one, as evidenced by the trail of petals, thorns, and dirt. Even so, the protagonist cradles the plant’s roots with tender regard.

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Football Landscape #8 (Crenshaw vs. Jefferson, Los Angeles, CA)' 2007

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Football Landscape #8 (Crenshaw vs. Jefferson, Los Angeles, CA)
2007
Chromogenic print
48 × 64 in. (121.9 × 162.6cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

High school football is not a conventional subject for contemporary artists in any medium. Neither are freeways nor surfers, each of which are series by the artist Catherine Opie. A professor of photography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Opie spent several years traveling across the United States making close-up portraits of adolescent gladiators as well as seductive, large-scale landscape views of the game itself. Poignant studies of group behaviour and American masculinity on the cusp of adulthood, the photographs can be seen as an extension of the artist’s diverse body of work related to gender performance in the queer communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Vukani II (Paris)' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Vukani II (Paris)
2014
Gelatin silver print
23 1/2 in. × 13 in. (59.7 × 33cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The South African photographer Zanele Muholi is a self-described visual activist and cultural archivist. In the artist’s hands, the camera is a potent tool of self-representation and self-definition for communities at risk of violence. Muholi has chosen the nearly archaic black-and-white process for most of their portraits “to create a sense of timelessness – a sense that we’ve been here before, but we’re looking at human beings who have never before had an opportunity to be seen.” Challenging the immateriality of our digital age, Muholi has restated the importance of the physical print and connected their work to that of their progenitors. In this recent self-portrait, Muholi sits on a bed, sharing a quiet moment of reflection and self-observation. The title, in the artist’s native Zulu, translates loosely as “wake up.”

 

 

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23
Feb
20

Exhibition: ‘Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 17th December 2019 – 8th March 2020

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American, born Austria, 1899-1968) '[Calypso]' about 1944; before 1946

 

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American born Austria, 1899-1968)
[Calypso]
about 1944; before 1946
Gelatin silver print
26.2 x 33.3cm (10 5/16 x 13 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© International Center of Photography

 

 

Imagine having these photographs in your collection!

My particular favourite is Hiromu Kira’s The Thinker (about 1930). For me it sums up our singular 1 thoughtful 2 imaginative 3 ephemeral 4 ether/real 5 existence.

“Aether is the fifth element in the series of classical elements thought to make up our experience of the universe… Although the Aether goes by as many names as there are cultures that have referenced it, the general meaning always transcends and includes the same four “material” elements [earth, air, water, fire]. It is sometimes more generally translated simply as “Spirit” when referring to an incorporeal living force behind all things. In Japanese, it is considered to be the void through which all other elements come into existence.” (Adam Amorastreya. “The End of the Aether,” on the Resonance website Feb 16, 2015 [Online] Cited 23/02/2020)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916) '[Guadalupe Mill]' 1860

 

Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
[Guadalupe Mill]
1860
Salted paper print
Image (dome-topped): 33.8 × 41.6cm (13 5/16 × 16 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963) 'The Goalie Gets There a Split Second Too Late' about 1923

 

Martin Munkácsi (American born Hungary, 1896-1963)
The Goalie Gets There a Split Second Too Late
about 1923
Gelatin silver print
29.8 × 36.7cm (11 3/4 × 14 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Martin Munkácsi, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Hiromu Kira (American, 1898-1991) 'The Thinker' about 1930

 

Hiromu Kira (American, 1898-1991)
The Thinker
about 1930
Gelatin silver print
27.9 × 35.1cm (11 × 13 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Sadamura Family Trust

 

 

Hiromu Kira (1898-1991) was one of the most successful and well-known Japanese American photographers in prewar Los Angeles. He was born in Waipahu, O’ahu, Hawai’i on April 5, 1898, but was sent to Kumamoto, Japan, for his early education. When he was eighteen years old, he returned to the United States and settled in Seattle, Washington, where he first became interested in photography. In 1923, he submitted prints to the Seattle Photography Salon which accepted two of the photographs. In 1923, his work was accepted in the Pittsburg Salon and the Annual Competition of American Photography. He found work at the camera department of a local Seattle pharmacy and began meeting other Issei, Nisei and Kibei photographers such as Kyo Koike and joined the Seattle Camera Club.

In 1926, Kira moved to Los Angeles with his wife and two young children. Although he was never a member of the Japanese Camera Pictorialists of California, a group that was active in Los Angeles at that time, he developed strong friendships with club members associated with the pictorialist movement of the 1920s and ’30s such as K. Asaishi and T. K. Shindo. In 1928, Kira was named an associate of the Royal Photography Society, and the following year he was made a full fellow and began exhibiting both nationally and internationally. In 1929 alone, Kira exhibited ninety-six works in twenty-five different shows. In the late twenties, he worked at T. Iwata’s art store. In 1931, his photograph The Thinker, made while showing a customer how to use his newly purchased camera properly, appeared on the March 1931 issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

On December 5, two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kira was selected to be included in the 25th Annual International Salon of the Camera Pictorialists of Los Angeles. Within a few months, he was forced to store his camera, photography books and prints in the basement of the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles for the duration of World War II. He and his family were incarcerated at Santa Anita Assembly Center and the Gila River, Arizona concentration camp from 1942-1944, leaving the latter in April 1944.

Following his release, he lived briefly in Chicago before returning to Los Angeles in 1946, where he remained for the rest of his life. In Los Angeles, he worked as a photo retoucher and printer for the Disney, RKO and Columbia Picture studios but never exhibited again as he had before the war.

Text from the Hiromu Kira page on the Densho Encyclopedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/2020

 

Marinus Jacob Kjeldgaard (Danish, 1884-1964, active Paris, France late 1930s - late 1940s) '[Collage: Balance of Powers]' about 1939

 

Marinus Jacob Kjeldgaard (Danish, 1884-1964, active Paris, France late 1930s – late 1940s)
[Collage: Balance of Powers]
about 1939
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 32cm (11 1/4 × 12 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Marinus Jacob Kjeldgaard

 

Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958) '[Egg in Spotlight]' 1943

 

Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958)
[Egg in Spotlight]
1943
Gelatin silver print
26.4x 34.4cm (10 3/8 x 13 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2019 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA

 

Emil Cadoo (American, 1926-2002) 'Children of Harlem' 1965

 

Emil Cadoo (American, 1926-2002)
Children of Harlem
1965
Gelatin silver print
20.3 × 25.2cm (8 × 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Joyce Cadoo / Janos Gat Gallery
© Estate of Emil Cadoo, courtesy of Janos Gat Gallery

 

Anthony Hernandez (American, b. 1947) 'Los Angeles #1' 1969

 

Anthony Hernandez (American, b. 1947)
Los Angeles #1
1969
Gelatin silver print
18.9 × 28.4cm (7 7/16 × 11 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Anthony Hernandez

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939) 'Dolls on Cadillac, Memphis' 1972

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Dolls on Cadillac, Memphis
1972
Chromogenic print
25.4 × 38.1cm (10 × 15 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Wegman (American, b, 1943) 'Dog and Ball' 1973

 

William Wegman (American, b, 1943)
Dog and Ball
1973
Gelatin silver print
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© William Wegman

 

Marketa Luskacova (Czech, born 1944) 'Sclater St, Woman with Baby and Girl' 1975

 

Markéta Luskačová (Czech, b. 1944)
Sclater St, Woman with Baby and Girl
1975
Gelatin silver print
21 x 31.8cm (8 1/4 x 12 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Markéta Luskačová

 

 

Markéta Luskačová (born 1944) is a Czech photographer known for her series of photographs taken in Slovakia, Britain and elsewhere. Considered one of the best Czech social photographers to date, since the 1990s she has photographed children in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and also Poland…

In the 1970s and 1980s, the communist censorship attempted to conceal her international reputation. Her works were banned in Czechoslovakia, and the catalogues for the exhibition Pilgrims in the Victoria and Albert Museum were lost on their way to Czechoslovakia.

Luskačová started photographing London’s markets in 1974. In the markets of Portobello Road, Brixton and Spitalfields, she “[found] a vivid Dickensian staging”.

In 2016 she self-published a collection of photographs of street musicians, mostly taken in the markets of east London, under the title To Remember – London Street Musicians 1975-1990, and with an introduction by John Berger.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/2020

 

Marketa Luskacova (Czech, b. 1944) 'Men around Fire, Spitalfields Market' Negative 1976, print 1991

 

Markéta Luskačová (Czech, b. 1944)
Men around Fire, Spitalfields Market
Negative 1976, print 1991
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 32.9cm (9 x 12 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Markéta Luskačová

 

Shigeichi Nagano (Japanese, born 1925, active Tokyo, Japan) '[Tokyo, Aobadai (Nishi Saigoyama Park), Meguro Ward]' 1988

 

Shigeichi Nagano (Japanese, 1925-2019, active Tokyo, Japan)
[Tokyo, Aobadai (Nishi Saigoyama Park), Meguro Ward]
1988
Gelatin silver print
26 × 39.4cm (10 1/4 × 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shigeichi Nagano

 

 

During the 1960s Nagano observed the period of intense economic growth in Japan, depicting the lives of Tokyo’s sarariman with some humour. The photographs of this period were only published in book form much later, as Dorīmu eiji and 1960 (1978 and 1990 respectively).

Nagano exhibited recent examples of his street photography in 1986, winning the Ina Nobuo Award. He published several books of his works since then, and won a number of awards. Nagano had a major retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in 2000.

Nagano died two months short of his 94th birthday, on January 30, 2019.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Untitled #15' 1997

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Untitled #15
1997
Inkjet print
40.6 × 104.1cm (16 × 41 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Catherine Opie

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953) 'Self Portrait, Red, Zurich' 2002

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Self Portrait, Red, Zurich
2002
Silver-dye bleach print
Framed (outer dim): 72.4 x 104.1cm (28 1/2 x 41 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Nan Goldin, courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery and the artist

 

Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1965) 'My Things No. 5 - 5,000 Pieces of Rubbish' 2002

 

Hong Hao (Chinese, b. 1965)
My Things No. 5 – 5,000 Pieces of Rubbish
2002
Chromogenic print
120 × 210.8cm (47 1/4 × 83 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Anonymous Gift
© Hong Hao, Courtesy of Chambers Fine Art

 

Veronika Kellndorfer (German, b. 1962) 'Succulent Screen' 2007

 

Veronika Kellndorfer (German, b. 1962)
Succulent Screen
2007
Silkscreen print on glass
288 × 351.5cm (113 3/8 × 138 3/8 in.)
Gift of Christopher Grimes in honour of Virginia Heckert
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Veronika Kellndorfer

 

 

A three-panel silkscreen print on glass, Succulent Screen depicts a detail view of one of the signature miter-cut windows of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Freeman House. The house was built in the Hollywood Hills in 1923, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 as a California Historical Landmark and as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #247 in 1981; it was bequeathed to the USC School of Architecture in 1986.

Text from the Getty Museum website

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965) 'Early American, Strawberries and Ostrich Egg' 2007

 

Sharon Core (American, b. 1965)
Early American, Strawberries and Ostrich Egg
2007
Chromogenic print
42.8 x 56.8cm (16 7/8 x 22 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Sharon Core

 

 

The Getty Museum holds one of the largest collections of photographs in the United States, with more than 148,000 prints. However, only a small percentage of these have ever been exhibited at the Museum. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Photographs, the Getty Museum is exhibiting 200 of these never-before-seen photographs and pull back the curtain on the work of the many professionals who care for this important collection in Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs, on view December 17, 2019 – March 8, 2020.

“Rather than showcasing again the best-known highlights of the collection, the time is right to dig deeper into our extraordinary holdings and present a selection of never-before-seen treasures. I have no doubt that visitors will be intrigued and delighted by the diversity and quality of the collection, whose riches will support exhibition and research well into the decades ahead,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The exhibition includes photographs by dozens of artists from the birth of the medium in the mid-19th century to the present day. The selection also encompasses a variety of photographic processes, including the delicate cyanotypes of Anna Atkins (British, 1799-1871), Polaroids by Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953) and Mary Ellen Mark (American, 1940-2015) and an architectural photographic silkscreen on glass by Veronika Kellndorfer (German, born 1962).

Visual associations among photographs from different places and times illuminate the breadth of the Getty’s holdings and underscore a sense of continuity and change within the history of the medium. The curators have also personalised some of the labels in the central galleries to give voice to their individual insights and perspectives.

 

Growth of the collection

In 1984, as the J. Paul Getty Trust was in the early stages of conceiving what would eventually become the Getty Center, the Getty Museum created its Department of Photographs. It did so with the acquisition of several world-famous private collections, including those of Sam Wagstaff, André Jammes, Arnold Crane, and Volker Kahmen and Georg Heusch. These dramatic acquisitions immediately established the Museum as a leading center for photography.

While the founding collections are particularly strong in 19th and early 20th century European and American work, the department now embraces contemporary photography and, increasingly, work produced around the world. The collection continues to evolve, has been shaped by several generations of curators and benefits from the generosity of patrons and collectors.

 

Behind the scenes

In addition to the photographs on view, the exhibition spotlights members of Getty staff who care for, handle, and monitor these works of art.

“What the general public may not realise is that before a single photograph is hung on a wall, the object and its related data is managed by teams of professional conservators, registrars, curators, mount-makers, and many others,” says Jim Ganz, senior curator of photographs at the Getty Museum. “In addition to exposing works of art in the collection that are not well known, we wanted to shed light on the largely hidden activity that goes into caring for such a collection.”

 

Collecting Contemporary Photography

The department’s collecting of contemporary photography has been given strong encouragement by the Getty Museum Photographs Council, and a section of the exhibition will be dedicated to objects purchased with the Council’s funding. Established in 2005, this group supports the department’s curatorial program, especially with the acquisition of works made after 1945 by artists not yet represented or underrepresented in the collection. Since its founding, the Council has contributed over $3 million toward the purchase of nearly five hundred photographs by artists from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, and Taiwan, as well as Europe and the United States.

 

Looking ahead

The exhibition also looks towards the future of the collection, and includes a gallery of very newly-acquired works by Laura Aguilar (American, 1959-2018), Osamu Shiihara (Japanese, 1905-1974), as well as highlights of the Dennis Reed collection of photographs by Japanese American photographers. The selection represents the department’s strengthening of diversity in front of and behind the camera, the collection of works relevant to Southern California communities, and the acquisition of photographs that expand the understanding of the history of the medium.

“With this exhibition we celebrate the past 35 years of collecting, and look forward to the collection’s continued expansion, encompassing important work by artists all over the world and across three centuries,” adds Potts.

Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photographs is on view December 17, 2019 – March 8, 2020 at the Getty Center. The exhibition is organised by Jim Ganz, senior curator of photographs at the Getty Museum in collaboration with Getty curators Mazie Harris, Virginia Heckert, Karen Hellman, Arpad Kovacs, Amanda Maddox, and Paul Martineau.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum [Online] Cited 09/20/2020

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948) 'Botanical Specimen (Erica mutabolis), March 1839' 2009

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948)
Botanical Specimen (Erica mutabolis), March 1839
2009
Toned gelatin silver print
93.7 x 74.9cm (36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in.)
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) '[Spring]' 1873

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British born India, 1815-1879)
[Spring]
1873
Albumen silver print
35.4 × 25.7cm (13 15/16 × 10 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Reverend William Ellis (British, 1794-1872) and Samuel Smith. '[Portrait of a Black Couple]' about 1873

 

Reverend William Ellis (British, 1794-1872) and Samuel Smith
[Portrait of a Black Couple]
about 1873
Albumen silver print
24.1 × 18.6cm (9 1/2 × 7 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Prince Roland Napoleon Bonaparte (French, 1858-1924) 'Jacobus Huch, 26 ans' about 1888

 

Prince Roland Napoleon Bonaparte (French, 1858-1924)
Jacobus Huch, 26 ans
about 1888
Albumen silver print
15.9 × 10.9cm (6 1/4 × 4 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Underwood & Underwood (American, founded 1881, dissolved 1940s) 'Les Chiens du Front, eux-mems, portent des masques contre les gaz' May 27, 1917

 

Underwood & Underwood (American, founded 1881, dissolved 1940s)
Les Chiens du Front, eux-mems, portent des masques contre les gaz
May 27, 1917
Rotogravure
22 × 20.4cm (8 11/16 × 8 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American, born Hungary, 1895-1946) '[The Law of the Series]' 1925

 

László Moholy-Nagy (American born Hungary, 1895-1946)
[The Law of the Series]
1925
Gelatin silver print
21.6 × 16.2cm (8 1/2 × 6 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2019 Estate of László Moholy-Nagy / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963) 'Big Dummies' 1927-1933

 

Martin Munkácsi (American born Hungary, 1896-1963)
Big Dummies
1927-1933
Gelatin silver print
33.5 × 26.7cm (13 3/16 × 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Martin Munkácsi, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Munkácsi was a newspaper writer and photographer in Hungary, specialising in sports. At the time, sports action photography could only be done in bright light outdoors. Munkácsi’s innovation was to make sport photographs as meticulously composed action photographs, which required both artistic and technical skill.

Munkácsi’s break was to happen upon a fatal brawl, which he photographed. Those photos affected the outcome of the trial of the accused killer, and gave Munkácsi considerable notoriety. That notoriety helped him get a job in Berlin in 1928, for Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, where his first published photo was a motorcycle splashing its way through a puddle. He also worked for the fashion magazine Die Dame.

More than just sports and fashion, he photographed Berliners, rich and poor, in all their activities. He traveled to Turkey, Sicily, Egypt, London, New York, and Liberia, for photo spreads in Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung.

The speed of the modern age and the excitement of new photographic viewpoints enthralled him, especially flying. There are aerial photographs; there are air-to-air photographs of a flying school for women; there are photographs from a Zeppelin, including the ones on his trip to Brazil, where he crossed over a boat whose passengers wave to the airship above.

On 21 March 1933, he photographed the fateful Day of Potsdam, when the aged President Paul von Hindenburg handed Germany over to Adolf Hitler. On assignment for Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, he photographed Hitler’s inner circle, although he was a Jewish foreigner.

Munkácsi left for New York City… Munkácsi died in poverty and controversy. Several universities and museums declined to accept his archives, and they were scattered around the world.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/2020

 

Erwin Blumenfeld (American, born Germany, 1897-1969) 'Hitlerfresse (Hitler's Mug)' January 30, 1933

 

Erwin Blumenfeld (American born Germany, 1897-1969)
Hitlerfresse (Hitler’s Mug)
January 30, 1933
Gelatin silver print collage with ink
29.2 × 21.3cm (11 1/2 × 8 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

 

 

Blumenfeld was born in Berlin on 26 January 1897. As a young man he worked in the clothes trade and wrote poetry. In 1918 he went to Amsterdam, where he came into contact with Paul Citroen and Georg Grosz. In 1933 he made a photomontage showing Hitler as a skull with a swastika on its forehead; this image was later used in Allied propaganda material in 1943.

He married Lena Citroen, with whom he had three children, in 1921. In 1922 he started a leather goods shop, which failed in 1935. He moved to Paris, where in 1936 he set up as a photographer and did free-lance work for French Vogue. After the outbreak of the Second World War he was placed in an internment camp; in 1941 he was able to emigrate to the United States. There he soon became a successful and well-paid fashion photographer, and worked as a free-lancer for Harper’s Bazaar, Life and American Vogue. Blumenfeld died in Rome on 4 July 1969.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/3030

 

Paul Wolff (German, 1887-1951) and Dr Wolff & Tritschler OHG (German, founded 1927, dissolved 1963) '[Dog at the beach]' 1936

 

Paul Wolff (German, 1887-1951) and Dr Wolff & Tritschler OHG (German, founded 1927, dissolved 1963)
[Dog at the beach]
1936
Gelatin silver print
23.4 x 17.8cm (9 3/16 x 7 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Dr Paul Wolff & Tritschler, Historisches Bildarchiv, D-77654 Offenburg, Germany

 

Barbara Morgan (American, 1900 - 1992) 'City Shell' 1938

 

Barbara Morgan (American, 1900-1992)
City Shell
1938
Gelatin silver print
49.2 × 39.4cm (19 3/8 × 15 1/2 in.)
Reproduced courtesy of the Barbara and Willard Morgan Photographs and Papers, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903 - 1975) '[Two Giraffes, Circus Winter Quarters, Sarasota]' 1941

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
[Two Giraffes, Circus Winter Quarters, Sarasota]
1941
Gelatin silver print
15.1 × 18.3cm (5 15/16 × 7 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Horst P. Horst (American, born Germany, 1906-1999) 'Hands, Hands' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst (American born Germany, 1906-1999)
Hands, Hands
1941
Platinum and palladium print
23.7 × 17cm (9 5/16 × 6 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Manfred Heiting
© The Estate of Horst P. Horst and Condé Nast

 

Erwin Blumenfeld (American, born Germany, 1897-1969) 'Maroua Motherwell, New York' 1941-1943

 

Erwin Blumenfeld (American, born Germany, 1897-1969)
Maroua Motherwell, New York
1941-1943
Gelatin silver print
48.5 x 38.7cm (19 1/8 x 15 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986) 'Photography Student' 1947

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986)
Photography Student
1947
Gelatin silver print
11.4 × 9.6cm (4 1/2 × 3 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Smith Family Trust
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

 

Henry Holmes Smith (1909-1986) was an American photographer and one of the most influential fine art photography teachers of the mid 20th century. He was inspired by the work that had been done at the German Bauhaus and in 1937 was invited to teach photography at the New Bauhaus being founded by Moholy-Nagy in Chicago. After World War II, he spent many years teaching at Indiana University. His students included Jerry Uelsmann, Jack Welpott, Robert W. Fichter, Betty Hahn and Jaromir Stephany.

Smith was often involved in the cutting edge of photographic techniques: in 1931 he started experimenting with high-speed flash photography of action subjects, and started doing colour work in 1936 when few people considered it a serious artistic medium. His later images were nearly all abstract, often made directly (without a camera, i.e. like photograms), for instance images created by refracting light through splashes of water and corn syrup on a glass plate. However, although acclaimed as a photographic teacher, Holmes’ own photographs and other images did not achieve any real recognition from his peers.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/02/2020

 

Andreas Feininger (American, born France, 1906-1999) 'Elegant Disk Clam, dosinia elegans, Conrad' 1948

 

Andreas Feininger (American born France, 1906-1999)
Elegant Disk Clam, dosinia elegans, Conrad
1948
Gelatin silver print
30.4 x 23.8cm (11 15/16 x 9 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Gertrud E. Feininger

 

Alexander Rodchenko (Russian, 1891 - 1956) 'Roll (of Film)' 1950

 

Alexander Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Roll (of Film)
1950
Gelatin silver print
30.5 × 24cm (12 × 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2019 Estate of Alexander Rodchenko / UPRAVIS, Moscow / Artists Rights Society, NY

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978) 'Schlammweiher 2' Negative 1953, print about 1960s

 

Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Schlammweiher 2
Negative 1953, print about 1960s
Gelatin silver print
39.6 x 29.1cm (15 9/16 x 11 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Courtesy Galerie Johannes Faber

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) 'Still Life with Snake' Negative 1960; print later

 

André Kertész (American born Hungary, 1894-1985)
Still Life with Snake
Negative 1960; print later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.8 × 19.7cm (9 3/4 × 7 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of André Kertész

 

Malick Sidibé (Malian, 1936-2016) 'Vues de dos' Nd, print 2003

 

Malick Sidibé (Malian, 1936-2016)
Vues de dos
Nd, print 2003
Gelatin silver print, glass, paint, cardboard, tape, and string
36.5 x 27cm (14 3/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of Malick Sidibé

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Red Apples' July 15, 1985

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Red Apples
July 15, 1985
Silver-dye bleach print
25.4 × 20.3cm (10 × 8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Nancy and Bruce Berman
© 1985 Irving Penn

 

Lyle Ashton Harris (American, b. 1965) 'Man and Woman #1' 1987-1988

 

Lyle Ashton Harris (American, b. 1965)
Man and Woman #1
1987-1988
Gelatin silver print
74.3 x 48.9cm (29 1/4 x 19 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Lyle Ashton Harris

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942) 'Doll Repair Shop Window, Buenos Aires, Argentina' 1990

 

Jim Dow (American, b. 1942)
Doll Repair Shop Window, Buenos Aires, Argentina
1990
Chromogenic print
51.2 × 40.6cm (20 3/16 × 16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Nancy and Bruce Berman
© Jim Dow

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953) 'See No Evil' 1991

 

Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953)
See No Evil
1991
Dye diffusion print (Polaroid Polacolor)
61 × 50.5cm (24 × 19 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Carrie Mae Weems

 

Myoung Ho Lee (South Korean, b. 1975) '[Tree #2]' 2006

 

Myoung Ho Lee (South Korean, b. 1975)
[Tree #2]
2006
Inkjet print
39.8 × 32.1cm (15 11/16 × 12 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Myoung Ho Lee, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, born 1984) 'Africanis 18. Murraysburg, Western Cape, 10 May 2010' 2010

 

Daniel Naudé (South African, b. 1984)
Africanis 18. Murraysburg, Western Cape, 10 May 2010
2010
60 x 60cm (23 5/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Daniel Naudé

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, born 1976) 'Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana' 2010

 

Pieter Hugo (South African, b. 1976)
Aissah Salifu, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana
2010
From the Permanent Error series
Digital chromogenic print
81.3 x 81.3cm (32 x 32 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Pieter Hugo

 

Mona Kuhn (German, born Brazil, 1969) 'Portrait 37' 2011

 

Mona Kuhn (German born Brazil, 1969)
Portrait 37
2011
Chromogenic print
38.3 x 38.1cm (15 1/16 x 15 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Mona Kuhn

 

Alison Rossiter (American, b. 1953) 'Eastman Kodak Azo E, expired May 1927, processed 2014' 2014

 

Alison Rossiter (American, b. 1953)
Eastman Kodak Azo E, expired May 1927, processed 2014
2014
Gelatin silver print
25 x 20cm (9 13/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Alison Rossiter

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
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02
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou’ at the Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 25th March – 4th September 2016

Curator: Christine Macel

Artists include: Pawel Althamer/ Maja Bajević / Yto Barrada / Jean-Michel Basquiat / Taysir Batniji / Christian Boltanski / Erik Boulatov / Mohammed Bourouissa / Frédéric Bruly Bouabré / Sophie Calle and Greg Shephard / Mircea Cantor / Chen Zhen / Hassan Darsi / Destroy All Monsters / Atul Dodiya / Marlene Dumas / Ayşe Erkmen / Fang Lijun / Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica / Samuel Fosso / Michel François / Coco Fusco und Paula Heredia / Regina José Galindo / Kendell Geers / Liam Gillick / Fernanda Gomes / Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster / Felix Gonzalez-Torres / Renée Green / Subodh Gupta / Andreas Gursky / Hans Haacke / Petrit Halilaj / Edi Hila / Gregor Hildebrandt / Thomas Hirschhorn / Nicholas Hlobo / Carsten Höller / Pierre Huyghe / Fabrice Hyber / Isaac Julien / Oleg Kulik / Glenn Ligon / Robert Longo / Sarah Lucas / Gonçalo Mabunda / David Maljković / Chris Marker / Ahmed Mater / Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy / Annette Messager / Rabih Mroué / Zanele Muholi / Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba / Roman Ondák / Gabriel Orozco / Damián Ortega / Philippe Parreno / Nira Pereg / Dan Perjovschi / Wilfredo Prieto / Tobias Putrih / Walid Raad / Sara Rahbar / Tobias Rehberger / Nick Relph und Oliver Payne / Pipilotti Rist / Chéri Samba / Anne-Marie Schneider / Santiago Sierra / Mladen Stilinović / Georges Tony Stoll / Wolfgang Tillmans / Rirkrit Tiravanija / Danh Vo / Marie Voignier / Akram Zaatari / Zhang Huan

 

 

Thomas Hirschhorn. 'Outgrowth' 2005

 

Thomas Hirschhorn (Swiss, b. 1957)
Outgrowth
2005
Installation: 374 x 644 x 46cm
Minimum dimensions of the rail: 400 x 670cm
Wood, plastic, newspaper clipping, tape, metal, bubble wrap
Achat en 2006, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

 

Take your pick: some interesting, some not. My favourite: Annette Messager Mes voeux (1989, below) … such a strong, creative and inspiring artist.

I’m not writing so much as I have bad RSI in my left wrist at the moment.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Haus der Kunst for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In 2016, two prominent exhibition projects explore the pressing question of which factors remain relevant to the writing of art history. While “Postwar – Art between the Pacific and Atlantic, 1945-1965” concentrates on the time immediately after World War II, “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou” provides an overview of contemporary art since the 1980s with 160 works by more than 100 artists.

The year 1989 marked a break with the past and the start of a new era. The fall of the Berlin Wall toppled divisions in the world of European art, while the events of Tiananmen Square focused attention on a new China. The ongoing globalisation allows for an unprecedented mobility. The static understanding of identity, once based on origin and nationality, has since given way to a more transnational and variable narrative. Contemporary artistic proposals, which arise from the new “decolonised subjectivity”, are also based on a new understanding of site-specificity. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s the protagonists of Land Art still understood landscapes primarily as post-industrial ruins. In contemporary artistic practice, however, space is defined above all socially and politically – by traumatic historical events, home country, exile, diaspora and hybrid identities, such as African-American, Latino, Turkish-German, African-Brazilian, and so forth. The new presentation of the Centre Pompidou contemporary collections at Haus der Kunst focuses particularly on this altered geography, notably the former Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon, and various Middle Eastern countries, India, Africa, and Latin America. This is the first time such a large-scale view of the Centre Pompidou collection has been presented outside France.

 

 

Lijun Fang. 'Sans titre' 2003

 

Lijun Fang (Chinese, b. 1963)
Sans titre
2003
400 x 854cm
Each panel: 400 x 120cm
Woodcut on paper
Achat en 2004, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle

 

Marlene Dumas. 'The Missionary (Le Missionnaire)' 2002 - 2004

 

Marlene Dumas (South African, b. 1953)
The Missionary (Le Missionnaire)
2002-2004
60 x 230cm
Oil on canvas
Don de la Clarence Westbury Foundation, 2005
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Marlene Dumas

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat. 'Slave Auction (Vente aux enchères d’esclaves)' 1982

 

Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988)
Slave Auction (Vente aux enchères d’esclaves)
1982
183 x 305.5cm
Acrylic paint, oil pastel and collages
Collage of crumpled papers, oil pastel and acrylic paint on canvas
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 1993
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © The estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Fabrice Hyber. 'Peinture homéopathique n° 10 (Guerre désirée)' 1983 - 1996

 

Fabrice Hyber (French, b. 1961)
Peinture homéopathique n° 10 (Guerre désirée)
1983-1996
225 x 450cm
Each panel: 225 x 225cm
Mixed media on canvas
Graphite lead, charcoal, coloured pencil, resin, gouache, India ink, acrylic, pastel, watercolour, felt-tip pen, adhesive tape, on paper, photocopy, photographs and tissue paper pasted on canvas
Achat en 1996, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Jacques Faujour/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Adagp, Paris

 

Hans Haacke. 'MetroMobiltan' 1985

 

Hans Haacke (German, b. 1936)
MetroMobiltan
1985
Installation: 355.6 x 609.6 x 152.4cm
Fibreglass, photography, hardboard, polyester fabric, aluminum, acrylic paint
Fibreglass pediment, 1 fibreglass plate with English text, 1 black and white photograph in 5 parts laminated on hardboard, 3 banners in synthetic polyester fabric each mounted on 2 aluminium tubes: on the left and on the right 2 banners blue with English text (letters in cut and sewn white polyester fabric), in the centre 1 brown banner with photographic enlargement in cut and sewn fabric and English text), platform in 8 elements of acrylic painted fibreglass
Achat en 1988, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Chéri Samba. 'Marche de soutien à la campagne sur le SIDA' 1988

 

Chéri Samba (Democratic Republic of Congo, b. 1956)
Marche de soutien à la campagne sur le SIDA
1988
134.5 x 200cm
Oil and glitter on prepared canvas
Purchase in 1990
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Chéri Samba, photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

 

Haus der Kunst is pleased to present A History: Contemporary Art from Centre Pompidou, an exhibition originally curated by Christine Macel at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. With approximately 160 works by more than 100 artists from across the world, “A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou” provides an incisive overview of artistic positions since the 1980s in painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography, and performance.

The Centre Pompidou’s collection of contemporary art has rarely been presented so comprehensively outside France. The selected works on view date from the 1980s to the present raising two significant questions: What factors are relevant for ensuring that art history is written in a specific way, and what does an ever changing understanding of the term ‘contemporary’ mean for public museums and their collections? Still, the concentration on Euro- American domains, which many museums formerly pursued in the acquisition of works for their collections, can hardly be sustained today and is no longer the aspiration of most museums. Globalisation, with its expanded narratives, has recently become too determining for the position of contemporary art to ignore. Curator Christine Macel defines her intention accordingly: to present ‘one’ among many possible histories of contemporary art.

With the progression of globalisation – understood here as the consolidation of economic, technological and financial systems, but also the questioning of linear history, and hegemonic cultural narratives – our perception of identity has changed. Since the first globally-oriented biennial in Havana in 1986, exhibition organisers and larger museums in Europe and North America have strived to display art created beyond the Western artistic circuit. The static understanding of identity as something based in origins and a “home base” has largely given way to a transnational and variable one.

The turning point for Centre Pompidou was its 1989 exhibition “Les Magiciens de la Terre”, in which curator Jean-Hubert Martin aimed to confront the problematic phenomenon of “one hundred percent of exhibitions that ignore eighty percent of the world.” Half the participating artists came from non-Western countries, while the other half came from the West. In addition, all exhibiting artists were – without exception – still active, making the presentation truly contemporary. Since then, the Centre Pompidou, like many large museums, has had to confront the reality of the expanded circuits of contemporary art. Over the years the museum gradually changed its acquisition practices and has increasingly opened its focus toward Eastern Europe, China, Lebanon, the Middle East, India, Congo, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon, Mexico and Brazil.

Meanwhile, our understanding of the term “origins” has continued to evolve. Consequently, the definition of “site-specific” has also changed. In the 1960s and 70s, artists of the Land Art movement still essentially regarded landscapes as post-industrial ruins. By contrast, Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst believes that, in today’s artistic practice, space is defined by impermanence, by the mutability of politically and socially grounded positions, by aesthetic pluralism, and by cultural differences. Furthermore, colonial and postcolonial experiences shaped by traumatic historical events, home, exile, diaspora produced hybrid identities – such as African-American, Euro- American, Latino, Turkish-German, French-Arabic, African-Brazilian, etc. Consequently new forms of cosmopolitanism and provincialism jostle next to one another. It is no coincidence that the exhibition practice of today can already look back on a number of shows that focused on borders and issues of migration.

Against this backdrop of dynamism and permanent transition the exhibition is divided into seven chapters:

 

The Artist as Historian

An interest in the historical document and a more general obsession with the past, have led to the nostalgic excavation and re-enactments of existing works of art. Artists from the Arab speaking world are increasingly present in the art world; having borne witness to the Gulf War in 1991, these artists have developed new practices around the examination of history.

 

The Artist as Archivist

A passion for the archive initially led to a demand for completeness and later to an acceptance of the fragmentary, resulting on the one hand in concurrence of taxonomic efforts and endless accumulation, and, on the other, in an insight into the accelerated loss of memory. On a higher level, both coincide: Archives are especially useful in helping to identify and address wounds in the collective memory.

 

Sonic Boom

Trying to capture the sensation of listening to music in an image has a long tradition. Yet, even for artists who take their works to the edge of physical dissolution, listening often moves to the fore. Further, changes in the music industry and music production have reinforced the permeability of art and composition.

 

The Artist as Producer: The “Traffic” Generation

The concept of artwork is transformed through its dematerialisation. An awareness of temporality, volatility, and process shifts to the foreground. Artists develop new forms of collaboration and collective creation, and make aesthetic use of clips, sampling, and film narrative (which is also regarded as an exhibition platform). As a result, copyright as an object of reflection has come into focus.

 

The Artist as Documentarist: As Close as Possible to the Real

The proliferation of the Internet in the context of a market economy and consumer society has led to a greater interest in the real, in the status quo of the observer and the reporter and generally in an engagement with all areas of human life. The artist takes on the role of a witness who accepts the subjectivity of his observations.

 

Artist and Object

Between 1980 and 1990, artists turned to an exploration of the everyday and the object; the 1990’s can be considered as the ultimate epoch of the aesthetic of the mundane. The now-famous video, “The Way Things Go” by Fischli and Weiss (1986-87) sings this song of songs to the everyday. No less iconic is Gabriel Orozco’s modified Citroën (La DS, 1993). The confrontation with consumer society is manifested in photography in detailed and richly coloured compositions like Gursky’s 99 Cent (1999), and in sculpture with the integration of found objects. The common denominator is the attention artists pay to excessive consumption – as an opportunity or as a fact.

 

The Artist and the Body

Video and photography seem to be particularly fitting mediums for artists whose works include a performative element. The theme of the human body – wounded or damaged by oppression – returns as a theme with a vengeance. Many works with erotic and sexual overtones emerge. New technical possibilities, either through plastic surgery or image manipulation, bring the grotesque into the fold.

Press release from Haus der Kunst

 

 

 

Fischli and Weiss
The Way Things Go
1986-87

 

Erik Boulatov. 'Printemps dans une maison de repos des travailleurs' 1988

 

Erik Boulatov (Russian, b. 1933)
Printemps dans une maison de repos des travailleurs
1988
169.2 x 239 x 4cm
Oil on canvas
Purchased in 1989
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016,
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Michel François. 'Affiche Cactus' 1997

 

Michel François (Belgian, b. 1956)
Affiche Cactus
1997
120 x 178cm
Print on paper
Don de l’artiste en 2003
Collection Centre Pompidou
Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Pawel Althamer. 'Tecza' (Rainbow) 2004

 

Pawel Althamer (Polish, b. 1967)
Tecza (Rainbow)
2004
120 x 185 x 57cm
Metal, cotton, felt, rubber, cork, plastic
Purchased in 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Pawel Althamer
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Service de la documentation photographique du MNAM/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Samuel Fosso. 'La Femme américaine libérée des années 70' 1997

 

Samuel Fosso (Nigerian born Cameroon, b. 1962)
La Femme américaine libérée des années 70
1997
127 x 101cm
Chromogenic print
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Samuel Fosso, courtesy J.M. Patras, Paris
Achat en 2004, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle

 

Atul Dodiya. 'Charu' 2004

 

Atul Dodiya (Indian, b. 1959)
Charu
2004
183 x 122cm
Peinture émaillée et vernis synthétique sur contreplaqué
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 2013
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Atul Dodiya

 

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000

 

Huan Zhang (Chinese, b. 1966)
Family Tree
2000
396 x 318cm
Each print 132 x 106cm, 9 chromogenic prints
Montage of the nine prints
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle,
Purchased in 2004
© droits réservés, photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000 (detail)

Huan Zhang. 'Family Tree' 2000 (detail)

 

Huan Zhang (Chinese, b. 1966)
Family Tree (details)
2000
396 x 318cm
Each print 132 x 106cm, 9 chromogenic prints
Montage of the nine prints
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle,
Achat en 2004
© droits réservés, photo
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Andreas Gursky. 'Madonna I' 2001

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
Madonna I
2001
282 x 213 x 6.5cm
Chromogenic print
Achat en 2003, Ankauf / Purchase
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Courtesy : Monika Sprüth Galerie, Cologne / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

 

Ahmed Mater. 'From the Real to the Symbolic City' 2012

 

Ahmed Mater (Saudi, b. 1979)
From the Real to the Symbolic City
2012
292 x 245cm
Digital proof
Don de Athr Gallery, avec le soutien de Sara Binladin et Zahid Zahid, Sara Alireza et Faisal Tamer, Abdullah Al-Turki, 2013
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © droits réservés

 

Annette Messager. 'Mes voeux' 1989

 

Annette Messager (French, b. 1943)
Mes voeux
1989
320 cm, diamètre: 160 cm
1 épreuve 24 x 17cm, 50 épreuves 20 x 14cm, 57 épreuves 15 x 11cm, 49 épreuves 13 x 9cm, 106 épreuves 8 x 6cm
Overall dimensions: 320 x 160cm, 263 gelatin silver prints framed under glass held in place by black adhesive paper and hung on the wall by long strings
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Achat en 1990
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, photo Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Annette Messager. 'Mes voeux' 1989 (detail)

 

Annette Messager (French, b. 1943)
Mes voeux (detail)
1989
320cm, diamètre: 160cm
1 épreuve 24 x 17cm, 50 épreuves 20 x 14cm, 57 épreuves 15 x 11cm, 49 épreuves 13 x 9cm, 106 épreuves 8 x 6cm
Overall dimensions: 320 x 160cm, 263 gelatin silver prints framed under glass held in place by black adhesive paper and hung on the wall by long strings
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Achat en 1990
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, photo Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Ayse Erkmen. 'Netz' 2006

 

Ayse Erkmen (Turkish, b. 1949)
Netz
2006
Installation: 220 x 60 x 20cm
Cotton garment labels, nails
Purchased in 2012
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Ayse Erkmen
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt' 1993

 

Wolfgang Tillmans (German, b. 1968)
Suzanne & Lutz, white dress, army skirt
1993
99 x 66 x 2cm
Chromogenic print
Donation de la Caisse des Dépôts en 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Wolfgang Tillmans
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Gabriel Orozco. 'La D.S.' 1992

Gabriel Orozco. 'La D.S.' 1992

 

Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, b. 1962)
La D.S.
1992
Centre national des arts plastiques, FNAC 94003
© Gabriel Orozco/CNAP, courtesy photo Galerie Crousel-Robelin-Bama

 

Gonçalo Mabunda. 'O trono de um mundo sem revoltas (Le trône d’un monde sans révolte)' 2011

 

Gonçalo Mabunda (Mozambique, b. 1975)
O trono de um mundo sem revoltas (Le trône d’un monde sans révolte) (The throne of the world without revolt)
2011
79 x 88 x 49cm
Recycled iron, weapons of the civil war in Mozambique
Don de la Société des Amis du Musée national d’art moderne, 2012. Projet pour l’art contemporain 2011, avec le soutien de Nathalie Quentin-Mauroy
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
Crédit photographique: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP
Copyright de l’oeuvre: © Gonçalo Mabunda

 

Chen Zhen. 'Paris Round Table' 1995

 

Chen Zhen (Chinese-French, 1955-2000)
Paris Round Table
1995
180 cm, diamètre: 550cm
Wood, metal
Purchased in 2002
Dépôt du Centre national des arts plastiques, 2002
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016, Présentation dans “Extra Large”, Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, juillet 2012
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-GP

 

Yto Barrada. 'Sans titre' 1998 – 2004

 

Yto Barrada (Franco-Moroccan, b. 1971)
Sans titre
1998-2004
73 x 73cm
Chromogenic print
Donation de la Caisse des Dépôts en 2006
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle
© Yto Barrada
Photo © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP

 

 

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Prinzregentenstraße 1
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Germany
Phone: +49 89 21127 113

Opening hours:
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Tuesday closed
Thursday 10am – 10pm
Free First Thursday until 12pm
Friday, Saturday 10am – 8pm

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26
Apr
16

Exhibition: ‘Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind’ at SCA Galleries, Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 16th March – 7th May 2016

 

Roger Ballen. 'Caged' 2011

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Caged
2011
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

 

Taken as a whole, the artist Roger Ballen’s body of work is exceptionally strong. From his early documentary series Dorps (1986) and Platteland (1996) which featured alienated and poverty poverty stricken whites in South Africa struggling with their place in the world after Apartheid; through my favourite series Outland (2001), Shadow Chamber (2005) and Boarding House (2009) which portrayed down and out whites on the fringe of South African society in a surrealist, performative art; to the more recent Animal Abstraction (2011), I Fink U Freeky (2013) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) … through each of these series you can trace the development of this preternatural artist, whose work seems to exist almost beyond nature itself.

The move from documentary photographer to director / collaborator / actor / observer was critical to the development of Ballen’s art. As the text on the Outland web page on Roger Ballen’s website states, “Where previously his pictures, however troubling, fell firmly into the category of documentary photography, these pictures move into the realms of fiction. Ballen’s characters act out dark and discomfiting tableaux, providing images which are exciting and disturbing in equal measure. One is forced to wonder whether they are exploited victims, colluding directly in their own ridicule, or newly empowered and active participants within the drama of their representation.” From the videos included in this posting, it is obvious that the latter statement is the correct interpretation. Through this thematic development, the viewer may come to understand the nature of the artist’s collaboration with the people, places and things that he photographs. The empathy that these photographs and videos evidence, the interchangeable director/actor roles, and the connection that he has with his subject matter gives insight into the compassion of this man. He never judges anyone. He accepts them for who they are and works with them to create these challenging art works.

Apparently these photographs, “have a singular ability to cause disquiet to the viewer.” Personally, they have never caused me disquiet for I find them quite fascinating. They follow on from a long line of photographers who have observed the marginalised in society, from the circus freak show photographs, through Diane Arbus and Arthur Tress (who also has a book called Theater of the Mind) to Joel Peter-Witkin and Roger Ballen. Much like the earlier Robert Frank’s seminal book The Americans, which featured an outsider photographing a world from a different point of view, Ballen moved to South Africa from America in 1982 and has never fully lost that outsider status. As John McDonald observes, “He has been there long enough to be an insider, but retains the probing eye of an outsider, able to see a side of life that native-born can’t see, or don’t wish to see.” And that is the point: all of these artists, with their probing eyes, can perceive difference and accept it on its own terms. They portray the world through a horizontal consciousness (an equal “living field” if you like), not a hierarchical system of privilege, power and control, where some are better, more worthy than others.

But what nature is he investigating? Is it human nature and its ability to survive under the most dire circumstances? Is it the nature of the relationship of the body to its environment, or the human to animals, or the relationship between our souls and our subconscious? It’s all of these and more. Ballen probes these nexus, the strands that connect and link our lives together: our dreams, nightmares and desires. His photographs act as a form of binding together, bringing the periphery of society into the centre (of attention). He creates an extant reality in which we are asked to question: how do we feel towards these people and how do we feel about our own lives?

He achieves this creation through the use of what I call “heightened awareness” – both situationally and subconsciously. Ballen is fully aware and receptive towards the conditions of his environment and his dreams. Instead of a desire to possess the object of his longing and then to be possessed by that desire (desire to possess / possessed by desire) Ballen has learnt, as Krishnamurti did, not to make images out of every word, out of every vision and desire. Ballen understands that he must be attentive to the clarity of not making images – of desire, of prejudice, of flattery – because only then might you become aware of the world that surrounds us, just for what it is and nothing more. He accepts what he can create and what is given to him by being fully aware. Then you are sensitive to every occasion, it brings its own right action.1 His images become a blend of the space of intimacy and world-space as he strains toward, “communion with the universe, in a word, space, the invisible space that man can live in nevertheless, and which surrounds him with countless presences.”2

His photographs become an enveloping phenomenon in which the viewer is draped in their affect… this ‘wearing of images’ is both magical and all encompassing.

We are the people in his pictures. We are their dreams.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1/ Concepts from KrishnamurtiBeginnings of Learning. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978, pp. 130-131.

2/ Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. (trans Maria Jolas). Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, p. xxxv.

.
Many thankx to SCA Galleries for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Archetypal levels of the deeper subconscious pervade my photographs… When I create my photographs I often travel deep into my own interior, a place where dreams and many of my images originate. I see my photographs as mirrors, reflectors, connectors into the mind… The light comes from the dark.”

 

“These pictures are a very complex way of seeing, a very complex way of viewing the world and you know perhaps this went back to the time I was in my mother’s stomach… I can’t really say what exactly is the primary cause of what I do.”

 

“So the thing is is my pictures, my better pictures or a lot of my pictures, embed themselves deeply in the subconscious, because the mind isn’t ready for those photographs, they don’t have any corresponding experience in some way or another, so the pictures tend to have more of an impact on the person’s deeper mind than something we would normally think of as disturbing because the pictures get into the mind. People aren’t used to having things get in there and stay in there and threaten their image of themselves in some way or another and so that’s why they call them disturbing, they’re not actually disturbing a better way of saying it is that if somebody has some kind of consciousness they’re actually enlightening.”

.
Roger Ballen

 

 

 

 

 

Roger Ballen’s Asylum of the Birds (full film)

To mark the publication of his long-awaited new monograph Asylum of the Birds, photographer Roger Ballen, with director Ben Crossman, has produced this psychologically powerful, unforgettable film that follows Roger into a world synonymous with his photographs, as never before seen on film.

 

 

 

 

Roger Ballen’s Outland (2015)

Phaidon Press has released a revised version of the iconic book Outland by photographer Roger Ballen. Film maker Ben Jay Crossman takes us on a journey to the Outland to show us the mind inside the mind.

 

 

 

 

 

ROGER BALLEN: PHOTOGRAPHS 1982-2009 Part 3: Outland

Roger Ballen talks about his past projects leading up to his current work in the celebrated exhibition ROGER BALLEN: PHOTOGRAPHS 1982-2009, on display at George Eastman House from Feb. 27 – June 6, 2010. Hear more from the curator of the exhibition, Eastman House director Dr. Anthony Bannon, discussing Ballen’s work in ‘Embracing Difficult Art’

 

 

His raw, black & white images are alluring, fascinating and disturbing. He is one of the most important and exciting photographers of the 21st century. The intriguing work of Roger Ballen is coming to Australia, to Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), this March in the artist’s first major Sydney exhibition. Staged to coincide with the 20th Biennale of Sydney, Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is a provocative exhibition of 75 contemporary works created by the artist over the last two decades.

Professor Colin Rhodes, Dean of the University of Sydney’s contemporary art school and curator of the exhibition, said: “For a long time Roger Ballen’s photography has trodden a path where others are too timid to tread, toying with our innermost dreams, nightmares and desires. The raw, atmospheric exhibition spaces at Sydney College of the Arts [the site of the former Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital] are the ideal setting to articulate this core aspect of Ballen’s work.”

Born in New York in 1950, Ballen has lived in Johannesburg since the 1970s. His work as a geologist took him across the countryside and led him to explore, through the camera lens, the smaller South African towns. His early photographs of the hidden lives of people living on the fringes of society made considerable impact, receiving acclaim from American writer and filmmaker Susan Sontag among others.

Through the medium of black and white photography, Ballen has achieved a unique integration of drawing, painting and installation that have been compared to the masters of art brut. His peculiar and somewhat shocking imagery confronts the viewer and drags them into the work. Viewers are participants in the work – not merely observers – taking them on a journey into the recesses of their minds, as Ballen explores his own.

Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind consists of five sections that see people, birds, animal and inanimate subjects become the ‘cast’ in an exhibition that is hard-hitting, psychological theatre. The Sydney exhibition includes a new installation work created onsite at SCA by Ballen in response to the site’s mental health history, in the labyrinth of underground cells of the former Rozelle hospital.

The show includes Ballen’s award-winning music video ‘I Fink U Freeky’ (2012) by South African rap-rave group Die Antwoord, which has received over 76 million hits on YouTube and earned a cult following. In addition, the public will be able to access his equally remarkable video works Outland and Asylum of the Birds.

The worldwide impact of Ballen’s work was celebrated in major retrospective exhibition at Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of African Art from 2013 to 2014. It was this exhibition that drove Rhodes’ interest to bring Ballen’s work to Australia.

“When I first saw Ballen’s work en masse, I was struck by the role of drawing in his photos and what seemed to me a relationship with Art Brut or Outsider Art. The artist’s interest in and knowledge of Outsider Art is a key part of understanding the growth of Ballen’s identity as an international artist,” said Professor Rhodes.

Roger Ballen will present a public talk in Sydney at SCA on 9 March, ahead of the official opening of his Sydney exhibition on Tuesday 15 March. Roger Ballen’s Theatre of the Mind is showing at SCA Galleries from 16 March to 7 May 2016. A 96-page book will accompany the exhibition featuring Ballen’s photography and an essay by Professor Rhodes.

Press release from SCA Galleries

 

Roger Ballen. 'Bewitched' 2012

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Bewitched
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Untitled' 2015

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Untitled
2015
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Twirling Wires' 2001

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Twirling Wires
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Mirrored' 2012

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Mirrored
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

 

Ballen has no qualms about creating dramatic scenarios in his search for “archetypal” symbols that speak to the viewer’s subconscious. He began as a documentary photographer but over the years his pictures have become filled with drawings, paintings and sculptural brac-a-brac, created by the artist himself, or by his subjects. In works such as Collision (2005) or Deathbed (2010), there are no figures, but the human presence is implied by a face drawn on a pillow or the broken head of a doll. The walls in both photos are covered in crude drawings and dirty marks – signs of previous occupation…

[Ballen] argues that these images are primarily psychological, not sociological. He wants to address that deep, dark part of the mind that Freud called “the Id”. As a concept it’s more poetic than biological – a shared repository of instinctive drives that remains buried under the trappings of civilisation…

Despite the extreme nature of her work, Diane Arbus remained within the documentary tradition, whereas a figure such as Joel-Peter Witkin constructs his own theatrical tableaux in the studio. Ballen’s work is somewhere between these two poles. The subjects of his photographs are society’s misfits, but his approach is shamelessly theatrical. His figures are not posing passively, they are collaborating with someone who has won their trust, creating a form of ad hoc performance art in bare, filthy rooms…

It’s more interesting to ask what Ballen feels when he enters such environments. To take these photos he has immersed himself in a world of violence and madness. If he has built up a rapport with his subjects it is by treating them not as freaks, but as people with their own sense of dignity. He refuses to buy into conventional distinctions about what is normal and abnormal, presumably as a legacy of his early exposure to the counterculture and the anti-psychiatry movement.

John McDonald. “Roger Ballen,” on the John McDonald website April 7, 2016 [Online] Cited 25/04/2016

 

Roger Ballen. 'Lunchtime' 2001

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Lunchtime
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Take off' 2012

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Take off
2012
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Cat and Mouse' 2001

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Cat and Mouse
2001
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'School Room' 2003

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
School Room
2003
Image courtesy of the artist and Stills Gallery

 

Roger Ballen. 'Portrait of sleeping girl' 2000

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Portrait of sleeping girl
2000

 

Roger Ballen. 'Deathbed' 2010

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Deathbed
2010

 

Roger Ballen. 'Three hands' 2006

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Three hands
2006

 

Roger Ballen. 'Head inside shirt' 2001

 

Roger Ballen (South African born America, b. 1950)
Head inside shirt
2001

 

 

SCA Galleries
Sydney College of the Arts (University of Sydney)
Kirkbride Way, off Balmain Road, Lilyfield (enter opposite Cecily Street)
Phone: +61 2 9351 1008

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday, 11am – 5pm
Saturday, 11am – 4pm (during exhibitions)

SCA Galleries website

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24
Mar
16

Exhibition: ‘Cosa Mentale: Art and Telepathy in the 20th century’ at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Paris