Archive for October, 2013

Auction | Playing with the Female Form

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Modern & Contemporary Photographs
Hotel Drouot, Paris, France
Auction: 30th October, 2013
Private previews: by appointment until 25th October, 2013
Exhibition: Hotel Drouot
29th October & 30 October, 2013


Above, Purple Nude. Erwin Blumenfeld, New York, 1940
€1,500–2,000


Distorsion #159. Andre Kertesz, Paris, 1933
€8,000–10,000


The works about to go on show in Centre Pompidou’s Surrealism & the Object (30th October 2013 – 3rd March 2014) demonstrate that objects were the main preoccupation of the surrealist movement. The human body was another, but often, as in Man Ray’s photograph The coat-stand (1920) – one of the exhibits – the body, almost invariably female, was itself objectified.

Ray’s image of Jean Cocteau, showing the artist with his sculpture Débourre-pipes (1928, not shown), the floating, decapitated head of a woman sculpted in wire, is one of almost 300 lots in a varied sale of Modern & Contemporary Photographs at Hotel Drout in Paris, in which an array of early travel photography, modernist interiors, Parisian and American street life, glamour portraits, and portraits of a good number of other famous artists, will be auctioned.

A total of 44 photographs by André Kertesz, from a Swiss collection, exude a strong presence amongst the list of lots. In 1930, Carlo Rim, the editor of the magazine VU, asked Kertész to take his portrait. Kertész, who was already experimenting with distortion, persuaded Rim to do it at the hall of distorting mirrors at Luna Park fun fair in the Bois de Boulogne. Shortly after, a pair of portraits of Rim – one with an overly tapered body, the other making him appear dwarfed – appeared together in VU.

The idea of using distortion in art probably had its genesis in the African and Polynesian wood carvings that had begun to appear in Europe in the late 19th century, the influence of which was absorbed and first exploited by Picasso and later by, among others, Henry Moore, as well as the surrealist sculptor, Giacometti. For many artists, exploring distortion was also a way of dealing with the atrocious mutilations that were the legacy of the Great War.

During the early years of the new century, women had begun to demand, and had won, greater freedom for themselves. Parisian women, during the 1920s, were the first to be released from the corset by Coco Chanel and, in the same decade two-piece bathing costumes, which were little more than a bra and skimpy shorts set, began to appear on the French Riviera. Nudes, as the subjects of ‘tasteful’, artistic photography were becoming less taboo, which led to magazine editors in France becoming more daring. And, impressed by the distorted portraits he saw in VU, the editor of the rather racy Le Sourire (Smile) magazine asked Kertész to make a series of distorted nude images of two female models. However, the editor didn’t – or was not allowed – to publish them, and it wasn’t until 1976, when they appeared in the book André Kertész Distortion (Editions du Chêne Paris), that they became one of the photographer’s most famous series. A number of images from this series, including the bizarre and disturbing Distortion #159, (above), and some of Kertész’s earlier, experimental prints are also included in the sale.


Les Jeux de la Poupée. Hans Bellmer, 1935
€1,000–1,500



Nu blanc. Jeanloup Sieff, Paris, 1967
€2,000–3,000


Gog et Magog. Pierre Molinier, c 1965
€2,500-3,000


As a child, in Germany, Hans Bellmer, (1902-1975) found refuge from an oppressive family atmosphere in a secret garden decorated with toys and visited by young girls, who joined in sexual games. In the 1920s he became involved with the Dada movement, and in 1933, built his life-sized Puppe (Doll) sculpture, a representation of his yearning to escape from the reality of Nazi Germany. In 1934, he published ten photographs of this work accompanied by a prose poem in which he demonstrated how the seemingly innocent pastimes of his childhood had developed into the sexual fantasies of an adult. Acclaimed and adopted by the Parisian surrealists in 1935, he published a French translation of Die Puppe – La Poupé. That summer he altered the sculpture giving it ball-joints to allow for increased mobility – the stomach became a large sphere around which two pelvises could be articulated, each with its own legs and feet – pushing it into the area of distortion. The auction includes a hand-tinted print, made in 1970, entitled Les Jeux de la Poupée (1935, above), and dedicated to Man Ray.

Meanwhile, in a theatrical form of distortion, former landscape painter, who quickly turned to fetishistic/erotic photography, Pierre Molinier’s (1900-1976) Gog et Magog photomontage (1965, above) typically, placing her in a sexy stage set, removes his model’s body, reducing her to a head at the crux of four stockinged legs, each terminating in patent and pointed stilletto-heeled shoes. With something akin to Molinier’s staging, for Jean Paul-Goude’s Grace Jones Revised and updated (1978, not shown, a print is included in this sale), each of the black singer’s limbs, as well as her neck, are slimmed down, stretched and given a highly-polished finish, so that she resembles a life-size, semi-naked, art-deco-inspired, carved mahogany figure.


Nude. Weegee (aka Arthur H Fellig) New York, c 1940
€1,200–1,500


One of the surprises in the Hotel Drout event is a sensitive nude study (above), shot in the studio around 1940, by Weegee (aka Arthur H Fellig) – better known for his stark black and white New York street scene photojournalism. In the 1950s Weegee experimented with distortion, producing nudes, including Nude (easel trick and plastic lens) c 1953-6, which appeared in the book Weegee’s Women, (Showplace, first published, July 1956), in which the model appears to have extremely long, giraffe-like legs, and Marilyn Monroe (plastic lens) c 1960, where a beautiful initial image of MM pursing her lips, eyes closed, as if waiting for the camera to kiss her, is altered in a succession of distortions, rendering her unrecognisable.

Rare examples of male distortion, two of Philippe Halsman’s (1906-1979) famous images of Salvador Dali (not shown), from the photographer and artist’s 1954 collaboration ‘Dali’s Mustache’, will also go under the hammer.

Lot #175, Jeanloup Sieff’s (1933-2000) thin, twisted and angular Nu blanc (1967, above) might be a template for the figure of the modern woman that has proliferated via women’s fashion magazines since the 60s, whereas Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) who is represented in the sale by Purple Nude (1940, top) proves that the visual dismemberment of a female model need not invoke feelings of revulsion, but rather that by careful and sympathetic reconstruction, a sphisticated image of subtle and elegant female beauty can be created.


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Photography | Klemm’s ‘Absolute’ Photographic Eye

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Barbara Klemm. Photographs 1968 – 2013
Martin-Gropius-Bau
Berlin, Germany
16th November, 2013 – 9th March, 2014

If you’re not a reportage photographer, have never lived in Germany, nor bought the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), you might not have heard of of this remarkable woman. But since the late 1960s, probably no other German female photographer has followed events in Germany as closely with her camera. Barbara Klemm’s name is synonymous with the FAZ, where she was a staff photographer for 40 years. Her pictures were very much part of the paper’s visual identity, and some of her images, like that of  Willy Brandt and Leonid Breschnev’s 1973 meeting, the politicians surrounded by advisors and journalists, became icons of modern German history.

Klemm, who works exclusively in stark black and white, often giving short shrift to mid-tones, and whose images are as dynamically composed as an expressionist film still, tell whole stories in a single picture with astonishing clarity and tremendous depth. In German photography circles she is known as the photographer with the ‘Absolute Photographic eye’. Unaffected, uncompromising reportage, her pictures, nevertheless exude a strong sense of natural style.

A great chronicler of German history, Klemm’s assignments often took her abroad to witness and record numerous epoch-defining moments around the globe. She captured Pope John Paul II on his first visit to Poland in the years of Solidarność, and an elated Václav Havel at Prague Castle in 1990. Klemm photographed South Africa during the apartheid era and the dictator Pinochet in Chile. She also visited Calcutta, returning with intensely moving images from the slums. She documented the clash of social contrasts in New York and the loneliness of gamblers in Las Vegas.

For Barbara Klemm. Photographs 1968–2013 at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau, which will cover the whole range of her oeuvre, Klemm has put together a large retrospective of her work, comprising some 300 prints, spanning five decades. The exhibition will include images of important political events, student unrest, scenes from a divided and re-united Germany, everyday situations, and the realities of life in all corners of the earth. Klemm who has a great love for portraiture, also produced many sensitive and compelling pictures of artists, writers and musicians, including, among others: Simone de Beauvoir, Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Madonna, and Alfred Hitchcock, many of which will be shown in the exhibition.

Born in Münster, Germany, in 1939, Barbara Klemm lives and works in Frankfurt am Main. Growing up in Karlsruhe, she trained as a photographer in a portrait studio between 1955 and 1958 after which she began working at the newspaper FAZ in 1959, becoming a staff editorial photographer with a focus on the arts and politics from 1970 until 2004. In addition to numerous exhibitions, including at the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin (1999) and at the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2009), she has won many prestigious awards, receiving in 2010 the Max Beckmann Prize of the City of Frankfurt. On her winning the Leica Hall of Fame Award, 2012, Dr Andreas Kaufmann, chair of the supervisory board of Leica Camera AG, lauded her ‘unique take on the elements that make up the essential aspects of an image, a talent that few other photographers have’. Her work is in the collections of many museums, including The Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt, which holds a large collection of her prints. She is a member of the Academy of  Arts, Berlin-Brandenburg, and honorary professor at the University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Germany.

To coincide with last week’s opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Barbara Klemm Fotografien Photographs 1968 – 2013 was published by the Swiss company NIMBUS. Kunst und Bücher.

Images from top
Alfred Hitchcock, Frankfurt am Main, 1972
Demonstration gegen die Startbahn-West, Frankfurt am Main, 1981
Leonid Breschnev, Willy Brandt, Bonn, 1973
Stuttgart, 1972
Joseph Beuys im Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 1982

All photos ©Barbara Klemm

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Photography | New York Garden City

Friday, October 11th, 2013

Oblivious to the beautiful location – Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building Plaza in the heart of Manhattan, with pool, dancing fountains, and Maidenhair tree resplendent in September sunshine – a woman makes a call on her mobile phone.

Did she fall or was she pushed…? Drama at the sedate Museum of Modern Art Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, designed in 1953 by Philip Johnson.

Had Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founder member, the painter Sir John Everett Millais, still been around and encountered this scene on New York’s High Line, he might have been moved to recreate Ophelia (1851-52), set in a modern context.

Images from top
Seagram Building Plaza, 2013
MoMA Sculpture Garden, 2013
The High Line, 2013

All Photographs ©Pedro Silmon

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Art | Barbara Kruger: Belief + Doubt

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Barbara Kruger: Belief + Doubt
Kunsthuas Bregenz (KUB)
Bregenz, Austria
19th October – 12th January, 2013

Political, iconic, poetic, always thought-provoking, perhaps more than most, Barbara Kruger’s work speaks for itself. Her text-image designs, so powerful they can never be ignored, are as engaging as the cleverest advertising posters, as bold as a screaming newspaper headline and, depending on their message, invite the viewer to contradict or endorse them, to laugh, or simply ponder their meaning.

Prior to becoming an artist, Kruger learnt about the power of words, images and the importance of well thought through layout at the Condé Nast Publications in New York, where she began her career in the 1970s, working as a designer on Mademoiselle where, significantly, legendary former Vu and American Vogue art director, Alexander Liberman was editorial director. Liberman, originally Russian, who had spent time in Paris before fleeing to the US in 1941, bringing with him the colour combination white, red and black, favoured by the European avant garde, had set about making all of the Condé Nast magazines more journalistic. Kruger would adopt the same colour palette and bold approach, which continues to imbue her work with an appealing vintage quality, similar to that evoked by early 20th century Russian and German graphic work, from which one gets the message, even if one doesn’t always understand the language used.

Kruger said of her time at Condé Nast: ‘We had to do 12 layouts for each spread. Everything was provisional, so that he [Liberman] could walk in like the Prince of Wales and see 12,000 layouts with very slight increments of difference.’ She went on to become picture editor on House & Garden, another CN title, where she would become proficient in sourcing found images, a skill that she still applies to great effect in many of her dynamic art pieces. Perhaps as a result of her producing layouts that would be discarded, for magazines that would most often be thrown away, Kruger herself insists on the ephemeral physical status of her work and, as has often been the case with the many other exhibitions and installations she has had at major galleries across the globe, her wall and large-scale spatial installations for Barbara Kruger: Belief + Doubt at KUB, (Direct exhibition link not yet activated), the artist’s first one man show in Austria, will be destroyed at the end of the exhibition. The destruction will not, however, prevent the works being resurrected elsewhere, in whatever form or media she chooses – her comment upon the complex commodity character of art.

Alongside celebrated photocollages from the 1980s and a video work of 2004, Kruger is presenting mostly new installations in Bregenz, each specially conceived for Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s unique (1990-1997) KUB building. With the intention of directly addressing passers-by, the artist, famous for breaking out of the strait-jacket of gallery presentation, has selected text works that will be displayed on the six KUB billboards along the Seestraße in Bregenz.

Barbara Kruger, edited by Yilmaz Dziewior; with an essay by Yilmaz Dziewior and a conversation between Beatriz Colomina, Mark Wigley, and Barbara Kruger – she made considerable contributions to the design – will be published by KUB in December. A limited edition »Du willst es. Du kaufst es. Du vergisst es.« (‘You want it. You buy it. You forget it.’), comprising 8 archival pigment prints, plus a stamped artist’s proof, is available via c.schneider@kunsthaus-bregenz.at

Images from top
Stage design for Reflections,
Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, France
LA Dance Project 2013

Belief+Doubt, 2012
Installation view
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
Washington DC, USA
Photo Cathy Carver
Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum
and Sculpture Garden,
Washington DC, USA

Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
The Broad Art Foundation Collection,
Santa Monica, California, USA
Courtesy of Mary Boone Gallery, New York, USA

Untitled (Ist blinder Idealismus reaktionär?), 2013
Photomontage for the KUB Billboards
Seestraße, Bregenz, Austria

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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier





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