Featuring around 180 works produced between 1917 and 2000, this exhibition highlights the breadth of variety of photographic artist’s portraits, while also giving an overview of art historical developments in the last one hundred years.
It features portraits of figures as varied as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Marina Abramović, produced by an equally broad range of photographers, both famous and unknown, including Berenice Abbott, Brassaï, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Helga Fietz and Jérôme Schlomoff. All works are drawn from the Angelika Platen Collection.
The idea of the artist is often associated with genius, imagination and creative freedom, while Carl Gustav Jung defined a ‘complex’ as a structure of feelings, thoughts and memories, determining thought and action, and mentally grouped around some significant connecting factor. Artist Complex brings the two concepts together, investigating the artist as a visual phenomenon, composed of a particular set of ideas and motifs, and manifested in exemplary fashion in the photographic portrait.
The extensive collection of Angelika Platen, herself a significant photographic portraitist of artists, brings together the diverse forms of the photographic artist’s portrait. In the summer of 2018, some 180 examples of the genre will be shown in the museum, presenting both traditional and experimental aspects of the genre. Established works by Berenice Abbott, Brassaï, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Gisèle Freund, Heinz Hajek-Halke and Arnold Newman can be seen alongside lesser-known pieces by photographers including Helga Fietz, Hildegard Heise and Jérôme Schlomoff, who earned a place in the history of photography with iconic portraits of Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Max Beckmann and Ernst Wilhelm Nay. In addition, the show includes extraordinary works which go against the norms of portraiture, such as Christopher Makos’s images of Andy Warhol in drag.
Divided into three sections, the exhibition opens up a view into the minds and personalities of the various artists on show. The first section, Persona, explores the face, turned to the exterior world. Equipped with paintbrush, palette or camera, in a well-studied pose, artists such as George Grosz and Joan Miró present themselves at work in the studio. Among these images, self-portraits have a central role, with images by the likes of Edward Steichen and Florence Henri for example. The section also encompasses disguises and caricatures, in portraits of Wols, Otto Dix and Salvador Dalí.
Creativity is a fundamental driver of artistic work and is the theme of the exhibition’s second section. Here we see images of artists immersed in the creative process, but also empty studios and photographic distortions and reflections. Selected paintings, sculptures and drawings by key modern artists enable unique insights into the mutual influence between photography and the other visual arts.
The third section centres on the ancient myth of the sculptor Pygmalion. The myth of Pygmalion stands allegorically for the creative process, with its protagonist representing the ideal of the creative artist. In this section, artists stand with their own works in the foreground. It begins with Robert Doisneau’s portrait of the sculptor Charles Despiau, and also includes portraits of Alberto Giacometti, Georgia O’Keeffe, Günther Uecker and Jeff Koons, with their works of art functioning as symbols of the creative spirit.
The exhibition has received support from the Savings Banks Finance Group, main sponsor of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
The media partners for the exhibition are: kulturradio (rbb) and tip Berlin.Lieselotte Strelow, Joseph Beuys, 1967 © Gesellschaft Photo-Archiv e.V. Bonn / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018