Since its foundation by Mr. Shalom Shpilman in 2010, the Shpilman Institute for Photography has worked to promote photography as a medium, collaborating with the genre’s most respected specialists, conservators, historians and theorists.
The Shpilman Collection exemplifies the genre’s diversity, featuring works by photographers who relentlessly experimented with their medium. Specialist Elodie Morel selects seven photographs that play with perception, asking us to consider both the process of image making, and the act of looking itself.
Gerhard Richter, Self-Portrait, 3 Times, 22 january 1990. Oil on gelatin silver print. 50 x 59.5 cm. (19.5/8 x 23.1/2 in.) Estimate: €150,000-200,000 © Gerhard Richter 2015
In Self-Portrait, 3 Times, Gerard Richter considers the passage of time, the role of the photographer, and what remains after death — this final thought represented by an empty chair which sits face to face with the artist’s canvas. The image was made by superimposing three different negatives, each depicting the artist sat in a room where his paintings are hung — with Richter applying paint to the photograph after its development.
Richter has come to be recognised as the artist who has most profoundly explored the relationship between photography and painting. He has created paintings from photographs, and photographs from paintings — the paintings which inform the latter sometimes originating from photographs themselves.
His photographic works play with notions of reproduction, with the artist seeking to contest the idea that photography might be used to accurately represent reality — a notion which has followed the genre since its invention.
Philip-Lorca diCorcia, W. September 1999, #13, 1999. Fuji color crystal archive print mounted on Plexiglas. 101.6 x 152.4 cm. (48 x 60 in.). Estimate: €20,000-30,000
Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s works explore the very personal prism through which a person might perceive the world around them. His works focus on themes including intimacy and the absence of dialogue — as is the case for this scene, where a female figure seems trapped in her own home, distantly observing her family who she seems so far away from.
Ryan McGinley, Jake (fall folding), 2011. Cibachrome print. 183 x 279 cm. (72 x 109.7/8in.) Estimate: €12,000-18,000
Works by Ryan McGinley consider the experience of America’s youth today. His subjects are shown in seemingly alternate realities, McGinley defying the laws of nature to create images in which sky and earth collide — in doing so, capturing the confusion or anxiety that might be felt in adolescence.
Thomas Struth, The Rothko Chapel, Houston, 2007. Chromogenic print flush-mounted on diasec. 178 x 234 cm. (70 x 92.1/8 in.) Estimate: €300,000-400,000
For Thomas Struth, photography is the most accurate medium for capturing reality, with large format works allowing viewers to better understand and order the visible world. From 1989, Struth began a series of works on the museum, focusing on the manner in which visitors to institutions looked at and understood art. In The Rothko Chapel, Houston, the artist once again asks us to question how we look at art and how we understand artistic creation.
Thomas Ruff, Substract 26 III, 2005. Chromogenic print mounted on board. 275 x 181 cm. (108.1/4 x 71.1/4 in.) Estimate: €60,000-80,000
Substrat 26 III is an excellent example of photographer Thomas Ruff’s experimental work, which explores the effects of digital manipulation using images collected on the internet and in Japanese Manga. Ruff adds to and enlarges images, altering their components to such an extent that his original source material becomes indiscernible. The resulting works are an unsettled configuration of lines and forms in acid tones, Ruff questioning the potential for photographic images to capture reality.
Wolfgang Tillmans, Kopiere, e, 2010. Chromogenic print. Image 61 x 40.8 cm. (41 x 20 in.). Estimate: €20,000-30,000
When it comes to working with light, Wolfgang Tillmans is a true artist, experimenting with the chemicals used in the development process to create works which depict an unfamiliar — near abstract version — of the natural world.
Captivated by the idea of reproduction, the artist is also interested in photocopiers — both for their mechanical capacity to reproduce original images, and their potential to be ‘repurposed’ as a form of artistic process. Paper, too, has provided a source of inspiration: in his series Paper Drop, the artist created sculptural forms from photographic paper, photographing these three-dimensional figures to produce ‘flat’ two dimensional sculptures — effectively returning the folded paper to its unaltered state.
Walead Beshty, Black Curl, 2010. Chromogenic print mounted on board. 286 x 127 cm. (112.5/89 x 51.1/2 in.) Estimate: €30,000-50,000
Walead Besthy uses the ‘photogram’ process famously employed by artists including Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy, creating images which are as beautiful as they are intriguing. Unlike those of the artists who preceded him, however, Besthy’s photograms do not depict real objects on photosensitive paper. Instead, Besthy folds and crumples his chosen material, his experimental approach representing photography at its most basic — yet paradoxically innovative — form.
A catalogue dedicated to the contemporary selection of photographs from the Shalom Shpilman Collection is available on Christies.com. The complete collection is to be sold at Christie’s Paris on 13 and 14 November.
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