Hilton, Tim, The Independent (London, England)
THE SAATCHI Gallery's new photography exhibition, "A Positive View", has a very short run of just a couple of weeks, and inevitably will be better known by its book-cum-catalogue. That's a pity, because the show looks much better on walls than on pages, and anyone who's curious about the nature of photography exhibitions should go to Boundary Road (139 bus from the West End) before the contents come down for a charity auction at Sotheby's on 5 October.
It cannot be easy to fill the wide and high Saatchi spaces with photographs - the floor area is 30,000sq ft - but here is a convincing installation. It was devised by David Sylvester and is, surprisingly, the maestro's first venture into camerawork. As usual, he has made the most of material slightly below the first rank. In many ways Sylvester's display is unorthodox. There's quite a lot of double hanging, prints are jammed together in some places, widely separated in others. You couldn't do the same with paintings, even if they were all in grisaille. Paintings tend to radiate their character: by contrast, photographs are more likely to keep within their own bounds.
Sylvester has played shrewdly on this difference. Not everything works, however. Some photographs have been enlarged for the occasion. One of them is the portrait Bert Stern made of Marilyn Monroe late in her life, in 1962. The enlargement loses the magic Marilyn-ness we find in Eve Arnold's photographs of the star, these always being touchingly small. And sometimes Sylvester has resorted to mediocre loans simply to fill the long walls. Thus we have no fewer than 14 works by Andy Warhol (or an assistant?). None of them is convincing, even within the terms of Warhol's near-to-art operations. I note that their value will not be tested at auction since they have been separated from the charity side of this show.
As Geraldine Norman reported in these pages last week, there are many grey areas in contemporary charity exhibitions. Here, philanthropy appears to be mixed with commercial acumen, as it is sponsored by Vogue and designed to show off the work of the magazine's house photographers. Not being a judge of fashion photography, I merely observe that Vogue's purpose seems increasingly to make all rich women look alike. Or is that what rich women want? Either way, I cannot tell the difference between the supermodels who regularly turn up in this show and think they might as well be called standardmodels.
I like Peter Lavery's Alex, S. of France, 1993. She has no clothes on. In the portrait of the characterful Alex, doubtless well known to Lavery, familial and domestic photography is seen …
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Publication information: Article title: Exhibitions. Contributors: Hilton, Tim - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: September 18, 1994. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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