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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best arts magazine in the UK“, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a selection of Richard Avedon’s most innovative group portraits in the MURALS exhibition, celebrating the centennial of his birth in 1923.
The new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, Richard Avedon: MURALS, opened on January 19th, 2023. The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel.
Even though Avedon first gained notoriety as a fashion photographer in the late 1940s, his stunning reimagining of the photographic portrait was his greatest achievement. This exhibition will focus on the brief period between 1969 and 1971, when the artist began working with a new camera and a new sense of scale after taking a break from portraiture.
The Met’s collection of three massive photomurals, the largest of which measures nearly 10 x 35 feet, will serve as the framework for the exhibition, which will feature portraits of the most important artists, activists, and politicians of the time. The exhibition will track Avedon’s evolving approach to group portraiture, which he transformed by uniting the murals with session outtakes and contemporaneous projects.
In addition, the show will feature loans from the Avedon Foundation, as well as a selection of outtakes that will take viewers inside the creative process of the artist and shed light on it. Over the course of several months, Avedon planned out sittings at Warhol’s Factory, but he only had a few minutes to take pictures of the American military leadership in Saigon. Working prints from the various mural sessions will show Avedon’s masterful manipulation of figures in space and his graphic and narrative goals for the project. The dynamism and breadth of Avedon’s portraiture will be revealed in related photographs of activists in New York and other groups in Vietnam, which will accompany this rare material.
Nearly 20 years after his death in 2004, the artist’s extraordinary legacy and unique relationship with The Met will be remembered in MURALS. The murals were donated by the artist for the Museum’s retrospective of his work in 2002. These works, reunited for Avedon’s centennial, depict the intimate relationships and interpersonal dynamics that occupied him throughout his life in stunning detail.
“Richard Avedon reinvented the group portrait, but his influences can be traced throughout The Met’s galleries, from the sculpted friezes of the Greek and Roman galleries to the John Singer Sargent paintings in the American Wing,” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “He grew up a few blocks from the Museum, and it was a constant source of inspiration. Now, his exceptional murals are treasures of the collection, and we are thrilled to be showing them together for the first time in over 20 years.”
In a subsuming, larger-than-life perspective, Avedon felt that the oversized mural format expanded the artistic possibilities of photography by fundamentally reorienting viewers and subjects. He assembled titans of the late 20th century in the murals, including members of Andy Warhol’s Factory, designers of the Vietnam War, and protesters against the war, all of whom contributed to shaping an unprecedented period in American life.
These enormous group photographs, in which subjects jostle and crowd the frame while bright voids between them crackle with tension, are where the formal innovations of Avedon’s high style—of starkly lit bodies in an uncompromising white surround—are most fully realized. The murals, which will be displayed in a single gallery, will stage an unlikely conversation between historically opposing groups and viewers from today.
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The exhibition is featured on the Museum’s website as well as on social media using the hashtag #AvedonMURALS.
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