“Irving Penn, Resonance” in Venice
From April 13 through December 31, 2014, Palazzo Grassi presents
“Irving Penn, Resonance”, the first major exhibition dedicated to Irving
Penn in Italy. The exhibition curated by Pierre Apraxine and Matthieu
Humery, brings together on the second floor of Palazzo Grassi 130
photographs, taken between the end of the 1940s and the mid-1980s.
It is the first time Palazzo Grassi-Punta della Dogana-François Pinault Foundation presents
an exhibition of photographs from the collection, thereby demonstrating its commitment
to this major medium of creation. Part of these photographs comes from. Kuniko Nomura’s
collection, which was assembled in the 1980s with the help of Irving Penn himself. He indeed
put together photographs that, according to him, could sum up his work in a complete and
coherent way. The exhibition is a collection of 82 platinum prints, 29 gelatin silver prints, 5
colorful dye transfer prints and 17 internegatives, which will be shown to the public for the
first time. It tackles the themes dear to Irving Penn and which, beyond their apparent
diversity, all capture every facet of ephemerality. This is true of the selection of photographs
from the series “small trades”, taken in France, England and the United States in the 1950s.
Convinced that their trades would eventually disappear, Irving Penn immortalized, in his
studio, newspaper men, street vendors, rag dealers, chimney sweeps, and many more, all
in their work clothes. It is also the case for the portraits taken between the 1950s and the
1970s of celebrities from the world of art, cinema, and literature – Pablo Picasso, Truman
Capote, Marcel Duchamp and Marlene Dietrich, among others. Exhibited alongside
ethnographic photographs of the people of Dahomey (from the 1960s) and of tribesmen
from New Guinea and Morocco (from the 1960s and 1970s), they strongly underline the
brevity of human existence, whether affluent or resourceless, famous or unknown.
The exhibition path, which encourages dialogue and connections between works that differ
in subject matter and period of time, gives prominence to still life photography from the
late 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s: they are composed of cigarette ends, fruit dishes,
vanitas – assemblages of skulls, bones and other objects – as well as animal skulls photographed
at the Narodni National Museum in Prague in 1986 for the series “Cranium Architecture”.