Exhibition celebrating career of American photographer Richard Avedon opens at the Potter

December 14 / 150

Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955. Teaser image: Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1, 1964. Photographs by Richard Avedon. © The Richard Avedon Foundation.
Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955. Teaser image: Elizabeth Taylor, cock feathers by Anello of Emme, New York, July 1, 1964. Photographs by Richard Avedon. © The Richard Avedon Foundation.

A new exhibition of the work of leading 20th century photographer Richard Avedon (1923-2004), opened at the Ian Potter Museum of Art with a gala event last Friday.

Richard Avedon People celebrates the work of the American photographer renowned for his achievements in the art of black and white portraiture.

Curator Dr Christopher Chapman said it was the first time there has been a Richard Avedon exhibition in Australia.

“It’s been seen in Canberra and Perth, and now here in Melbourne,” he said.

“It focusses very much on his portrait practice, his interest in social freedom, and I think also highlights his great skills as a technician in producing photographs.

“All of the photographs in this exhibition are vintage prints produced between 1945 and 2004.”

Dr Chapman said the Potter was a fantastic venue for the exhibition, with a minimalist feel, and clean, modern spaces.

“It’s actually very inspiring to see these photographs in these gallery spaces, because it brings out a real strength in the photographs,” he said.

There are 80 photographs in the exhibition, and Dr Chapman said the choice of what photographs to include in the exhibition was not just a matter of flipping through a catalogue.

“Photographic prints were made by Avedon for different purposes, and at different sizes,” he said.

“Some of them are in a more fragile state than others so when we were making the selection we physically inspected every photographic print and that had some bearing on what was in the exhibition as well.”

Avedon came to fame as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar in the 1940s and 50s. The show features a classic photograph from this period of the model Dovima with elephants.

Dr Chapman said there were also some photographs in the exhibition that are rarely exhibited, including a series of documentary photographs of people on the streets of New York from 1949.

“Avedon was someone who was interested in people from all levels of society, and while he had access to the most influential – the politicians, the Hollywood stars – he was also a great believer in the right of everyone to express freely who they were,” he said.

Katrina Dumas from the Richard Avedon Foundation has been accompanying the exhibition around Australia.

She said she thought the show did an excellent job of giving the audience a cross-section of Avedon’s 60 year career.

“It’s interesting to see someone as glamorous as Mae West or Marylin Monroe in the same room with Truman Capote and the Picasso children, because it brings out this really humanist level that Avedon was working at,” she said.

Richard Avedon People, a National Portrait Gallery of Australia Exhibition presented in partnership with the Richard Avedon Foundation, New York, is at the Ian Potter Museum of Art on Swanston St from 6 December to 15 March. For more information visit http://www.art-museum.unimelb.edu.au/.

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