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A co-production with



  Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, 1923-1937

Curators: William Ewing, Todd Brandow, Nathalie Herschdorfer
Concept | Exhibition Calendar | Costs | Catalogue | Contents | Exhibition History | Organizational Bodies


Concept
Steichen was already a famous painter and photographer on both sides of the Atlantic (possibly the most famous photographer), when, in early 1923, he was offered possibly one of the most prestigious and certainly the most lucrative position in photography’s commercial domain – that of chief photographer for Condé Nast’s influential and highly-regarded magazines, Vogue and Vanity Fair. Though it meant a break with the high-minded art-for-art’s-sake ethos espoused by his mentor Alfred Stieglitz (a break viewed as treachery by Stieglitz and his friends), he leapt at the chance, having come to the conclusion that photography’s natural -- and therefore true -- function was utilitarian: a thoroughly modern means of human communication. For the next fifteen years, Steichen would take full advantage of the resources and prestige conferred by the Condé Nast empire to produce an oeuvre of unequalled brilliance, putting his exceptional talents and prodigious energies to work dramatizing and glamorizing contemporary culture and its achievers -- in politics, literature, journalism, dance, theatre, opera, and above all, the world of high fashion.

No other fashion photographer could rival Steichen for the range he covered: Chanel, Lanvin, Lelong, Alix, Gres, Piguet, Pacquin, Schiaparelli, and a host of other couturiers and couturieres saw their creations depicted creatively and convincingly by Steichen on the pages of Vogue. No other portrait photographer could rival Steichen for the number of bold, engaging studies he made of artists and statesmen for Vanity Fair. Who else could boast of having photographed so many of the world’s best filmmakers, actors, actresses, painters, athletes, playwrights, producers, poets, journalists, dancers, singers, writers?

The fashion plates Steichen produced make for a full archive of modernist fashion of the inter-war years. In the 1920s and 30s, Steichen created a new style of fashion photography, which had previously been a fussy, fuzzy pictorialist affair, out of step with the modernist ethos championed by the couturiers themselves, busily absorbing avant-garde currents of the time. Steichen’s first-hand exposure to progressive art on both sides of the Atlantic, and his own naturally eclectic bent, made him the ideal translator of couture into photography. His crisp, detailed, high-key style revolutionized fashion photography, and is a strong wind felt in the field to this day -- George Hoyningen-Huene, Horst P. Horst, Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe and Bruce Weber are only his most illustrious descendants.

The full list of Steichen’s portraits is astounding for its range. Among the more than one thousand subjects were the filmmakers Cecil B. De Mille, Ernst Lubitsch, Irving Thalberg, Josef von Sternberg and Walt Disney; among the actors, Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier, Harold Lloyd, W.C. Fields and Rudolph Valentino; among the actresses, Shirley Temple, Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich and Fay Wray; among the painters, Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault; among the writers, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, e.e. cummings, Luigi Pirandello and Collette; among the dancers, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis and Fred Astaire; among the musicians, Igor Stravinsky, Leopold Schakowsky, Vladimir Horowitz and George Gershwin; among the statesmen Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover; among the athletes, Jack Dempsey and Suzanne Lenglen; among the journalists Clare Luce, Walter Winchell and Walter Lippmann. Often the portraits of women artists and actresses double as fashion statements; Collette in Chanel; Hepburn in Schiaparelli, Swanson in Chanel.

The Steichen archive at Condé Nast contains more than two thousand original vintage prints. A few of the images are well-known and indeed feature as iconic images in various histories of photography. Never before, however, have more than a handful of these prints been exhibited or published. The 1920s and 1930s represent the high point in Edward Steichen’s photographic career, and the work he did for Condé Nast’s influential magazines will stand forever among the most striking creations of twentieth-century photography.

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Exhibition Calendar
Jeu de Paume, Paris October 8-December 30, 2007
Kunsthaus, Zurich January 11-March 30, 2008
Chiostri di San Domenico, Reggio Emilia April 30-June 8, 2008
Museo del Traje, Madrid June 24-September 22, 2008
Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg October 10, 2008-January 1, 2009
International Center of Photography, New York January 16-May 3, 2009
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA May 30-September 13, 2009
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto September 26, 2009-January 3, 2010
Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale
Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale

February 28, 2010-April 11, 2010

 

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO May 15 - July 25, 2010

Length of Exhibition: up to three months, depending upon scheduling requirements of the participating museums and the overall tour.

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Operational costs
Participation fee is available upon request. Museums will be expected to pay transportation costs from the previous site, plus insurance while on premises and during transportation. Travel expenses and a modest per diem will be expected for the curators to attend the opening and assist with installation.

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Catalogue
A comprehensive, high-quality catalogue will be created by FEP Editions as the companion to the exhibition. Foreign language editions are planned for the major markets where the exhibition will be shown. Every effort will be made to reproduce the photographs with absolute fidelity to the original prints. William Ewing will write an introduction and Carol Squiers of the International Center of Photography in NY will contribute a main text to the book.

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Contents
The essence of the show will be 200-225 framed vintage prints. The vast majority of these have been selected from the Conde Nast archive but they will be supplemented by prints from other museum collections.

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Previous Exhibition History
Most recently, in 2000, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York exhibited nearly 200 of his vintage prints to great critical and popular acclaim. There has never been an Edward Steichen exhibition curated from the Conde Nast archive.

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Organizational Bodies
This exhibition will be co-produced and toured under the joint auspices of an American non-profit organization dedicated to the exhibition of photography, the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP) and the Swiss museum dedicated to photography, the Musée de l’Elysée. Web addresses are www.fep-paris.org and www.elysee.ch.

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Biographical Information on Curators

William Ewing, director of the Musée de l’Elysée, is a well-known curator and writer on photography. His exhibitions have been shown at many museums in America and Europe, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Hayward Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery, London; the Kunsthaus, Zurich; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This work has been in addition to his primary responsibilities at the two institutions he has served for many years, the International Center of Photography, New York, and the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne. His recent books include The Century of the Body, the Body, and Erwin Blumenfeld. In 1993, he contributed the introduction to the Photo Poche edition dedicated to Edward Steichen.

Todd Brandow worked as an art consultant in NY for many years. Since 1997, he has been living in Paris, working as an independent photography curator. He has produced and co-curated the highly successful Edward S. Curtis vintage exhibitions that have toured European museums since 2000 in two different forms, also of the modern print shows that are touring Latin America and Europe sponsored by the US State Department. He also worked collaboratively with the Cologne-based SK Kultur Stiftung/August Sander Archive on a multi-media exhibition of work by William Christenberry. He has recently co-curated a retrospective tour of Arno Rafael Minkkinen with A. D. Coleman, and is presently working on a retrospective exhibition of Edward Steichen, also with William Ewing that is titled, Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography. He is the director of the American non-profit organization, the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography (FEP).

 

Nathalie Herschdorfer was educated as an art historian and is now Curator at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland. Ms. Herschdorfer has worked for the past ten years on major international traveling exhibitions and their publications at the Musée de l’Elysée. She co-curated reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow, shown in Europe, United States and China, and Face: The New Photographic Portrait, which was seen in six European countries.  She recently worked on Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography, and on solo shows dedicated to Valérie Belin, Leonard Freed, Ray K. Metzker, and Carlo Valsecchi. She curated the exhibitions Teen City: The Adventure of Adolescence and Stigmata, the latter featuring works
by contemporary photographers dealing with the aftermath of violence.

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