Sunday, April 15, 2012

Post-apocalyptic museums and the art of photography.

My global museum adventure continues with a stop in Berlin.  The only free time we had in Berlin was on a Monday, not a good museum day since just about everything was closed.  Fortunately, Claudia from the local production company found at least one open museum; the C / O Berlin.  I'm a little glad this was the only open museum I could find, because I don't think I would have chosen this from all the Berlin museums available and it proved to be a museum experience like none other.

What makes this museum special? A couple of things.  First, it's a well-respected organization that focuses on showcasing the world's best photographers.  And judging by the posters that line the entry way, this museum has seen exhibits by just about any one who's anyone in the world of photography. But the thing I found most intriguing about C / O Berlin was the setting.  The museum is housed in an old building that looks like something from a post-apocalyptic movie.  And the management has done little to change that impression.  With hallways that have peeling paint, chipped walls, and floors that may be a little too original.

Against this backdrop of urban decay, the curators lovingly present some of the world's best photographs either on elegant, free-standing walls or directly on the weathered walls.  One of the museum's gallery was once a gymnasium.

While I was there, two interesting photo exhibits were on view, both with photographs from photographers I was unfamiliar with.  First up is Arnold Newman: Master Class. Newman, who died in 2006, studied to be a painter.  He interrupted his education for financial reasons and became a portrait photographer at a department store.  He eventually became a fine Art portrait photographer, particularly with his series of photographs of famous artists.

I was in Berlin as part of a photo shoot for one of my clients.  Most of our photographs involved portraits of people in working environments.  Arnold Newman made me want to be a better creative director as many of his photographs were exceptional.  I loved Dr. Edwin H. Land with group of Polaroid employees, Polaroid warehouse (1977, gelatin silver print).

David Rockefeller, Businessman (1962, gelatin silver print) is a stunning photo with exceptional composition. You can feel the power of money looking at this picture.

Andy Warhol, painter and printmaker in his studio (1973, gelatin silver print) demonstrated Newman's willingness to present photography in surprising ways.

Also on view was an ongoing series of exhibits designed to showcase young, up-and-coming photographers. Talents 26: Lost and Found features the photography of chinese artist Peikwen Cheng with the assistance of Eileen Seifert. It's almost become a cliche for photographers to go to Burning Man in an effort to capture amazing images.  In fact I almost rolled my eyes when I read that this was the theme of Cheng's images.  But Cheng changed my mind. His digitally-unaltered images are haunting. With prints large enough to overtake your vision, this exhibit was like walking into a dream.   And it seemed to continue the museum themes that started in Toronto.  Here are a few of my favorites from the show:

Journey Together

Launching out of Oblivion

Love is . . . 

Lamp Mobile

Thanks Berlin for a great day at the museum.

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