NEW YORK, NY.-
To celebrate the centennial of Richard Avedons birth in 1923, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
will present a selection of the photographers most innovative group portraits in the exhibition Richard Avedon: MURALS, opening January 19, 2023. Although Avedon first earned his reputation as a fashion photographer in the late 1940s, his greatest achievement was his stunning reinvention of the photographic portrait. Focused on the short period between 1969 and 1971, this exhibition will explore a critical juncture in the artists career, when, after a hiatus from portraiture, he began working with a new camera and a new sense of scale. The exhibition will be organized around three monumental photomurals in The Met collection (the largest measures nearly 10 x 35 feet) that depict the eras preeminent artists, activists, and politicians. Uniting the murals with session outtakes and contemporaneous projects, the exhibition will track Avedon's evolving approach to group portraiture, through which he transformed the conventions of the genre.
Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said, "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. 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."
For Avedon, the oversized mural format expanded the artistic possibilities of photography, radically reorienting viewers and subjects in a subsuming, larger-than-life view. In the murals, he assembled giants of the late 20th centurymembers of Andy Warhol's Factory, architects of the Vietnam War, and demonstrators against that warwho together shaped an unprecedented era of American life. The formal innovations of Avedons high styleof starkly lit bodies in an unsparing white surroundare most fully realized in these enormous group pictures, in which subjects jostle and crowd the frame, and bright voids between them crackle with tension. Presented in one gallery, the murals will stage an unlikely conversation among historically opposed groups, as well as contemporary viewers.
The show will also feature loans from the Avedon Foundation, including a selection of outtakes that will bring viewers behind the scenes, illuminating the artists creative process. Avedon arranged sittings at Warhols Factory over a period of months, but had only a matter of minutes to photograph the American military leadership in Saigon. Working prints from the various mural sessions will illustrate Avedons graphic and narrative aims for the project, as well as his masterful manipulation of figures in space. Alongside this rare material, related photographsof activists in New York, and other groups in Vietnamwill reveal the dynamism and breadth of Avedons portraiture.
Nearly 20 years after his death in 2004, Richard Avedon: MURALS will mark the artist's extraordinary legacy as well as his special relationship with The Met. The murals are gifts from the artist himself, donated on the occasion of his 2002 retrospective at the Museum. Reunited for his centennial, these works render in spectacular detail the intimacies and interpersonal dynamics that preoccupied Avedon throughout his life.
Richard Avedon: MURALS is organized by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs, and Virginia McBride, Research Assistant in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.