Photography from the Sylvio Perlstein Collection
A highlight of the Perlstein Collection, featured prominently in ‘A Luta Continua,’ is an exceptional display of more than 150 photographs. This ‘collection within the collection’ features photographs from some of the most celebrated names of the twentieth century – Diane Arbus, Hans Bellmer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, and Man Ray, among others – and demonstrates these photographers’ limitless capacity to push the boundaries of their medium.
‘A Luta Continua’ curator David Rosenberg describes this collection as ‘a world in itself,’ one that follows Perlstein’s characteristic impulse to surround himself with works that ‘unsettle, intrigue, or disturb him.’ When viewed together, these seemingly disparate works elicit new continuities and connections, each photograph serving to contextualize the next.
Perlstein’s collection of photographs begins chronologically with Eugene Atget’s iconic Old Paris series, which the French photographer began in 1897 and continued until his death in 1927. An index of what Atget believed were vanishing architectural forms that he encountered while strolling through the city, the series received the attentions of the Parisian artistic vanguard, including Picasso, Berenice Abbott, and Man Ray, who found the photographs to have a distinct surrealist quality with particular regard to shop windows and reflections.
The majority of Perlstein’s photography collection comprises more than seventy works from Surrealist photographers such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Hans Bellmer, Brassaï, Claude Cahun, Dora Maar, and Man Ray, with whom Perlstein maintained a close friendship until the artist’s death in 1976. The exhibition presents more than a dozen works by Man Ray that span the photographer’s career, including his Rayographs ‘Untitled’ (1923) and ‘La Colifichet’ (1923), as well as his startling portraits of early twentieth century French luminaries like ‘Antonin Artaud’ (1929) and Marcel Duchamp, ‘La Tonsure’ (1919).
Edward Weston, White Radish, 1933 © 1981 Arizona Board of Regents
Constantin Brâncuși, Woman Looking at Herself in a Mirror (dedicated to Kiki), 1909 © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2019
Also prominently featured are a range of photographs by Belgian Surrealists, including Marcel G. Lefrancq, E.L.T. Mesens, and Paul Nougé, a founding member of the group. Renowned for his photographic series, Les subversion des Images (1929 – 1930), Nougé was also celebrated for his poetry and writings, which earned him the nickname ‘the Belgian Breton.’ Another Belgian, Marcel Mariën, later joined the ranks of these Surrealists after meeting René Magritte in Brussels in 1937. His ‘The Elusive (L’introuvable)’ (1937) expressed a love of pranks and visual puns which he employs to subvert viewers’ expectations.
In addition to an expansive assortment of photography from the interwar period, Perlstein has sought out conceptual photographs from the 1960s and 70s to the present. Among these are Bernd Becher and Hilla Wobeser’s series, Châteaux d’Eau (1972), that documents the rapidly changing landscape of Germany in the early 1960s; photographs by Barbara Kruger, who is best known for works such as ‘Busy Going Crazy’ (1988), which draw on the language of advertisements and critique structures of power, identity, and sexuality; Robert Mapplethorpe’s boundary-pushing portraiture of New York subcultures and celebrities that famously included ‘Grace Jones peinte par Keith Haring’ (1986); and William Wegman’s comical Weimeraner series featuring his dog, aptly named after Man Ray, who appears in a number of his photographs including the diptych, ‘Milk/Floor’ (1970).
‘The Sylvio Perlstein Collection. A Luta Continua’ is on view at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong 23 May – 27 July 2019. This exhibition follows on from an original display at New York, 22nd Street in 2018.