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Mannequins, 2003

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VALERIE BELIN
Skin Deep

Skin Deep

Skin Deep is a major new exhibition of works by Valérie Belin, one of France’s most popular and acclaimed photographers. The first European retrospective of the artist’s work since the landmark Valérie Belin (2007–8), it combines many of her most celebrated pictures with new works never exhibited before to focus on one of the artist’s most engaging subjects—identity and appearance. From mesmerising photographs of ornate mirrors to vivid portraits of women overlaid with vintage comic book covers, Belin’s monumental works are visually arresting, provocative and rich in meaning.

Throughout her career, Belin has explored the tension between the superficial appearance of things and their true nature. Her photographs frequently feature surfaces—the bodies of wrecked cars, reduced to uninhabited shells, for example, or more recently the empty visages of agency models, over painted with paint and brush like human canvases. Such projects not only question the interior life of the subjects, they are both emblems and metaphors of consumer culture, exposing the way people and things are packaged and presented. They also echo the photographic process itself, since photographs are themselves inherently superficial—thin skins of imagery reduced to two dimensions, mere millimetres thick.

Many of Belin’s photographs examine ideals of femininity and masculinity. Her stunning ‘Mannequins’ of 2003, captivating in their beauty, are not human at all but lifelike models made for fashion boutiques. Conversely, the three living women portrayed in ‘Black Women III’, 2008, brightly lit against dark backgrounds, heavily made up, and with their heads held in unreal stillness, take on the look of artificial models. Belin shows figures adapting to defined roles—the ‘Lido Girl’, for example, posed identically in three different costume changes from the same performance, or ‘Ballroom Dancers’ all but trapped in prescribed postures, their gaudy dress characteristic of their sport.

Drawn from the artist’s studio and significant private holdings, the prints in Skin Deep are among the finest available, foregrounding Belin’s technical virtuosity and exquisite attention to detail. Produced larger than life in both colour and black and white, the exhibition promises a memorable and immersive experience for the visitor.

Skin Deep addresses topics that are among the most confounding and important of our times. Engaging with issues of fashion and consumption, beauty, gender and self, it will appeal to diverse audiences, offering rich opportunities for interpretation and programming. Ultimately, Skin Deep both celebrates and pushes beyond the superficial, seeking to find a place for the individual among the complex and sometimes dehumanising pressures of modern life.

Valérie Belin (France, b.1964). The winner of the Prix Pictet in 2015, Belin is the only artist ever to have been given major exhibitions at Paris’s Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Orsay, and Maison Européenne de la Photographie. She was made an officer of France’s Order of Arts and Letters in 2017. The subject of sixteen monographs and numerous catalogues, her works are held in major museums including the Centre Pompidou, Fondation Cartier, Getty Museum, Künsthaus Zurich, Los Angeles County Museum, Museum of Modern Art, New York, National Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Contemporary Art Korea, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and many others.

Curator Phillip Prodger, Ph.D., is Senior Research Scholar at Yale University. Formerly Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London, he is the author of numerous books and catalogues, and has curated exhibitions internationally. Recent projects include the award-winning William Eggleston: Portraits (2017), and Martin Parr: Only Human (2019).

TECHNICAL DETAILS

> CuratorPhillip Prodger
> Number of works88 photographs (b&w and color)
> Size of worksSee list of works
> ConditionsFramed and in crates
> TransportFrom Madrid
> Rental ConditionsThe borrower will be in charge of:
-Transport from and to Madrid
-Flight and Journey for Valérie Belin from Paris
-Adaptation of the exhibition by the Curator    Phillip Prodger (option)
> AvailabilityFrom January 2021

 

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