Touch Me, Feel My Art

Posted on May 17, 2011

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Victoria Beckham, 2009, Coutesy of Juergen Teller and Marc Jacobs. When shooting this for the Marc Jacobs ad campaign, Teller saw Victoria Beckham as a fashion icon and a “product” that every woman wants to be like and buy. Victoria Beckham was at the time reluctant to being photographed in this odd way, even though her face would not be shown directly. Teller succeeded at displaying both VictoriaBeckham’s significance as a fashion icon and consumers’ yearning for a celebrity like Victoria Beckham and the brand Marc Jacobs.

by Minji Lee

SEOUL—Photography-based exhibitions have certainly been in vogue over the last few weeks among art museums in Jongno-gu, the most distinguished art venue in Korea. In late March, Sejong Museum of Art had its grand opening for the large-scale solo show of Yousuf Karsh, the master of portrait photography. The exhibition consisted of three major themes of his photographic realm: portraits, hands, and landscapes. Meanwhile, the solo exhibition of Bohnchang Koo, a precursor of Korean modern photography, also got off the ground at the Kukje Gallery. It featured his early works, mostly from the 1980s, taken in Korea.

In mid-April, along with these shows, Daelim Contemporary Art Museum launched a solo exhibition, “Touch Me,” of Juergen Teller, one of the most important photographers in the contemporary art world. Daelim Contemporary Art Museum and Le Consortium in Dijon, France collaborated for this show. This is the very first show Teller has had in Korea.

Born in 1964, Juergen Teller is a German photographer who worked with numerous top-notch social icons, fashion designers, pop artists, and models such as Kate Moss, Raquel Zimmerman, Maria Carla, Nirvana, Richard Hamilton, Karl Lagerfeld, and Marc Jacobs. He is known to be one of the few photographers who does not retouch photographs with digital technology, using only flash and a small camera as a tool for shooting.

Andre Pejic, 2009, Courtesy of Juergen Teller Andre Pejic is a man. Teller’s photographs surpass the boundaries of gender, and explore sexuality, surrealism, and nudity.

The show, curated by a Korean curator Seung Deok Kim, takes you deep into Teller’s artistic world and his definitions of true beauty, running the gamut from surrealism to sexuality. Teller has no specific boundaries between commercial and non-commercial, and induces the core beauty out of people or objects that is hidden inside of them. He has a peculiar skill of making something special not special, but then making it really special.

Celebrities including preeminent pop artists, models and fashion designers in his photographs are photographed as the opposite of what they are supposed to look like. They are dull, pale, disheveled. Rather than taken in a fancy studio, they are shot in front of an old, abandoned factory or in uninviting constructions sites or on dim rooftops. They are lying in bed or on a couch in their own home or hotel rooms, wearing ragged outfits or “nothing.” Nudity is one of the main conceptions throughout his works, by which Teller wanted to display the real beauty inside of celebrities. He said that being nude makes us most comfortable and shows our authentic selves. Not in a standardized setup and environs, picturing the celebrities surrounded by stark common, daily scenes, Teller wanted to extract the true beauty out of their simple existences; to Teller, they were already special just being themselves.

The arrangement of Teller’s works is also unusual, as his works. The exhibition was designated to make viewers think. Photographs with visual similarities are hung side by side, and the tag that shows the name, year, and photographic method of the work is placed far from the work. By this, the museum allows the viewers to conjecture what Teller wants to show, what each piece means, and how the works are related.

On the second floor, there are Teller’s main works such as the Paradis series that Teller worked on in the Louvre Museum and portraits of Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood, Richard Hamilton, Roni Horn, and Lily Cole.

Roni Horn, 2009, Courtesy of Juergen Teller

On the third floor, viewers find a slideshow of the photographs that Teller experimented for his “10 days in Havana” project beaming from a high-definition television screen. As you walk in, there are magazines and books that have Teller’s photographs, very old and out of print. You can also view some current photobooks composed of Teller’s works. After that, you end up in a “102 question room” in which there are 102 questions on the wall, sent from Teller’s celebrity friends such as Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld, and Marc Jacobs to Teller about his life and art. At the same time, you can watch the slideshow of photographs that Teller worked on with his old friend, Marc Jacobs.

To make a digression, on the third floor, there is an interesting photo of a man, whose underwear says “Touch Me.” After taking this photo, Teller decided to name this exhibition “Touch Me,” hoping the audience will touch the threshold of his art world, and thus fully experience the unique world of his photography.

On the first floor, there is an information desk where you can purchase the photobook of Juergen Teller, which was produced by Le Consortium in France, for 60,000 won, and a photography section, in which people can learn about Teller’s way of shooting and take pictures of themselves in that way.

Throughout the show, you will realize Teller is the rarest photographer who can create specialness out of commonality, with no boundaries in any sort, and explore nudity, sexuality, and surrealism with just a flash and a camera.

“Touch Me—Juergen Teller” is at the Daelim Contemporary Art Museum through July 31; 02)720-0667; daelimmuseum.org

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