An exhibition of rare photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art shows how photographers helped shape artists' public personas.
Face to Face: Portraits of Artists, up through October 14th, is a curious exhibition in terms of what it reveals about the way its curator and the other exhibition planners think about their audience. What do they assume the viewers already know before they walk in the door? What do they expect the audience will want to learn from the show?
I always prefer curators to give an audience as much information as they think they can handle. In my mind, if you’re coming to a show of largely black-and-white photographs (versus an attention-grabbing headliner like Van Gogh or Monet), you’re probably already a little interested in art, and thus interested in learning about the artists responsible for the photographs. Unfortunately, the gaps and lacunae in the display of Face to Face come together to present a rather muddled, unsure portrait of who the anticipated audience for this show is, and leads to some frustration and, ultimately, a sense of unfinished business for this avid museum visitor.
Exhibition Review by Deborah Krieger