Nan Goldin

“I have never believed in one decisive portrait of someone but in a variety of pictures that record the complexity of a life.”

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Ava twirling, NYC, 2007
74 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist
© Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin investigates the deconstruction of the barrier between camera and subject, between the photographer and life. The subject of the works in the exhibition is the family, which is presented in the complexity of its diverse roles and relationships. In some images, the American artist creates a comparison between the different generations within a family group, for example, the figure of Guido Costa, a gallerist and long-time friend of the artist, in his relationship with his mother, grandmother and daughter Isabella. Other artworks focus on the artist’s relationship with her own mother, implicitly conflictual, which often emerges in images that refer to taboos such as death, the sexuality of one’s parents and of elderly people in general.

The diversity among the images serves to highlight certain characteristics and features that enrich the visual medium used by the American artist. Her style emphasises immediacy and reality through an extraordinary technical ability on her part in employing light and capturing the naturalness of the poses and movements of her subjects. This strong sense of spontaneity merges with a rigorous formal control, and this combination is evident in the artist’s use of focus, in her compositions of a disrupted proportionality in the perspective plane, and in her accurate combination of light and contour, which suggest historical and artistic references to the 17-19th century tradition. The objective of each photograph is to create an elaborate formal construction, the different elements of which contribute to challenging the very being of photography, its value as a trace and a document.

The artist herself maintains that: “I have never believed in one decisive portrait of someone but in a variety of pictures that record the complexity of a life.” The format of the slide show becomes the ideal instrument through which to evoke such complexity, creating open-ended narratives by merging successions of images with an acoustic dimension. Fire Leap comprises Goldin’s photographs from 1978 to today. The subjects are her friends’ children, immortalized in different moments over the years. Goldin captures different moments in the children’s daily lives: when they are eating, sleeping, or having a bath. Sometimes they smile at the camera, other times they ignore it because they are too busy playing or concentrating on their thoughts. The photographer captures the natural innocence that characterises their behaviour, such as being nude and expressing joy or sadness, not yet completely regulated by the social barriers and conventions of the adult world.


Nan Goldin (born 1953, USA; lives and works in Berlin, Paris, and New York) became interested in photography at an early age. In the 1970s, first in Boston and subsequently in New York, she portrayed her relatives, friends, and lovers in intimate and personal, intense and transgressive, images. Portraiture fascinates the artist as an instrument to bring to light the past of her loved ones facing the numerous problematic contexts involved with living in the New York of that time. In this manner she created The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a selection and juxtaposition of colour slides made at different periods and constantly increased in number over time. Her work continues in this vein, where the artist herself, with her personal relationships and experiences, is always the subject. International success occurred with a solo exhibition, I’ll be your miirror, in 1996 at the Whitney Museum in New York. This retrospective exhibition inspired the fi lm of the same name, which was awarded in the same year at the Berlin Film Festival for the best documentary on homosexuality. Among her most recent solo exhibitions are: in 2005, Fantastic Tales: The Photography of Nan Goldin, Palmer Museum of Art, University Park, State College; in 2006, Chasing a Ghost, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York; in 2007, Stories Retold, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; in 2010, Berlin Work. Photographs 1984-2009 (retrospective exhibition), Berlinische Galerie, Berlin – Scopophilia, Louvre, Paris; in 2012, Heartbeat, Museu de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro. Among her most recent joint exhibitions are: in 2006, Personal Affairs. New Forms of Intimacy in presentday art, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen; in 2007, Into Me/Out of Me, MACRO, Rome; in 2009, The Portrait. Photography as Stage, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; in 2010, Disquieting Images, Triennale di Milano, Milan – Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., and later at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, and at the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma – Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, The Museum of Modern Art, New York – Brave New World, Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; in 2011, Real Venice, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice – Street Life and Home Stories: Fotografi en aus der Sammlung Goetz, Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; in 2012, Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; in 2013, Un/Natural Color, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara – I, You, We, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York – All You Need Is Love: From Chagall to Kusama and Hatsune Miku, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. Nan Goldin has won numerous international recognitions and awards, and her works are part of important museum collections, including: the MoMA in New York, and the Tate Modern in London.

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Con la grande mostra dedicata ad Ai Weiwei (23 settembre 2016-22 gennaio 2017) per la prima volta Palazzo Strozzi diventa uno spazio espositivo unitario che comprende facciata, Cortile, Piano Nobile e Strozzina.

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