Palazzo Strozzi

The Board, Single/Group Portrait, 2007
Courtesy Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne, Berlin, Antwerp; in cooperation with Galleria Lia Rumma, Napoli / Milano

In their works, the two artists imitate and deconstruct the typical rituals behind the representation of authority. The works selected for the exhibition have marked particularly important moments in the career of the two artists. The most recent of these works, The Board, depicts three top executives from Deutsche Bank, one of whom is also a member of the important cultural council of this financial institute. Their representation symbolizes the power of money, which in the current world of global and computerized finance, is regulated according to economic flows that are difficult to visualize. In portraying these figures, Clegg & Guttmann are not acting as the mere executors of a commissioned work, limiting themselves to meeting the expectations of their clients, but rather as independent artists. It is they who have chosen each and every element in the composition of the picture, ranging from the subjects' pose to the lighting, style of clothes and background. By contract, they also ensured they could display and make use of the work at their own discretion. The traditional relation between artist and client is therefore overturned.
The three subjects of The Board were photographed in different sessions against a neutral background; the photos were then assembled to form a group portrait, which bears clear traces of this procedure of digital assemblage. As a background to the composition, a series of windows were inserted that open up on the city of Frankfurt, the headquarters of Deutsche Bank and the heart of German and European finance. This opening up on the outside, just like the striking interplay of light and shadow, is a borrowing from traditional portraiture, which often shows subjects standing against vistas alluding to their properties or evoking their homelands.
The work entitled Politisch-Physiognomische Fragmente consists of photographic fragments: details from representations of politicians portrayed according to the poses typical of the enactment of male power. The artists here feature accumulations of single fragments - such as hands arranged in a pose, or ties - that represent common expressions and symbols of the authoritativeness of political figures. The work serves as an analytical deconstruction of the principles behind the typical representation of power by isolating and showing the elements that stand at the basis of the well-planned iconographic norms employed by the world of politics for its media representation.
For Grand Master, part of a photographic series produced in the 1980s, Clegg & Guttmann asked an actor to display certain poses characteristic of power, presenting him as the representative of a non-specified institution. The background of the image consists in a fictional architectural scenario - one simply simulated by using photographed space - the artificial nature of which is revealed by certain incongruities in the lighting effects. What is central here, once more, is the reflection offered on the controlled and never spontaneous construction of an image of power.
The tension conveyed by Clegg & Guttmann's works springs from the subtle gap characterizing the artists' relationship with tradition. Their classical and apparently affirmative representations of people with power should be interpreted, within the context of their career spanning several decades, as different ways of visualizing an analytical and deconstructive practice engaging with the mechanisms of authority.

Clegg & Guttmann
Installation view, Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Firenze
Photo: Valentina Muscedra

CLEGG & GUTTMANN (Ireland and Israel, 1957)
Grand Master, 1985
The Board, Single/Group Portrait, 2007
Politisch-Physiognomische Fragmente #2 / #3, 2001

Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann have devoted over thirty years of research to the representation of power in portraiture. Over the course of their long career, certain features have emerged that recur throughout their various works - features that are also traditionally found in historical portraiture: for instance, a strong side lighting of the figures and the use of certain typical poses, gestures and accessories to characterize the subjects.

Grand Master, 1985
Courtesy Galerie Christian Nagel, Cologne, Berlin, Antwerp; in cooperation with Galleria Lia Rumma, Napoli / Milano

inizio pagina
Tina Barney
Christoph Brech
Fabio Cifariello Ciardi
Clegg & Guttmann
Nick Danziger
Rineke Dijkstra
Jim Dow
Bureau d’etudes
Francesco Jodice
Annie Leibovitz
Helmut Newton
Trevor Paglen
Martin Parr
Daniela Rossell
Wang Qingsong
Jules Spinatsch
Hiroshi Sugimoto
The Yes Men
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1.10.2010 – 23.01.2011