at Tokyo Photographic Art Museum
in the Ebisu, Daikanyama area
This event has ended - (2006-07-01 - 2006-08-06)
I’m not a big fan of press photography or your run of the mill Summer selection of photography classics by the curators, so I have no words of praise for two of the three shows. Some people might find the World Press Photography and Curators’ Choice exhibits stimulating, but what took my fancy was the show of Isabelle Huppert portraits by various fashion and art photographers.
I had been skeptical about the exhibit and I chose not to see it at PS1 in New York few months ago, so I can only call myself lucky to stumble upon it again in Tokyo. The Isabelle Huppert portraits by “superstar” photographers is a treat and surprise. The title “Isabelle Huppert – Woman of Many Faces” most definitely reflects this theater and film actor’s acting abilities, but it also indicates the many very different looks she has had, which I was not aware of. I had not known of her as the glamorous actress, which is how she appears in many of the portraits. I’m used to seeing her in the role of the underdog, often as attractive but marginal women.
As much as she inspired directors like Claude Chabrol to keep inviting her to perform for them, she was equally often requested; one finds out while looking at the works in the museum, by superstar photographers such as Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and many others. The most memorable “portrait”, if one can call it so, is perhaps by Hiroshi Sugimoto. He puts Huppert in one of the works from his famous movie theater photo project. She sits, facing away from us in an empty movie theater, watching a movie. She becomes a lonely front row head that is easily missed in the large, old theater. She remains frozen in a movie-long exposure: as a result she is seen to be watching only an empty, illuminated screen, a film without a name.
Another intriguing portrait, which is also based on time, is a very recent series of video portraits by Gary Hill. His works show a more mature woman in casual jeans and shirt standing up fiddling with the cuff of her shirt. In a word, it’s a classic, a slightly hyperactive Huppert from films like La Ceremonie or Madam Bovary. Among other jewels is Jean-Henri Lartigue’s timeless, soft focus Huppert taken outdoors. It was taken as late as in the mid-eighties, which makes the portrait one of the last works by the photographer who’s first successful, although early attempts at photography date back to 1904.