The show and its theme provide a new perspective on Parkett’s 33 years of direct collaborations with 270 artists from around the world.
For as long as people have been making art, they have been portraying themselves and others. The artists included in this exhibition employ a wide array of techniques, media, and methods, including printmaking, photography, collage, and sculpture, among others. Through the use of both traditional and conceptual representation, the works explore the subjective, emotional, physical, or political identities of their subjects.
On view are more recent works such as Ed Atkins’ self-portrait on rubber, a digital rendering of his avatar’s face, Xu Zhen’s The Tribal Chief's New Clothes, an Easter Island statue adorned in military clothing, and Kara Walker’s graphically powerful “Boo-Hoo”, in her signature starkly silhouetted black and white style, addressing themes of race, violence, gender, and sexuality.
Seminal earlier works include Andy Warhol’s four eerie sewn photographic portraits of skeletons —one of Warhol’s last projects before his untimely death in 1987, Gilbert & George’s signature self-portrait from the same year, Jeff Koon’s “Signature Plate”, his self-portrait with a pig, Tracey Emin’s Polaroid from her one day photo project titled “Self-Portrait, 12. 11. 01”, and Marilyn Minter’s photo portrait of Pamela Anderson.
The diverse and wide range of portrayed subjects include Elizabeth Peyton’s print of Oscar Wilde and his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, Rachel Harrison’s splashy portrait of the iconic musician Prince, John Waters’ “Tragedy”, an homage to the untimely and gruesome death of actress and blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s seemingly traditional portrait study, actually an etching of an unnamed imaginary man.
Self-portraits on view include Gillian Wearing’s stunning “Sleeping Mask”, a life-size wax mask of her face, Pipilotti Rist’s “The Help”, a life-size cutout of the artist dressed in red with blood running down her leg, and Martin Kippenberger’s “Unique Book”, from his group of books assembling a variety of self-portraits, portraits of fellow artists and friends, mementos, and notes.
The diversity of scale and media in the works on view is further illustrated in works such as Nicolas Party’s tiny cast bronze portrait of a cat/man hybrid, Paulina Olowska’s porcelain volleyball player, a tribute to a Polish sport champion, Liu Xiaodong’s overpainted photo portrait of Uyghur jade miners in China’s Xinjiang province, and Dayanita Singh’s four portraits presented in four cropped images taken from one single photograph.
Non-traditional, symbolic and indirect portraits include among others Laurie Anderson’s smallscale sculptural sound work to be worn like an earpiece, with a short message of the artist playing the violin and whispering in the listener’s ear, Douglas Gordon’s bite into a sheet of plain white paper, Sarah Lucas’ brass and lead cast of a man’s testicles, aptly titled “Lion Heart”. Robert Gober’s New York Times page, in which the artist placed a fictitious short news story about the accidental drowning of a young boy named Robert Gober, Rirkrit Tiravanija’s edition of the artist’s own Ray Ban glasses with engraved poetic phrases, Maurizio Cattelan’s image of a fist with a ring similar to the one worn by Pope John Paul II, which is also recognizable as the artists’ main Instagram image, and Karen Kilimnik’s “Rapunzel” a spindle of gold thread representing hair, placed on a bed of moss in a plexiglass chamber as a romantic homage to the German fairytale’s protagonist.