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Grand Palais Ephémère : Juergen Teller : i need to live


Juergen by Juergen Teller – Text by Marine Aubenas

“You know, Juergen, one day you will have an exhibition at the Grand Palais”
“Don’t be stupid, it’s ridiculous”

It is with these premonitory words, those of his wife Dovile Drizyte, that the largest exhibition ever devoted to the work of Juergen Teller, an extraordinary German photographer who marked, for the better and for some, the worse photography of our century.

10,000 m2 which honor  some 800 photos of this giant of photography with a decorum in his image. Two huge wooden panels divide the space into 4 large zones. Raw. Effective. There follows, without distinction, soberly framed or pinned to the wall, personal photographs, commercial commissions and artistic projects.

The red thread, or rather pink – the artist’s favorite color which we find in chosen touches throughout the wandering is his life. Because life and work are inexorably linked, mutually nourishing each other. So a pink, but not just any pink, a bright pink. A pink that hits, which surprises, which clashes, because if we discover the gentle and sensitive side of the artist, his relationship with his family, we also celebrate his self-deprecation, his offbeat points of view and his exhilarating humor.

“I need to live” is the name given to this exhibition, and it is above all Juergen’s philosophy, an overflowing energy that he generously shares with us here in this life-size album, a sort of impromptu and uninhibited look at the photo gallery of his iPhone; his preferred working tool from which many of the photos presented here are taken.

Because yes, we are struck by the aesthetic of amateurism.  The motivation for the photo, or the subject represented doesn’t matter, whether it’s Kate Moss or his mother, Yves Saint-Laurent or himself, a brand shoot or a trip to Iran; he manages to keep the same simple and authentic look for things and people, and thus to shake up the pre-established codes of art to return to the essential, people, life and its triviality.

The visitors’ very elaborate clothing  which gives us more the impression of being backstage at a fashion show – reminds us that Juergen is first and foremost fashion. But a natural fashion, far from artifice and expectations; a fashion that is staged, provocative and delicious; Vivianne Westwood posing naked at 71, slender legs in simple YSL tights, Victoria Beckham in an XXL Marc Jacob bag. A new look at this cozy world which pleases as much as it disturbs, and which has today become a supreme label. “Photographed by Juergen Teller.” A guarantee of success and irreverence for brands; a real feat for this photographer who has succeeded in establishing his status as an artist and an author in his own right, propelling him today to the same level of iconicity as those he photographs.

A style, a name, but Juergen Teller is also an omnipresence which makes him a major cultural reference of our century. It’s impossible to have laid eyes on one of his works and not remember it, his delirious self-portraits, his extravagant acrobatics, naked on Charlotte Rampling’s piano, or recently his campaign for Loewe with the choice of 88 years old Maggie Smith as muse. Mischievous look, crooked smile, gray hair, visible wrinkles. This is a refreshing look at women.

From fashion magazines, to art magazines, newspapers, public displays, galleries, and museums, not forgetting the internet, his work circulates, and is exhibited massively, and in doing so is commented on and very often criticized. Teasing, he plays with these reactions and himself exposes the taunts of which he is the target. This is evidenced by screenshots of critical tweets from his series on actors nominated for the Oscars produced for W magazine in 2021, which are even the subject of a book soberly entitled “Notes about my work”.

In a book produced with The Anonymous Project, Martin Parr writes “there are too many pretentious images today […] an image must come from the bottom of the heart”, and this is undeniably what one feels when crossing Juergen Palace; a true, original, sometimes absurd, always sincere approach.

The exhibition ends with a series which shows his daughter Iggy, still an infant, in settings featuring her most iconic photographs. Because after having been examined, here, and everywhere, it is finally he who closes the ball with his own amused gaze on hers. The circle is complete.

Teller. A name well borne by this man who, more than a photographer, is an outstanding storyteller, he who loves to entertain, amuse, and amaze; and who, for those attentive, succeeds in transmitting… his fury for life.

Marine Aubenas


Juergen Teller, i need to live
from December 16, 2023 to January 9, 2024
Grand Palais Ephémère
Place Joffre, Paris 7e

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