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Gagosian Paris : Iconic Avedon : A centennial Celebration of Richard Avedon


On the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Richard Avedon, the Gagosian gallery saw things big; worthy of the artist it has represented exclusively for 13 years. A celebration which first began in May 2023, in New York, and which continued at 4 rue de Ponthieu, until March 2, to the delight of Parisians who were able to admire there in turn, and this in open access, his immense heritage.

“Iconic Avedon.” Tells us the title of the exhibition.

Indeed, Avedon is the image. Two inseparable terms. A young New Yorker in the 1930s rubbing shoulders with stylists, magazines and fashion clichés in his parents’ women’s clothing store, a first job in the merchant navy photographing crew members for their identity cards, and decades at Harper’s Bazar then Vogue marking these magazines with his innovative, refreshing and modern style. The image always inhabited him, unshakeably, until death surprised him, while on assignment for the New Yorker, on October 1, 2004.

“In France, you are not an actor if you have not been photographed by the Studio d’Harcourt,” wrote Roland Barthes in his Mythologies. Are you an icon if you haven’t been photographed by Avedon? Jackie Kennedy, China Machado, Audrey Hepburn, Marcel Duchamp, Francis Bacon, Charlie Chaplin, Marlène Dietrich, Tina Turner, Coco Channel, The Beatles, Alberto Giacometti, Brigitte Bardot, Dorian Leigh, Marilyn Monroe… So many famous names and faces as we find during our journey and who have the common point of having deeply marked their fields. Frontal poses, white background and black frame, by immortalizing them in this way, he contributed to their greatness and in doing so, constructed a myth, that of celebrity, of the high-class. But beyond the rhinestones and sequins there are also activists, politicians, farmers, scientists, criminals, anonymous people who have passed in front of the master’s lens… « Creator, but also witness of his time » as writes Larry Gagosian, because along the way, face after face, it is the essence of his country and his era that we find in his photos. A striking example is found upstairs in the gallery, the moving portrait of William Casby, 106, born a slave, which takes us into the darkest pages of the United States.

By offering us a celebration of Avedon’s birth, Gagosian invites visitors to relive the frenzy and richness of the artist’s existence. As Roland Barthes said, “photography has something to do with resurrection.” It reveals to us what was, and which is no longer, but which continues to exist through our imaginations and our gazes; the Paris of the 1950s that he loved so much, the faces of these men and women of the 20th century; and each shot resonates with anecdotes. This is also the angle taken by the catalog published on the occasion of the New York exhibition, where 1,500 personalities, having worked with or simply admired Avedon, were asked to choose and comment on a work by the artist who had marked them. If you regret not finding their words on the walls, you can listen, by listening, to the stories of knowledgeable visitors or read them directly in the pages of Avedon 100, available at the gallery bookstore.

Avedon, the immortal.

Marine Aubenas


Gagosian Paris
4 rue de Ponthieu
75008 Paris

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