An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...
Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...
Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...
Over the course of a career spanning six decades and tens of thousands of negatives, August Sander created a nuanced sociological portrait of Germany comprising images of its populace, as well as its urban settings and dramatic landscapes.
To coincide with the exhibition August Sander. Men Without Masks, this panel discussion explores the work and legacy of the late German photographer, a forefather of conceptual art and pioneering documentarian of human diversity.
Julian Sander is the owner of Galerie Julian Sander in Cologne, director of the August Sander Family Collection and a photographer. As the great-grandson of August Sander, he has focused his career as a gallerist and foundation director on the explanation and presentation of August Sander’s work, and in particular its humanist ethic.
Sophie Nagiscarde is the head of cultural programmes at the Shoah Memorial in Paris. She has worked at the Civil Society for Multimedia Authors, the Musée de la Poste and the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art after being among the founders of the Ephemeral Factory in Paris. She is the co-curator with Marie-Edith Agostini of the exhibition August Sander: Persecuted/Persecutors, People of the 20th Century, currently on view at the Shoah Memorial.
Alastair Sooke is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. Critic-at-Large for The Telegraph and a regular contributor to the BBC Culture website, he writes and presents documentaries on television and radio for the BBC, and is the author of three books about art published by Penguin. In 2016, he sat on the British Council’s Venice Biennale Selection Committee and judged the inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture. He is also a trustee of The Ampersand Foundation.
'I hate nothing more than sugary photographs with tricks, poses and effects. So allow me to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people'–August Sander.
August Sander was born in Herdorf, a small rural village east of Cologne, in 1876. He was one of nine children of a peasant and miner family. Sander is now viewed as a forefather of conceptual art and a pioneering documentarian of human diversity. In his project entitled Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th Century), a project that spanned four decades of his life, Sander strove to systematically document contemporary German society. This encyclopedic magnum opus constitutes one of the most monumental endeavours in photographic history. Sander's considered oeuvre, which includes landscape, portrait, architecture and commercial photography, has served as a wellspring of inspiration for modern and contemporary photographers, from Walker Evans and Diane Arbus, to Tina Barney, Rineke Dijkstra, and Bernd and Hilla Becher, and has exerted a profound influence upon new generations of visual artists across mediums.
Sander began his career around the turn of the century with prize-winning historicist photography in Linz, Austria. First exhibitions and purchases by museums date at this time. In Cologne in the early 1920s, Sander established a photographic portrait studio. during this formative time, he regularly met with the group of the Kölner Progressive (Cologne Progressives), including the influential artists Franz W. Seiwert, Jankel Adler and Heinrich Hoerle. Stimulated by these exchanges, he formalised the concept for People of the 20th Century, a project whose traces date back to 1910 and which was first introduced in an exhibition in the Kölnische Kunstverein in 1927. The show was positively received by the press, with one reviewer deeming Sander a 'Balzac of the lens.' His matter-of-fact, technically exact approach, enhanced by his adoption of a straightforward perspective and use of natural light, became Sander's modus operandi as he put his apparatus to work atomising and cataloging society-'to tell the truth about his times and his fellow citizens.'
This exhibition led to the publishing of his first book, Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time) in 1929. In 1936, the printing blocks were destroyed and unsold copies of the book were impounded, likely due to the publication's representation of a heterogeneous German society. It is generally understood that the NAZI Party frowned upon such societal representations.
Regardless of the political situation in Germany in the 1933-1945, Sander continued to operate his Cologne photo studio, portraying Intellectuals, Jews, National Socialists, as well as the regular people from the street. He selected many of these commercial portraits for his artistic-intellectual work Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts, where they became a political statement. Between 1933 and 1935, Sander published books exploring regions of Germany, and from 1942 he began to relocate the most important parts of his negative archive to Kuchhausen, a small village in the Westerwald, where he continued his photographic profession as well as his project work. Although his studio in Cologne was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid, Sander continued to work on People of the 20th Century throughout the rest of his life.
In 1951, German collector and photo-entrepreneur L. Fritz Gruber dedicated an extensive exhibition to Sander at the Photokina in Cologne and introduced him to Edward Steichen. In 1953, Steichen selected a number of his works to be included in his exhibition, The Family of Man, at MoMA in New York. Sander has since been honored with major solo exhibitions and inclusion in important group shows and public collections throughout the world. He remains a constant and steadfast influence on new generations of artists to this day.
Hauser & Wirth is delighted to present August Sander. Men Without Masks, an exhibition dedicated to the late German photographer, a forefather of conceptual art and pioneering documentarian of human diversity. Over the course of a career spanning six decades and tens of thousands of negatives, August Sander created a nuanced sociological portrait of Germany comprising images of its populace, as well as its urban settings and dramatic landscapes. Working in a rigorous fashion, he pioneered a precise, unembellished photographic aesthetic that was formative to the establishment of the medium's independence from painting and presaged conceptual art. The artist considered empathy toward his sitters to be critical to his work, and strove not to impose a portrayal upon an unwilling subject, but to enable self-portraits.
This exhibition features an extensive selection of rare large-scale Sander photographs. Made between 1910 and 1931, the portraits on view paint a picture of Germany's complex socio-economic landscape in the years leading up to and through the Weimar Republic. These early examples of Sander's oeuvre — in particular, the Portfolio of Archetypes, — laid the framework for People of the 20th Century, the artist's larger, lifelong effort to catalogue contemporary German society through his photographs and to reveal the truth of its ethnic and class diversity. Upon his father's death and on the eve of the publication of the book Menschen ohne Maske (published in English as Men Without Masks), Sander's son Gunther (1907–1987) selected and printed the photographs in a unique oversize format for inclusion in an exhibition at the Mannheimer Kunstverein in 1973. In 1997, five portraits from Men Without Masks were featured in the exhibition August Sander: In photography there are no unexplained shadows!, curated by Gerd Sander, at the National Portrait Gallery in London. With stunning detail drawn forth by their scale, these photographs capture a critical moment in Sander's artistic evolution and in our collective history.
When Sander embarked on his Portfolio of Archetypes in 1910, he had already established himself as a successful photographer in a profession that had only recently become a viable line of work. Urged on by the prevailing pictorialist photographic aesthetic, photographers aimed to make images that stylistically mimicked painting. Sander broke with this approach after a successful experiment in the darkroom. Enlarging a photograph using smooth, glossy paper typically reserved for technical images, he created a portrait that was extraordinarily detailed — a far cry from his earlier, softer portraiture that clouded over imperfections. This matter-of-fact, technically exact approach, enhanced by his adoption of a straightforward perspective and use of natural light, became Sander's modus operandi as he put his apparatus to work cataloging Weimar Germany and his fellow citizens. As Sander explained: 'Nothing seemed to me more appropriate than to project an image of our time with absolute fidelity to nature by means of photography... Let me speak the truth in all honesty about our age and the people of our age.'
Sander's conceptual approach grew from the idea of the Stamm-Mappe, loosely translated as 'home album.' In his early images, the artist photographed the peasants of his native village Westerwald - people with whom he had a rapport - and proceeded to sort them 'according to their essential archetype, with all the characteristics of mankind in general'. From these photographs Sander produced the iconic 12-photo Portfolio of Archetypes, a grouping that would set the tone for his larger project in both organisation and concept. On view in August Sander, the Portfolio of Archetypes features stoic farming men and women in single, double, and group portraits. The sitters told their own stories through their expressions, gestures, poses, clothing and accessories. Sander presented each of his subjects as wholly individual — rendering their riveting idiosyncrasies, their unrepeatable details— and representative of a broader 'type' of person; the photographs' titles include The Man of the Soil, The Sage, The Philosopher and The Farming Couple.
Expanding this conceptual framework, Sander went on to document individuals across the many strata of German society in strikingly frank images with titles like Boxers, Architect and Aviator. He assigned each photograph to one of 45 numbered portfolios envisioning that each portfolio would include 12 photographs. The 45 portfolios fell under the umbrella of seven more general 'archetypes': The Farmer, The Skilled Tradesman, The Woman, Classes and Professions, The Artists, The City, and The Last People, or those on the margins of society. The individuals captured by Sander's lens ran the gamut from farmers to industrialists, secretaries to aristocrats and also homeless and disabled people. All were photographed in the same objective manner regardless of occupation or social standing. In a sense, each of the artist's classifications — and each of his sitters — reflected Germany during a period of rapid social and economic change, a time that Golo Mann described in his introduction to the Men Without Masks publication as 'the twilight era between war and war, full of substance and tension, now scattered by the winds.'
In 1927, alongside the Cologne Artist Group, Sander showed approximately one hundred of his photographs at the Kölnischer Kunstverein in an exhibition titled People of the 20th Century: A Cultural Work in Photographic Pictures. The show was positively received by the press, with one reviewer deeming Sander a 'Balzac of the lens'. This exhibition was shortly followed by the publication of Sander's first book, Face of Our Time. Published by the Kurt Wolff/Transmare Verlag in Munich in 1929, the book included an introduction by Alfred Döblin and featured 60 photographs including the Portfolio of Archetypes. By this time Sander was considered an authority on photography in Germany, and in 1930 he hosted a series of radio lectures titled 'The Essence and Development of Photography'. In 1936 the Nazi government, which had recently come to power, destroyed the printing blocks for Face of Our Time and impounded unsold copies of the book, likely due to the publication's representation of a heterogeneous German society. For a time, Sander subsequently focused on landscape photography, publishing volumes exploring regions of Germany in the series German Lands - German People.
Sander set out to depict, with eloquence and empathy, the faces of his world. At the same time, he embarked on a massive conceptual project predicated upon the existence of typologies around profession and social class that can, and do, reduce faces to masks. As Susan Sontag wrote in her timeless 1977 essay collection On Photography: 'It was not so much that Sander chose individuals for their representative characters, as that he assumed, correctly, that the camera cannot help but reveal faces as social masks.' Sander's considered oeuvre has served as a wellspring of inspiration for modern and contemporary photographers, from Walker Evans and Diane Arbus, to Tina Barney, Rineke Dijkstra, and Bernd and Hilla Becher, and has exerted a profound influence upon new generations of visual artists.
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