Exhibition: 17 Oct 2009 – 4 Apr 2010
Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
This October, the Peabody Essex Museum presents French photographer Valérie Belin’s first one-person show in the United States. Belin is an artist as famous for the unsettling qualities of her floor-to-ceiling photographs as she is for her provocative subjects. Among Belin’s most recent shows was a joint exhibition with Édouard Manet at the legendary Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Her 2007 mid-career retrospective was received with enormous popular and critical praise across Europe — she is rapidly becoming a leader in the world of photography. Well-recognized in the past for her portrait series of Michael Jackson impersonators, body builders, lapdogs and showgirls, Belin delves deep into a subject of fascination compelling viewers to probe the sublime quality of even the most familiar things. Made Up presents 20 exquisitely-printed, larger-than-life images exploring a photographer’s ability to manipulate perception of artificiality and reality. From shimmering black and white portraits of mannequins and models, ballroom dancers and bags of chips, to richly-colored and unexpected still lifes, all have their place in Belin’s studio and in PEM’s galleries. Referencing French philosophical traditions, Belin continually challenges her viewers to consider what is real, what is artificial — and whether knowing the difference matters after all. Belin’s international stature, impeccable technique and playful subject matter are well-suited to PEM’s ambitions for its new program of fine arts photography under the stewardship of curator, Phillip Prodger. “I want to help the museum come alive for people who love photography. With this new program, we will feature some of the most exciting work being done internationally, and which can be seen nowhere else in the country,” said Prodger.