Speaking with Hands: Photographs from the Buhl Collection

Speaking with Hands: Photographs from the Buhl Collection


Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue, New York City

June 4–September 8, 2004

Press Preview
June 3, 10 AM–NOON

Drawn from Henry M. Buhl's extensive private collection, this exhibition consists of 175 photographs devoted to the subject of hands. The Buhl Collection demonstrates the prevalence of the hand as a photographic theme, a result, in part, of photography's easy ability to capture fragments and detail, as well as ephemeral movements. In the exhibition, the hand is depicted both literally, in the context of portraiture, for example, as well as figuratively, in terms of hand gestures captured in documentary images. Spanning the history of the photographic medium, the exhibition encompasses a comprehensive range of photographic practices, including scientific, journalistic, and fine-art photography, with a strong component of contemporary art.

The exhibition will be installed in five galleries in the museum's Frank Lloyd Wright building and Annex. Photographs will be grouped into historically based categories, as well as thematic sections transcending chronology.

Portraits of hands that reveal the nature of the sitters' profession—whether artist, athlete, or laborer—comprise a significant part of The Buhl Collection. Hands of unnamed subjects suggest their identity in terms of their physical characteristics (gender, age, ethnicity), while other portraits purport to reveal the source of their subject's celebrity. The photograph that inaugurated the collection, Alfred Stieglitz’s portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, Hands with Thimble, 1920, will be featured. Among the photographers whose portraiture is included in this section are Diane Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, Edward Steichen, Thomas Struth, Andy Warhol, and Edward Weston.

The expressive use of hands is captured in many photographs in the collection. Conventions of theatrical gesture are featured in portraits of actors and dancers, while the gesticulations of private individuals are documented in poetical representations of everyday life. One gallery will be primarily dedicated to photojournalistic images that depict the rhetoric of gesture employed by charismatic political figures. In these images the hand, though only a part of a larger scenario, is disproportionately the bearer of meaning. Photographers in this section include Julia Margaret Cameron, Robert Capa, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt, Nadar, and Robert Rauschenberg, among others.

One gallery will be devoted chiefly to abstract and manipulated work from the 1920s to the 1950s in which the hand appears in a fragmented and fetishized form. Techniques that directly present the actual hand, such as photograms, are included here, as well as photomontages that deconstruct and recompose hands in evocative ways. Some of the photographers whose work is represented in this part of the show are Herbert Bayer, André Kertész, El Lissitzky, Lee Miller, Tina Modotti, László Moholy-Nagy, and Man Ray.

Art of the last twenty-five years composes a large part of The Buhl Collection and will be featured in two Annex galleries. In the 1970s, many conceptual and performance artists employed photography to document the intersection of their bodies and their environment, to produce a deadpan rendering of daily life and experience. Often the hand was used as a unit of measure and a device to locate the artist in relation to the creation of the piece, as a denotation of reality. Subsequently, performative gestures have been incorporated into photographic representations of the body (typically that of the artist), which frequently yield a physically stressed or grotesque corporeal image. Most of the contemporary work in the exhibition is conceptually oriented and distinct from earlier photographs in its large scale and use of color. Among the artists represented here are Vito Acconci, Janine Antoni, Maurizio Cattelan, Chuck Close, Gregory Crewdson, Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Barbara Kruger, Paul McCarthy, Vik Muniz, Bruce Nauman, Shirin Neshat, Gabriel Orozco, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, and Jeff Wall.

The exhibition is organized by Jennifer Blessing, Project Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Jennifer Blessing, Kirsten A. Hoving, and Ralph Rugoff. The publication will include entries on all the artists and works in the exhibition. Designed by Bethany Johns, the catalogue is published by the Guggenheim Museum and distributed by D.A.P. ($65 hardcover; $45 softcover).

General Information: 212 423 3500
HOURS: Saturday–Wednesday 10 AM–5:45 PM; Friday 10 AM–8 PM; closed Thursday
ADMISSION: $15 adults; $10 students/seniors; children under 12 free; members free

February 9, 2004

Guggenheim Public Affairs
Tel: 212-423-3840
Anne Edgar
Tel: 646-336-7230


Press images

Press Images

Download high resolution, press-approved images.

contact us

Have a media inquiry? Contact us for more information.