Last Tuesday, I attended the preview of Albrecht Tübke's 'Made in Italy' at the James Hyman Gallery. It was my first visit to this elegant, white-washed and surprisingly luminous space, ensconced beneath and between some of Mayfair's most striking and historical architecture. As a pedestrian in London, one of my favourite observations is the coexistence of past and present; of old-worldly English buildings/churches/archways with buzzing restaurants, stylish shoppers and innovation constantly surprising you. Here is a Louis Vuitton window-display, which I discovered en-route to the gallery:
Savile Row is where the Beatles had offices, recorded and held their final live performance. It's world-famous for traditional British tailoring. And it's home to the James Hyman Gallery, which seems to sit amongst this grand history quietly and unassumingly (there is a sign above ground; it's number 5). Descend the steps to discover a modern and minimalist backdrop in which to display International Contemporary and Modern British Art. The James Hyman Gallery has attracted much attention for its photography exhibitions, showcasing Linda McCartney (2008), Brigitte Bardot and the 1960's paparazzi and most recently, French New Wave Cinema (celebrating A Bout De Souffle's 50th anniversary). Not to mention the very important artists featured here, including Lucien Freud, Henry Moore and Frank Auerbach.
For his first solo UK exhibition, Albrecht Tübke is certainly in good company. His photographic series 'Made in Italy' is extremely fitting (and fashionable) within a culture infatuated with reality/documentary entertainment and street photography, like The Sartorialist. The gallery's release of this exhibition was also timely, beginning just before London Fashion Week (the exhibition continues until 6th November). On meeting Albrecht however, I didn't believe he was doing this because it was a 'fashionable' thing to do. In fact, he has remained loyal to photography portraiture since 2004. First, he shot subjects in their own environments. Next, he took to the streets and through two further series, examined how people assert their identity and express themselves against, for example, the colourful streets of Florence. 'Made in Italy' gives his subjects more room than ever before, to show their true selves against a neutral background without distractions. No changes were made to clothes, hair, or make-up and each individual posed as they wished.
In Albrecht's words: "Through constant exposure to the multitude of public personae with which we are presented, we have become anaesthetised to the range of individuals that surround us. In this project, I am attempting to distil something of the essence of that individual."
Through the development of his art and academic approach driving it, perhaps Albrecht is commenting ironically on the photographs of those like Scott Schuman (who features in this series, see below). While wannabe fashion personalities may be searching for Scott and their chance to perform for his camera, Albrecht is hoping to find out who his subject really is. Can he scratch beneath their public face? I'd love to hear your thoughts, as always...
Albrecht Tübke's 'Made in Italy' until 6th November 2010, at James Hyman Gallery, 5 Savile Row, London, W1S 3PD. Tel: +44 (0)20 7494 3857.
Images: Thank you to the James Hyman Gallery (the first image is my own).