Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Henry Buhl Collection

  On December 21, 2006, the international touring exhibition Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Henry Buhl Collection will be presented at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in collaboration with the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, and supported by the Proactive PR company, the exhibition will feature approximately 171 photographs from this premiere private collection of photography. Before its presentation in Moscow, Speaking with Hands was exhibited to great acclaim at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain, the Folkwang Museum, Essen Germany, and in the Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.
   Henry M. Buhl was inspired to begin his collecting after purchasing Alfred Stieglitz’s iconic photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe’s hands. This first acquisition, entitled Hands with Thimble (1920), grew into what is now a collection of over one thousand photographic depictions of the hand, from 19th century daguerreotypes to contemporary works of photographic art, and includes the work of Edward Steichen, Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, and others. Many of these “portraits” function as metonymic representations of a whole person, purporting to reveal, just through hands, the nature of a sitter’s celebrity or profession, gender, age, or ethnicity.
   The Moscow presentation of Speaking with Hands will feature 171 works by 145 artists, including El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel-Peter Witkin, Nan Goldin, [delete: Jan Saudek], Cindy Sherman, Richard Avedon, and Sam Taylor-Wood.

The expressive quality of hands is captured in many photographs in The Buhl Collection. A selection of works on view are largely devoted to gesture, whether realized in the ordinary gesticulations of daily life or in the heightened rhetoric of political speechifying and such theatrical conventions as pantomime. Among those represented in this section are the photojournalists Robert Capa and Elliott Erwitt and the artist Robert Rauschenberg. Highlighted nearby will be works from the 1920s to the 1950s, when hands often appeared in fragmented or fetishized form in photograms and photomontages by such artists as Herbert Bayer, André Kertész, El Lissitzky, and László Moholy-Nagy. Many of these pieces were created within the context of, or influenced by, avant-garde artistic movements, including Constructivism, Surrealism, and the Bauhaus.

The arrival of the Henry Buhl collection to Moscow is an event of great importance, because the initiatives of such authoritative museums as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and such large private patrons of art are not often to be realized in the Russian capital.

The exhibition will be on view from December 22, 2006 until March 4, 2007


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