Paris Photo – The Empty Centre

The ‘Central Exhibition‘ of this year’s Paris Photo was ‘Landscape Photography in the UniCredit Collection’, and was a part of this year’s focus on photography in Italy. The show included around 30 works by 10 photographers, some extremely large images.

Upper Level: BMW – Paris Photo Prize; Lower Level: Central Exhibition

Unfortunately, on the basis of the work presented here, the collection has not bought particularly wisely. There was plenty of evidence elsewhere on various exhibition stands that Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) was a fine photographer, but the few prints displayed were at best unconvincing. Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) was an interesting colour photographer at a time before colour became respectable, but the vintage prints were disappointing, perhaps due to the ravages of time. There were a couple of nice prints by Mimmo Jodice (b1934) – but again better and more appropriate work elsewhere. Most photographers will be familiar with the work of Franco Fontana (b1933), and there was a good exhibition of his work in the FotoArtFestival at Bielsko-Biala last month, but again the work here was somewhat disappointing. Perhaps the only photographer whose work in this section impressed was Gabriele Basilico (b1944), though again there was better work by him elsewhere in PP.

UniCredit, one of the major European banks, was founded in Italy and started to collect contemporary Italian art, particularly photography, in 2004. Presumably they are not short of money, and apparently the collection includes 500 photographs, but on the basis of this show, they would not appear to have spent wisely.

An Italian photographer I met at PP told me that, like many other Italian photographers she had talked to, she felt that this show – along with the two other sections of the invited Italian presence, Statement: Italy and the General Section, “an overview of Italian photography from the 1950s to today” – actually failed to provide an adequate representation of photography in Italy today, but rather reflected the artists represented by the relatively small number of Italian galleries who were taking part in PP.

I rather hope she was right, otherwise the future of photography in Italy appears depressing. The 5 photographers I’ve mentioned above were all born before 1945, and there seemed little evidence here of exciting new work.

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