On the first preview day of the Basel art fair, in Switzerland, VIPs (and press) got to take in the 1,000 polaroids that Philip-Lorca diCorcia is presenting in the fair’s Art Unlimited section, reserved for major installations. You don’t know what that number really means until you follow the row of shots snaking around – and around – the white walls of the space that dealer David Zwirner has snagged for them.
At first, I was worried that the project could read as a kind of fetishizing of a great and bestselling photographer – as though every image that came from his eye was a guaranteed masterpiece. (And, being Polaroids, each image is unique and so even closer to a sellable fetish object.) But then, spending longer with the pile, I realized what a bizarre accumulation of pictures it is, running from the great to the banal to the bad – from family snapshots of diCorcia’s childhood to his trademark street scenes to one image that looks like an ad for a butcher. The obvious comparison is to Gerhard Richter’s huge accumulation of found photos in his famous “Atlas,” but this turns out to be rather different: It isn’t so much about cataloging the world, as cataloging one life in imagemaking.
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