Pierre Leguillon: Arbus Bonus
September 21, 2019 – January 5, 2020
Pierre Leguillon makes assemblages, dioramas, and performances exploring new ways of writing history. An artwork-as-exhibition, Arbus Bonus exemplifies Leguillon’s interest in the lesser-known dimensions of the practices of eminent artists, which has been a motivating force throughout his career. The project encompasses more than two hundred images made or inspired by famed photographer Diane Arbus (1923–1971), best known for her street photographs and candid portraits of society’s misfits and marginalized communities. Here, Leguillon has assembled an idiosyncratic “retrospective” of Arbus’s work, bringing together nearly every magazine spread that features her photography along with appropriations of her iconic compositions in album covers, cartoons, and the work of other artists.
In recent years, Arbus has been the subject of major museum exhibitions, monographs, and a fictionalized biopic (Fur, 2006). Prints of her work are now highly sought-after art objects, but many first appeared in popular media as editorial and commissioned portrait photography for publications such as the Sunday Times Magazine, Esquire, and Harper’s Bazaar. Arbus’s early work as a commercial fashion photographer is often cited but is little researched and seldom reproduced. In presenting this more comprehensive, contextual archive of Arbus’s output and its reverberations, Leguillon invites critical examination of the construction of artistic mythologies, as well as consideration of the value ascribed to different types of visual material.
Amassed through an intensive process of research and procurement, the images were taken directly from the publications in which they originally appeared and mounted by the artist in annotated, categorical constellations. Leguillon oversees all aspects of the installation, from the label text and wall color to the placement of shipping crates that double as exhibition furniture, exposing the structures—physical and hierarchical—embedded in our ways of seeing, particularly in museum environments. By creating a space that calls attention to Arbus’s major role in defining the image of U.S. postwar popular culture, Arbus Bonus reveals the ways larger cultural histories are assembled and disseminated, and encourages us to form our own, more inclusive counter-narratives.
Pierre Leguillon (b. 1969, Nogent-sur-Marne, France) lives and works in Brussels. His work has been the subject of presentations at WIELS, Brussels (2015); Raven Row, London (2011); Mamco Genève, Geneva (2010); Moderna Museet, Malmö (2010); Musée du Louvre, Paris (2009); and Artists Space, New York (2009). He published the journal Sommaire (1991–96), and his writing has appeared in Purple, Art Press, and Journal des Arts.