Palazzo Grassi

Chronorama. Photographic Treasures of the 20th Century

Benedetta Barzini
Close Gian Paolo Barbieri, "Benedetta Barzini, with a Valentino and Coppola e Toppo Jewelry", © Gian Paolo Barbieri, Vogue US 1969

“CHRONORAMA. Photographic Treasures of the 20th Century” is the first major exhibition of masterpieces recently acquired by the Pinault Collection and from the Condé Nast archives, some of which have never been seen by the public before. The exhibition presented at Palazzo Grassi brings together a selection of 407 works from between 1910 and 1979 – displayed in chronological order, decade by decade – showcase the women and men, the historical moments, the mundane, the dreams and the dramas of the 20th century.

“CHRONORAMA” represents both the passing of time and the images that remain of it by bringing together the work of more than 150 international artists including Edward Steichen, Berenice Abbott, Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, André Kertész, Horst P. Horst, Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, and Helmut Newton, among others, as well as the illustrators Eduardo Garcia Benito, Helen Dryden, and George Wolfe Plank. Among the foremost talents of their generation, they have shaped the photographic and artistic aesthetics of their time through the publication of their work in the various Condé Nast publications, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, House & Garden, Glamour and GQ. Portraits of famous actors and actresses and important figures of the 20th century are interspersed with fashion photography, photojournalism, photographs of architecture, still lifes, and documentary photography.

Although the photographs were intended to appear in magazines, they are treated as works of art in their own right. ‘CHRONORAMA’ invites the visitors to observe them outside of their editorial context to recompose a visual mosaic where both renowned photographic art masterpieces and previously unpublished images are placed. The exhibition may have begun as a look back on the past, but it is also a call to introspection – the introspection of a Western world that not only intuited the power of the image, but also invented its language. If the 19th century was the last era of the written word, the 20th would soon become that of the image. These glossy treasures offer a possibility to observe the evolution of tastes in clothing, architecture or interior décor, or the upheavals in the world of art: Cubism creeps into the outfits and wardrobes of European high society, the Neoclassicism of the interwar period can be seen in the reappearance of corseting in women’s fashions, versions of Art Deco appear everywhere, particularly in the architecture of major cities, while gaudy scarves and miniskirts are an expression of the sexual liberation of the late 1960s.

“’CHRONORAMA’ is, at a time when millions of images are produced every minute and instantly shared, of definite importance in its role of transmission to this and future generations. The exhibition, presented by the Pinault Collection, focuses on the prolific culture of photography in the last century, before the advent of digital technology.” “Awakening from a strange dream with the feeling of having crossed through time in a night or a single moment; having seen and lived an epic voyage through different ages, we are faced with this great flux of images, like a kaleidoscopic vision of a journey through a bygone era. This is the sensation which endures after experiencing ‘CHRONORAMA’.” This is how the curator Matthieu Humery introduces the exhibition. 

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Chronorama Redux

This historical selection will be put into perspective with 'Chronorama Redux', a project offering a contemporary look at these works from the Pinault Collection through the work of four artists: Tarrah Krajnak, Eric N. Mack, Giulia Andreani, and Daniel Spivakov. This installation will be spread over four spaces of the Palazzo Grassi, as interludes in the chronological tour of the main exhibition. Refreshing our gaze, questioning our relationship with time and images, sharing this evidence of the past: these are the challenges for the Pinault Collection, which are embodied in this first new project based on the archives of the legendary Condé Nast.

The exhibition 'Chronorama Redux' is supported by SAINT LAURENT. 

Curator: Matthieu Humery, Advisor of Photography for Pinault Collection