Famous photographers and their pictures: what would you buy?

Robert Frank 'NYC, women's and horse's legs' (1947)

What would I do, if I had the money? Which paintings and pictures would I buy? What artists would I be interested in? I couldn’t help asking myself that question, while I was visiting the new exhibition at the Museum of Ixelles (Brussels): La photographie n’est pas l’art. All the works on display (black and white-pictures mostly) are taken from the collection of Antwerp diamond merchant and jeweler Sylvio Perlstein. He was a friend of Man Ray (that’s why you’ll see quite a few Man Ray’s in Ixelles), and is obviously fascinated by photography of the 1920’s and 30’s, although there are quite a few pictures from contemporary photographers hanging on the walls too. Lots of big names: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Walker Evans, Edward Steichen, Weegee, Nan Goldin, Andres Serrano, Joël Peter Witkin and Spencer Tunick. So it’s obvious that this is an exhibition worth visiting. But nevertheless I was a bit disappointed. Was it because all those pictures were hung in quite a dull way, resembling any amateur painter’s exhibition? Was it because the six themes introduced by the two curators felt a bit artificial? As if this collection needed some art scholar’s justification? Walking along those walls I couldn’t help wondering what it is that holds this collection together. What’s Perlstein’s vision? And hence: what would I do if I had the money?


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