‘It’s like being a detective’: New exhibition explores the curious psychology behind portrait collecting

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‘It’s like being a detective’: New exhibition explores the curious psychology behind portrait collecting

100 Faces
Emilie Regnier: Larry

Monash Gallery of Art's new photography exhibition 100 Faces - featuring the likes of Helmut Newton and Mark Strizic - brings together three significant photographic collections to explore the psychology behind a portrait.

Through the lenses of over 50 artists, 100 faces brings together 100 works drawn from three photographic collections to explore the portrait in its many forms, as well as what it means to collect portraiture both publicly and privately.

This exhibition draws from two private Melbourne collections, belonging to the Harris and Rosenthal families. Works from these collections have been placed in conversation with our significant public collection to reveal a rich diversity of faces. From celebrities and cultural figures to anonymous individuals caught unawares on the street, this exhibition features works by major Australian and international artists.

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Covering a vast timespan, from the 1860s to today, 100 faces encompasses a range of styles and approaches, including staged studio portraiture as well as candid street photography. While many of the artists in this exhibition use portraiture to capture specific people and faces, others adopt the genre to explore broader themes, such as time, death, intimacy, personal and cultural identity, as well as the history of representation.

100 faces is accompanied by an extensive resource of digital texts about the artists and works included. The exhibition will also play host to a number of public programs and opportunities to be in the gallery in alternative ways, from artist talks and panel discussions to studio workshops.

“Portraiture is a powerful genre within photography that has recorded, challenged and explored representation since its inception,” Angela Connor, MGA Senior Curator said. “From the early 20th century photography of Paul Strand and Lisette Model, to Nobuyoshi Araki’s erotic imagery and Nan Goldin’s diaristic documentation of her friends and family, this exhibition presents an excellent opportunity to see international photographers alongside their Australian contemporaries.”

“Photography has been used to capture the human face since its inception,” fellow MGA Curator Stella Loftus-Hills added. “Today more than ever we use the medium to photograph our friends, family and indeed ourselves. A fascination with faces and the human condition has driven the Harris and Rosenthal families to focus their collections on photographic portraiture for decades. This exhibition is an opportunity to see works from their significant collections, some of which have rarely been seen in Australia before, as well as some key images from our collection, including all-time favourites and a selection of new acquisitions that have not previously been shown here.”

“I love to look at photographic portraits of people and to think about what their faces reveal about their lives – their joys, their sad times, their culture, their sense of self,” collector Doreen Rosenthal said. “It’s like being a detective – or a psychologist (which I am).”

“Penny and my passion for photography and especially the human image is stimulated by the infinite mood, intrigue, imagery and creativity that both humanity exhibits, and the myriad of extraordinary images produced by the photographic artists,” Milton Harris concluded.

The exhibition launches on March 4. Find out more information at the MGA website here.