Irving Penn. Diverse Worlds

Art Museum of Estonia
Kumu Art Museum

Press release no. 74
19 June 2013

As of Friday, 14 June, the work of Irving Penn (1917–2009), one of the most outstanding photographers of our era, will be on display for the first time at the Kumu Art Museum. The exhibition’s almost 90 works, which were created over a period of more than 50 years, include Penn’s most famous photo series, as well as reproductions from the American Vogue and other magazines.

With his series of personalised portraits, fashion photographs and still lifes, Irving Penn developed a unique style that is characterised by a sense of thoughtfulness, carefully selected details and a minimalist style. The very diverse pictorial worlds on view at the exhibition were actually born in the same space: Irving Penn’s studio.

In his studio in post-war New York, Irving Penn photographed many famous cultural figures of the day. The cultural icons whose portraits are exhibited include the artists Salvador Dalí and Marc Chagall, the director Ingmar Bergman, the composer Igor Stravinsky, the fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Yves Saint Laurent, and many others.

In addition to celebrities, Penn also recorded the workers of Paris and London in a studio atmosphere – these later comprised his most voluminous series, Small Trades. On trips to New Guinea, Morocco and Dahomey (currently Benin), Penn recorded the representatives of the local cultures in his mobile tent-studio. The conditions for photographing in this mobile studio were not inferior to his New York studio.

In the 1970s, Penn dedicated himself primarily to organising exhibitions and publishing books. In 1984, New York’s Museum of Modern Art organized an extensive survey exhibition of Penn’s work, and in 1985 he received the international Hasselblad Award in Photography.

Most of the works in the exhibition come from the collection of the Moderna Museet in Sweden, to which the photographer made a donation in 1995 in memory of his Swedish-born wife, Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, who was a model.

The exhibition has been organised by the Moderna Museet in Sweden, in cooperation with the Kumu Art Museum. This is the first large-scale collaboration between the two museums. The exhibition curators are Andreas Nilsson and John Peter Nilsson. Cooperation partner: Irving Penn Foundation.

The exhibition Irving Penn. Diverse Worlds will remain open at the Kumu Art Museum until 6 October 2013.

More information:
Maarit Puhm
Exhibition Coordinator
tel +372 5340 6529; e-mail:
Kumu Art Museum
Weizenbergi 34 / Valge 1, Tallinn