Matthias Schaller was born in Dillingen, Germany, 1965. Over the last decade he has been widely exhibited and published in Europe but "Elfering -1642" will be his first U.S. gallery show.
Beginning in 2000 with his photographic study of Andreas Gursky's studio, Schaller has focused almost exclusively on people-less interiors. Whether photographing photographer's and architect's studios (series Werkbildnis I and II), Cardinal's desks of the Roman Curia in the Vatican (Purple Desk), Venetian interiors on the Grand Canal (Controfacciata), 150 Italian opera houses (Fratelli d'Italia), artist's palettes (Das Meisterstück), original astronaut suits (Disportraits), or the architecture of Oscar Niemeyer (As Curvas), Schaller's series or sequences engage with the spirit of objects and place and convey in small or large luminous prints the notion that the marks we leave, the objects used, or the environment inhabited says as much about the selected individual as their physical presence. All his different works follow this strategy of indirect portraiture.
The work presented in "Elfering – 1642" has an unusual history. The name refers to the famous German collector, Gert Elfering, and the numerals to the number allocated by Christie's to Elfering's single owner sale in April of 2008 – a sale featuring many of the most iconic images of 20th century fashion and editorial photography.
A former photographer who was a key figure in creating Germany's lottery system – Elfering, in the words of Christie's press release, "had found himself in the fortunate position of being able to collect rare original prints" and had pioneered an interest in images of style long before the market had realized its potential. The auction, comprising 135 works that Elfering had defined as the distillation of his interests, featured the most famous pictures by the masters of fashion and editorial photography – Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon – as well as work by such noted photographers as Hiroshi Sugimoto, Peter Beard, Bruce Weber, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Schaller himself.
Already a collector of Schaller's work, it occurred to Elfering that before parting with many of the masterpieces in his collection he should commission Schaller to make his own original series photographing the artworks as they sat ready to be hung on the walls of Christie's New York showrooms prior to being viewed and sold. In this way he would perpetuate the collection while having a unique souvenir.
Schaller's pictures encompass the many complexities of the concept while at the same time allowing the power of the objects about to be sold to shine. Above all, the finished works stand as a remarkable example of enlightened patronage while remaining resolutely true to Schaller's own vision of creating a portrait of both a collection and a collector.
This summer Schaller will present his series "Das Meisterstück" in the Picasso Museum in Münster/Germany.
In 2011 the Cini Foundation in Venice/Italy will organize an anthology show of his work from 2000-2009, accompanied by the book "Disportraits" with introduction and interview by Germano Celant.
Books on Matthias Schaller:
The Mill (2007), Controfacciata (2008), Purple Desk (2009), all with Steidl publishers.
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