PHoto ESPAÑA 2023 visit

On 14 July, I visited several exhibitions in Madrid, all part of the PHotoESPAÑA 2023 festival. For those of you who have not visited PHE before, it is a huge event, with 124 exhibitions listed in the guide in Madrid alone (there are also events in other cities, on a smaller scale). So it is important to choose in advance, while leaving some time for spontaneous, unplanned visits. This is what I saw:

Picasso en foto. Archivos del Museu Picasso de Barcelona. (Centro Cultural de la Villa). A wonderful exhibition of photographs of Picasso and the people around him, made by photographers such as Lucien Clergue and David Douglas Duncan. It was a real treat to see great photography of a great artist, with a few of lesser-known Picasso works on display as well. Unfortunately this magnificent exhibition ends on 28 July, but hopefully it will travel to other venues.

Louis Stettner (Fundación Mapfre). A retrospective exhibition of the American photographer’s (whom I must admit I did not know beforehand). Stettner mainly photographed in New York and Paris (where he settled permanently in the 1990s). His work is really impressive, great urban landscape photography. Together with the exhibition by ORLAN (see below), this was my highlight of the day. Runs until 27 August.

ORLAN: esta es mi historia…del arte (Círculo de Bellas Artes). An absolute revelation! ORLAN (her real name is Mireille Suzanne Francette Porte) is a French artist who combines photography and painting (and other media) to create visually striking and powerful images. I did not know of her beforehand, but now I am a fan. Her art is not for everybody, I am sure some people may find some of images offensive or shocking, but great art does not always have to be “pretty”. Runs until 3 September.

I saw two other notable contemporary photography exhibitions at the same venue, Vanitas by Marina Abramović and La mujer árbol, la mujer agua by Fina Miralles. Both run until 3 September.

Bernard Plossu, Madrid (Comunidad de Madrid, El Águila). Another urban photographer, described in the programme as “one of the great names in the history of photography”. This collection of photos from Madrid was, frankly, the only disappointment of the day. I found his photos poorly composed, technically deficient, and for the most part devoid of emotional content. Very much a case of “the emperor has no clothes” for me. Runs until 17 September.

Some of the images from these exhibitions can be seen on my own gallery of the day in Madrid.