16 March until 17 June 2018
The Polaroid Project

Polaroid! A brand that has long since become legendary. One look at Instagram is enough to show how instant photography transformed the medium in ways that are still pervasive today. The exhibition positions the Polaroid phenomenon at the crossroads between art and technology. Outstanding artists from Ansel Adams to Andy Warhol used the medium of the instant photo to blaze new trails with their art, leaving a lasting mark on the aesthetics of an entire era. Featuring some 240 photos by 120 artists, The Polaroid Project sheds light on the whole aesthetic spectrum of instant photography while also demonstrating based on 87 camera models and prototypes the innovative technology that made this visual revolution possible in the first place. The Polaroid works on view range from the early days of the company in 1955 through to 2015. The main focus is on art from the 1980s and 90s. Instant camera film, presented to the public for the first time in 1947 by Edwin H. Land in New York, shortened the time needed to make, develop, and view a photograph to just a few minutes. This was the beginning of a mode of picture-making that lives on today in digital photography and the sharing of snapshots or selfies in online photo portals. The current hype for Polaroid apps for smartphones, along with the instant cameras that have been reintroduced onto the market, attest to the lasting popularity of the medium. With today’s flood of digital imagery, however, the quality that makes the Polaroid special has been turned into the opposite: When you take a Polaroid photo of a passing moment or a social occasion, the result is a unique physical, analogue object, which you can hold in your hand while you wait in suspense and anticipation as the image slowly appears as if by magic.

Featuring Polaroids by Ansel Adams, Nobuyoshi Araki, Sibylle Bergemann, Anna and Bernhard Blume, Guy Bourdin, Ellen Carey, Chuck Close, Barbara Crane, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Harold Edgerton, Walker Evans, Gisèle Freund, Toto Frima, Luigi Ghirri, Hans Hansen, David Hockney, Dennis Hopper, Barbara Kasten, André Kertesz, Ulrich Mack, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Rauschenberg, Toshio Shibata, Andy Warhol, William Wegman, and many others.

The exhibition The Polaroid Project was developed by the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis/New York/Paris/Lausanne, together with the MIT Museum, Cambridge (Massachusetts) and WestLicht. Schauplatz für Fotografie (Vienna) in cooperation with the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg.

Photo: Guy Bourdin (1928–1991), Charles Jourdan 1978, 1978, C-Print, 88,9 x 116,8 cm © The Guy Bourdin Estate 2017 / Courtesy of Louise Alexander Gallery