P hotography continues to be one of the most relevant and prominent artforms for its ability to document and construct history, memory and identity. In Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Online Sale in Milan, one can find a refined selection of diverse contemporary photographs by international artists such as Sam Samore, Paola Pivi, Diego Perrone, Julia Scher and Noritoshi Hirakawa.
One of the pioneers of large-scale conceptual photography in the 1980s, Sam Samore’s work is concerned with the exploration of privacy and myth in contemporary society. His over-dimensioned photographs encompass close-ups of people's faces as in The Killers from 1999 (Estimate: €8,000–12,000), which zooms in on sensual lips, as well as black-and-white, grainy portraits as in Untitled from 1989 (estimate: €6,000–8,000). Samore has exhibited internationally since 1990 at institutions such as the Kunsthalle Zürich, Fondation Cartier in Paris and the 46th Venice Biennale.
Born in Italy in 1971, Paola Pivi’s artistic practice is both diverse and enigmatic. Pivi often transforms commonly identifiable objects to introduce a new scale, challenging the audience’s point of view. The two pieces 100 cinesi included in the sale (Estimate: €10,000–15,000) date back to her first exhibition, held at Massimo De Carlo Gallery in Milan in 1998.
The photographs show one hundred Chinese people wearing a grey sweater and black trousers and standing in rows. The human configuration raises questions about individual identity versus collectivity. The following year, in 1999, Pivi received the Golden Lion Award for best national pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
It is with the photographic series Come suggestionati da quello che dietro di loro rimane fermo (Estimate: €20,000–24,000) that Diego Perrone first received critical attention. In this work, the artist photographed the elderly residents of his hometown in Northern Italy, Asti, holding large animal horns and antlers, thereby creating an existential metaphor through the juxtaposition of aging flesh and inanimate organic material.
Perrone’s work has been included in the Venice Biennale in 2003, Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art in 2006 and Shapes of Space at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2007.
Best known for his immersive large-scale installations, Massimo Bartolini’s practice also encompasses sculpture, performance, drawing and photography. In his work, Bartolini challenges and bewilders the audience’s perception of the environment through minimal or architectural interventions that transform the original space.
In Senza titolo from 1995 (Estimate: €4,000–6,000), the experience of the body in deep connection with nature is explored in the form of the artist himself planted in soil. Playing with movement and stasis, outside and inside, Bartolini reconfigures the landscape into a meditative space, onto which he transposes an intimate and mental dimension.
A further highlight in this category is Noritoshi Hirakawa’s work from the 1997 Virtue in Vice series, here portraying a Roman Catholic Church (Estimate: €1,800–2,600). Hirakawa addresses social paradox and hypocrisy, and challenges the myth of contemporary American culture with images that invite a deep examination of one's own moral fortitude, value system and prejudices.
As Hirakawa explains: “In order to change the concept of the mortal sin into something positive, and to obtain a more open minded vision of Christianity, I propose an ironic transformation of Christianity into the religion of Vice. I thus consider the betrayal of Christian values as Virtue. Only through a process of reversal can we understand that human spirituality and physiology are inseparable.”