Collection of Karin and Lars Hall
Oslo, Statoil Vækerø, Icons of Photography, Treasures from the Karin and Lars Hall collection, March – August 2011
Icons of Photography, Treasures from the Karin and Lars Hall collection (Oslo, 2011). p. 35
Vogue won the 2002 National Magazine Award for the category ‘Leisure Interests’ with a series of three columns: Caviar Conundrum (March); Salt Chic (July); and High Steaks (September). The articles were written by Jeffrey Steingarten, who endeavored to find the world's finest caviar, salt, and steak. Photographs by Irving Penn illustrated the first two articles and his Caviar, commissioned for Steingarten’s essay, was captioned ‘The Most Expensive Food on Earth.’ It features American sturgeon caviar, tobiko, salmon roe, Russian beluga, and Iranian golden ossetra.
Penn began photographing for Vogue in 1943 and his first cover for the magazine, a still life, appeared in the October issue of that year. Penn built a celebrated business photographing for the glossy, and his innovative, eye-catching photographs were featured on an additional 165 covers in his career with the magazine. From the beginning, Penn’s color work was stylized, color-rich, expertly composed, and vibrantly alive (sometimes literally: living insects appear in a number of his images). A precedent for Caviar can be found in Salad Ingredients, a still life created for Vogue in 1947. In it, Penn arranged two spoons of oil and vinegar, a garlic clove, spices, a lemon, and lettuce in tableau, a deconstructed salad shown from above. In Caviar, Penn utilizes the same ‘bird’s-eye’ view of food and cutlery, showcasing his brilliant compositional abilities even when working with very few components. Rather than simply attractive decoration to accompany an article, the best of Penn’s photographs for Vogue are so masterfully conceived that they invite long examination even before one dives into the editorial.
After 2000, Irving Penn predominantly printed his color images as pigment prints. Caviar, however, was printed as a Cibachrome print with a rarely seen pearlescent, ‘High Lustre’ matte finish, an extremely rare format for the photographer. Not only is this the first time a post-2000 Cibachrome print has appeared at auction, but it is also the first appearance of Caviar.
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