Peter Hujar at Jeu de Paume

Peter Hujar: Speed of Life is one of the strongest exhibitions on view in Paris at the moment. Presented at Jeu de Paume until 19th January 2020 and curated by Joel Smith and Quentin Bajac, the exhibition features the most iconic works by the late American photographer Peter Hujar.

Hujar emerged from NYC subculture and immortalized subjects including artists, passers by, drag queens, and lovers: Paul Thek, David Wojnarowicz, Susan Sontag, Louise Nevelson, and William Burroughs are amongst Hujar’s subjects. Viewers will also recognize some of Anohni’s album covers.

Imbued with vulnerability, Hujar’s striking portraits reveal layers of emotions and depth like no other artists. He made, in his words, “uncomplicated, direct photographs of complicated and difficult subjects,” capturing individuals, situations, talents and underground circles. His mature career paralleled the public unfolding of LGBTQI+ rights with notable events such as the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s which deeply impacted his career and life. Portraits of visual artist Paul Thek, in the show, unveil profound nostalgia and romantic emotions.

Featuring a selection of Peter Hujar’s black-and-white portraits acquired by Richard Avedon in the 1970s, Master Class examined the photographer’s idiomatic approach to portraiture that treated each photograph as a stand-alone object, capable of evoking complex emotions and expressions. This show was recently presented at Pace Gallery in NY by Pace/MacGill to coincide with the opening of the gallery’s new flagship gallery.

Hujar photographs have been the subject of solo exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe, and are held in the permanent collections of institutions worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Morgan Library and Museum, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Tate Modern, London.

Speed of Life follows the Morgan Library & Museum’s exhibition. It’s a must-see. Next November, Pace/MacGill will present a few Hujar’s works at Paris Photo.


Image: David Wojnarowicz, 1981, Peter Hujar, Tirage gélatino-argentique, Collection of Ronay and Richard Menschel © Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco — Sheryl Sutton, 1977, Peter Hujar, Tirage gélatino-argentique, The Morgan Library & Museum, achat en 2013 grâce au Charina Endowment Fund
© Peter Hujar Archive, LLC, courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco