Who? The first years of Michael Hoppen’s career in art were spent as a successful commercial photographer; yet, at the death of his hero Guy Bourdin in 1991, he completely stopped. Selling all his cameras, he transformed his Chelsea studio into a gallery space, and today the Michael Hoppen Gallery is one of the most successful and innovative photographic galleries in the world. To celebrate twenty years in the trade, Hoppen has curated Finders Keepers, an exhibition of more than 130 photographs from his own vast collection, images he bought, not to sell, but for his own pleasure.
What? Michael Hoppen’s collection of work is a sprawling melange of images ranging from iconic shots by Bourdin, Araki, Avedon and Miller, fashion photography by Terry Richardson and Sarah Moon to modern pieces by Denise Grünstein and Viviane Sassen. But the principle joys of the show come with the oddities, in the shots by unknown photographers of mysterious people, places and things. A buxom nude lies gleaming on a Persian carpet, two doctors pose laconically with the corpse of a crocodile, manicured hands hover as if over an invisible piano, in the eighties, a scantily clad couple watch TV through 3D glasses.
"Finders Keepers is a joyous affair, a show that skips about with deft eccentricity, defying the strict curatorial logic that often holds exhibitions in check"
Why? Finders Keepers is a joyous affair, a show that skips about with deft eccentricity, defying the strict curatorial logic that often holds exhibitions in check. Shown simply in the order that they were collected, the images demonstrate the pure joy of a collection formed solely for the love of the image. The pictures have come from all over – auctions, private sales or from trawling junk shops in seaside towns while Hoppen's family were on the beach, but what comes across most strongly is that they are all hand picked by the curator himself, each one selected as special enough to keep. This is the collection of a man passionate about photography, and who finds inherent joy in the act of collecting itself. In Finders Keepers, Hoppen has created an ode to photography, a powerful affirmation for why it is rapidly becoming the world’s favourite art form.
Finders Keepers is at the Michael Hoppen Gallery until January 31 2012.
Text by Tish Wrigley