Handbags appear in every one of the images featured in the latest exhibition of the photographer’s work
Juergen Teller is good with objects. Following his project on plates – his last name translates as ‘plate’ in German – the photographer is turning his hand to bags. The show, sponsored by Palace Skateboards, highlights that bags have been one of Teller’s greatest obsessions over his career. The photographs in the show bring together images of bags in landscapes, with people, around the globe, in surreal contexts, and in the everyday.
The exhibition, succinctly titled Handbags, is taking place at the Museo Villa Pignatelli in Naples under the curation of Mario Codognato and Adriana Rispoli, and is accompanied by a book by Steidl. This recurring theme is a perfect motif to highlight Teller’s approach to the image: humorous, provocative, narrative driven and very alive.
There are photographs of bags with numerous models, actors and infamous individuals including Michael Clark, Cindy Sherman, Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood, Sofia Coppola, Tilda Swinton, and John Malkovich. And, of course, the famous image of Victoria Beckham consumed by a bag itself (see below). Self-portraits of Teller, bag in hand, also appear in the show. What is so interesting about the repetition of the bag is how such a simple object can say so much about humanity, society, identity and fashion.
The show, which follows exhibitions at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow and Fotomuseum Winterthur, is in a rare Naples house-turned-museum known for its devotion to photography. This more intimate, if palatial setting balances Teller’s commercial and editorial work and his own more private imagery. Yet there is little difference in how he approaches the two; he highlights the contemporary obsession with the bag as an object of status and identity, as the ultimate fashion item. Just as important is how bags function as part of capitalism, as containers for our emotional selves. These are the things we carry with us everywhere – it was about time someone gave them serious artistic consideration.
Handbags runs until May 19, 2019 at the Pignatelli Museum, Naples.