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In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who crafted his greatest work yet: an intricate ivory sculpture depicting a beautiful woman. Entranced by its perfect form, Pygmalion fell deeply in love with his own artwork, announcing that he was no longer interested in women. The Museum für Fotografie of Berlin’s newest exhibition, Artist Complex, explores this same artistic obsession. On view from June 29 to October 7, the exhibition includes a collection of portraits of artistic geniuses, from Frida Kahlo to Keith Haring, to Marina Abramovic and Roy Lichtenstein. Come look into the inner minds of your favorite artists; see them create, imagine, and come alive.

The word ‘artist’ conjures images of a creative genius, someone overflowing with imagination; an artist complex, then, is the state of an artist’s psyche that controls their decisions and actions. It seems far-fetched to capture all these intricate complexities in one photograph, but the Museum für Fotografie succeeds in doing just that. Featuring over a hundred and eighty pieces spanning from 1917 to 2000, you can see portraits of artists that perfectly capture the essence of their personalities. It includes pictures of highly famous artists like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Joseph Beuys.

The curator has divided the exhibition into three distinct parts: Persona, Creativity, and Pygmalion. Persona introduces us into the collection slowly, showing artists in the public view. Many portraits feature them in their workspaces, but rather than showing candid photographs, each artist is carefully posed. This creates some distance between the subject and the viewer, disrupting the belief that we are seeing something genuine.

The next part, Creativity, offers much more insight. As the name suggests, this series portrays artists immersed in their work, deep in the process of creativity and imagination. It offers a special look inside the workshops of many famous geniuses, a chance to observe their tools and instruments. This section also includes photographs of empty studios, photographic distortions, and reflections.

The last series harkens back to the myth of Pygmalion, the artist who fell in love with his own sculpture. This story, of course, can have a few different interpretations, but the museum’s analysis reveals an allegory for the creative process. In this collection, artists are shown side-by-side with their work, creating a duality: artist and artwork, master and creation, father and son. Some highlights include portraits of Alberto Giacometti, Georgia O’Keeffe, Günther Uecker and Jeff Koons, whose artwork is a testament to their genius.
Artist Complex will inaugurate on June 29 and will be on view until October 7 at the Museum für Fotografie of Berlin, Stauffenbergstraße 41 Berlin.

Mary Chamberlain Harlan

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