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ROBERT POLIDORI ARS MEMORATIVA


gallery mission

Established in 2000, Sundaram Tagore Gallery is devoted to examining the exchange of ideas between Western and non-Western cultures. We focus on developing exhibitions and hosting not-for-profit events that encourage spiritual, social and aesthetic dialogues. In a world where communication is instant and cultures are colliding and melding as never before, our goal is to provide venues for art that transcend boundaries of all sorts. With alliances across the globe, our interest in cross-cultural exchange extends beyond the visual arts into many other disciplines, including poetry, literature, performance art, film and music.


La Escuela Modela, 102 Calle 19, Vedado, Havana, No.1, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches


RECONSTRUCTIONS by Kelley E. Wilder

No fiction is stranger than photographic reality. In each instance a photograph presents us with some version of a truth constructed through framing, coloring, or captioning. Each viewer meets a photograph halfway, bringing his or her own associations and memories to bear. Robert Polidori’s photographs resemble stage sets that are both empty and full, and that remain still even while they are in the process of becoming something else. They invite the viewer to participate. In every corner there are echoes of someone who has just left: a heap of linens awaiting transport, fresh tire tracks, a shirt twisting slightly on a clothes stand, a freshly opened window. The rooms are so momentarily empty that we begin populating them with our own imaginings, dredging up characters from our memories and merging our experiences with his. What we see is a reconstruction not only in the sense that we fill in what is absent but in the sense that it is constantly moving, changing, and restructuring as each viewer begins to look and to remember. Memory and images have been associated at least since the time of Aristotle, if not before. Polidori admits that his thinking has been heavily influenced by the history of mnemonic techniques to aid memory in Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory (London:

Pimlico, 1966). The long history of trying to remember winds together language, architecture, and philosophy in intricate patterns of association that are often played out in Polidori’s photographs of the ever-present disruption of architectural spaces. Photography’s early language of images of natural objects impressing themselves on photographic materials recalls Aristotle’s analogy of the formation of a mental image with the creation of a seal on wax with a signet ring.1 For Robert Polidori, these notions are joined by the mnemonic techniques described by the ancients of using rooms or stages to commit knowledge to memory. In these architectural spaces, each section of the room or stage is assigned a specific memory. Polidori’s photographs are also often divided into sections perforated with windows, doors, or winding staircases. Many rooms are depicted behind other rooms as in Alvares Residence,

1 Although there are many examples of this rhetoric in the early days of photography, William Henry Fox Talbot uses it in particular to describe Lacock Abbey, his house, as the first house to have “painted its own portrait” in “The New Art,” The Literary Gazette and Journal of belles lettres, science and art, no. 1150, 2 February 1839, p. 73 (Talbot Correspondence Project 3782).

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Entrance Vestibule, Goa, India (page 11) marching endlessly on like the Borgesian library that is our memory. Each space is both fixed in concrete and plaster, and at the same time porous and interlocking like our own thoughts. Memory, like these cityscapes, is fixed and immovable, but through the forces of nature and man it is also always changing as new things are added or stripped away, layer by layer. The bodies of work from Goa, Havana, and Versailles represent a particular strand of Polidori’s photography in that they are not the result of catastrophe and destruction, but show the results of a cycle of construction, dismantling, and re-creation. In bringing together photographs of the museum that is Versailles during renovation, and interiors of Cuban and Goan residences, Polidori asks us to reflect on the various constructions of identity from the patrimonial to the personal. Although these photographs appear to be instantaneous images capturing a moment between activities, they are, like their lengthy exposures, representative of a much slower transformation from this to that. Every year at Versailles millions of visitors contribute to a steady destruction of the palace and grounds. Polidori’s depiction, over several decades, of the renovation and consequent reinterpretation of history at Versailles represents history as a fleeting rather than a fixed event. The Versailles photographs are timeless because they resonate with historical references from the fifteenth century in the mathematized perspective reminiscent of Masaccio’s Trinity or Piero della Francesca’s Flagellation of Christ, and of the seventeenth century in the soft Dutch interior side lighting entering through half-open doorways and leaded windows. These photographs compress history, inviting a comparison of the purpose of interior spaces across centuries. Unlike the paintings, however, the architecture in these images is no

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backdrop for figures, but is the main focus. They are portraits of an architecture both very real and long vanished. The emptiness and iconicicity of the architecture invite us to imagine these spaces as the anytime and anyplace of our own memories. Domestic interiors on the other hand are an open book of human nature. Each inhabitant has left traces that capture an identity, but that also feel transient. The music will never remain on the same page at the piano in Alvares Residence, Music Room #1, Goa, India (page 12), the clock hands will move on in Alvares Residence, Bedroom #1, Goa, India (page 15), the light will fall lower and fade away entirely into night in Home of Mercedes Alfonso, Havana, Cuba (page 27). This feeling of impermanence is heightened by evidence of profound neglect in Formerly the house of Marques de Arcos, Habana Vieja, Cuba (page 32), and Home of Mercedes Alfonso, Havana, Cuba (page 26). Still, the souls of these rooms remain. Encompassing the desiderata of daily life is a certain palette of vibrant colors—each distinctive but equally pervasive. Every society has different relationships with color. Individuals perceive color in a slightly different way from one another, and they are influenced by the meanings they have been taught to associate with colors. The specifics of these differences are difficult to quantify but easier to see. Robert Polidori pursues the psychological aspect of these photographs in minute detail, recreating a palette true to each individual and to each room by micro-adjustments in the colors. He prefers the flexibility afforded by Photoshop to overcome the limited palette supplied by mass-manufactured analogue film. Treating each color independently allows him to re-create the full spectrum of colors, and so the full range of emotions, without having to sacrifice or having to compromise one area of color for another.


It is this saturation of color that returns us to contemplating memory. The photographs of Robert Polidori are impossible to accept as “records” or “documents” but are provocatively “true” to the people and places they represent. They are intrinsically historical but also intensely personal. Although they depict scenes that have a specific time and place as the technology of photography demands, the timelessness of the scenes and characteristics of the architecture allow the viewer to read his or her own histories into these rooms and hallways. We return again and again to the minute details—the small travel clock of Alvares Residence, Bedroom #1, Goa, India (page 15), the family portraits in colors complementing the room in House of Amelia Palaez, Vibora, Cuba (page 21), the dangling plastic sheeting of AMI.04.001, Attique du Midi, Versailles, France (page 51)—to give us some clue as to the origins and actions of the absent people portrayed. We find, in the end that the actors mirror us, reflecting our own origins, identities, and motivations.

Kelley E. Wilder is a senior research fellow and program leader in photographic history and practice at De Montfort University in Leicester. She is a specialist in nineteenth- and twentiethcentury North American and European photography. She received her D.Phil. from the University of Oxford and was a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin from 2005 until 2008. Wilder is the author of Photography and Science (Reaktion Books, 2009).

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GOA, INDIA


Alvares Residence, Entrance Vestibule, Margao, Goa, India, 1998, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches

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Alvares Residence, Music Room #1, Margao, Goa, India, 1998, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches


Alvares Residence, Bedroom #2, Margao, Goa, India, 1998, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches

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Alvares Residence, Bedroom #2 , Margao, Goa, India, 1998, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches


Alvares Residence, Bedroom #1, Margao, Goa, India, 1998, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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Alvares Residence, Salon, Margao, Goa, India, 1998, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches

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HAVANA, CUBA


House of Amelia Pelaez, Estrada Palma 261, Vibora, Havana, Cuba, 2001, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches

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Se単ora Faxas Residence, Miramar No. 3, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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Villa Isabel, formerly the house of the Parraga family, Calzada de Diez de Octubre, Vibora, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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Home of Mercedes Alfonso, Linea 508 (between D and E), Vibora, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches


Home of Mercedes Alfonso, LĂ­nea No. 508 (between D and E), Vedado, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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Bedroom, Ciudadela, formerly the house of Countess O’Reilly, the Condesa de Buenavista, 6 #320, Miramar, Havana, Cuba, 2001, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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Gran Teatro de La Habana, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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Formerly the house of Marques de Arcos, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches


Apartment Building, Concordia 409 (between Gervasio and Escobar), Centro Habana, Havana, Cuba, 2000, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches

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“Disco Bank,� formerly Iglesia de San Felipe Neri, Aguiar No. 401, Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 60 x 50 inches


Calzada de Infanta 55 (at the corner of Humboldt), Centro Habana, Havana, Cuba, 1997, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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VERSAILLES, FRANCE


Salles du XIX, Attique du Nord, Aile du Nord – Attique, Château de Versailles, France, 1986, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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Cabinet intérieur de Madame Adélaïde, (56 C) CCE.01.058, Corps Central – R.d.C., Château de Versailles, France, 1986, archival inkjet print, 60 x 50 inches


Cabinet intérieur de Madame Adélaïde, (56 C) CCE.01.058, Corps Central – R.d.C., Château de Versailles, France, 1986, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches

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Vestibule, (73) AMI.01.009, Salles Empire, Aile du Midi – R.d.C., Château de Versailles, France, 1985, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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foreground: Salle les Campagnes Militaires et le décor des résidences royales, (93) ANR.02.011; background: Escalier Questel, ANR.02.012, Salles du XVII, Aile du Nord - 1er étage, Château de Versailles, France, 1985, archival inkjet print, 60 x 50 inches

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Salle du Maroc, (102) ANR.02.038, Salles de l’Afrique, Aile du Nord – 1er étage, Château de Versailles, France, 1998, archival inkjet print, 50 x 60 inches

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Salle de Crimée Sud, (99) ANR.02.036, Salles de l’Afrique, Aile du Nord – 1er étage, Château de Versailles, France, 1985, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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AMI.04.001, Attique du Midi, Aile du Midi – Attique, Château de Versailles, France, 2005, archival inkjet print, 40 x 54 inches

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Boiserie and curtain, Cabinet de la Méridienne, CCE.02.027, Corps Central – 1er étage, Château de Versailles, France, 2007, archival inkjet print, 72 x 60 inches


Boiserie and curtains, Chambre de la Reine, (115) CCE.02.029, Corps Central – 1er étage, Château de Versailles, France, 2007, archival inkjet print, 72 x 60 inches

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Galerie Basse, (51) CCE.01.041, Corps Central – R.d.C., Château de Versailles, France, 1986, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches

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L’orangerie, Château de Versailles, France, 1983, archival inkjet print, 40 x 50 inches

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CURRICULUM VITAE MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS 2009 2008 2006 2004 1997

Robert Polidori Fotografias, Instituto Moreira Salles, São Paulo Robert Polidori Fotografias, Instituto Moreira Salles, Rio de Janeiro Robert Polidori, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montreal After the Flood, Ogden Museum, New Orleans New Orleans After the Flood, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Fotografien, Martin-Gropius-Bau Museum, Berlin Havana, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts Robert Polidori, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris

SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2011 Ars Memorativa, Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Hong Kong Robert Polidori: Versailles, Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan 2010 Robert Polidori: Versailles, Flowers Gallery, London Robert Polidori, Arthur Rogers Gallery, New Orleans 2008 Robert Polidori, Camera Work, Berlin Versailles: Etats Transitoires, Flowers Gallery, London Versailles: Etats Transitoires, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto Versailles: Etats Transitoires, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York After the Flood, Arthur Roger Gallery, New Orleans 2007 After the Flood, Jarach Gallery, Venice After the Flood, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto 2006 Chernobyl, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York After the Flood, Flowers East, London 2005 Chernobyl, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto Robert Polidori, Flowers Central, London 2004 Robert Polidori, Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis Robert Polidori, Contact, Toronto 2003 Robert Polidori, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York 2000 Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York 1999 Robert Polidori, Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis Robert Polidori, Robert Miller Gallery, New York Robert Polidori, Gallery One, Toronto 58

1997 1991 1990 1988 1983 1979

Robert Polidori, Robert Miller Gallery, New York Robert Polidori, Galerie Jacques Gordat, Paris Robert Polidori, Galerie Urbi et Orbi, Paris Robert Polidori, Atelier des Canettes, Mois de la Photo, Paris Robert Polidori, Braathen Fine Arts, New York Robert Polidori, CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, New York

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2006 the living is easy, Flowers Gallery, London 2003 Esther haase –Kuba, Camera Work, Berlin 2001 Grant Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles 1999 Preview IV, Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis 1998 Weinstein Gallery, New York St. Paul Companies, St. Paul, Minnesota 1997 Robert Miller Gallery, New York 1994 Conseil Generale de la Nievre, Nevers, France 1989 Chicago Art Institute, Chicago 1982 Braathen Fine Arts, New York 1981 P. S. 1, Long Island City, New York 1980 Braathen-Gallozzi Gallery, New York 1978 International Center of Photography, New York 1975 Bykert Gallery, New York


PUBLICATIONS 2011 2010 2009 2008 2006 2004 2003 2001 1999 1998 1997

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COLLECTIONS Robert Polidori: Ars Memorativa (Hong Kong: Sundaram Tagore Gallery) Victoria and Albert Museum, London Points Between…Up Till Now, photographs by Robert Polidori The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Germany: Steidl) Museum of Modern Art, New York Parcours Muséologique Revisité, photographs by Robert Polidori Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Germany: Steidl) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles Robert Polidori Fotografias, photographs by Robert Polidori (Brazil: IMS) Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris Robert Polidori, exhibition catalogue for Muséee d’art Contemporain de Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris Montréal (Germany: Steidl) The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Etats Transitoires (New York: Edwynn Houk Gallery) Walker Art Center, Minneapolis After The Flood, photographs by Robert Polidori (Germany: Steidl) The Link Group, Chicago Robert Polidori’s Metropolis, photographs by Robert Polidori, text by First National City Bank, New York Robert Polidori and Martin C. Pedersen (New York: Metropolis/D.A.P.) The Santander Bank, New York Zones of Exclusion Pripyat and Chernobyl, photographs by Robert Polidori Foundacion “La Caixa,” Barcelona (Germany: Steidl) Instituto Moreira Salles, Brazil Havana, photographs by Robert Polidori (Germany: Steidl) La Caisse des Depots et Consignations, Paris Palm Springs Weekend: The Architecture and Design of a Midcentury Oasis, The Berman Collection, Los Angeles photographs by Robert Polidori, text by Alan Hess UBS, Switzerland (San Francisco: Chronicle Books) Numerous private collections The Levant: History and Archeology in the Eastern Mediterranean, photographs by Robert Polidori, text by Pierre-Louis Gatier HONORS AND AWARDS (Cologne: Konemann Verlag Gesselschaft) La Libye Antique: Cities perdues de L’Empire Romaine, photographs by 2000 Alfred Eisenstadt Award for Magazine Photography, Architecture Robert Polidori, text by Antonio and Jeanette di Vita 1999 Alfred Eisenstadt Award for Magazine Photography, Architecture (Paris: Éditions Mengès) 1998 World Press Award for Art Chateaux de la Loire, photographs by Robert Polidori, text by Jean-Marie Preouse de Montclos (Paris: Éditions Mengès and Cologne: Konemann MAGAZINES Verlag Gesselschart) Sites Greco-Romaines de la Triploitane et Cyrenaique, photographs by The New Yorker, Condé Nast Traveller, GEO, GQ, Numéro, House and Garden, Robert Polidori, text by Antonio and Jeanette di Vita (Paris: Éditions Wired, Metropolis, Fortune, Architecture, Amica, De la Republica, Architectural Mengès and Cologne: Konemann Verlag Gesselschart) Digest, Nest, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Portfolio among others. Versailles, photographs by Robert Polidori, text by Jean-Marie Perouse de Monclos (Paris: Éditions Mengès, New York: Abbeville Press, Milano: Edizione Magnus, and Cologne: Konemann Verlag Gesselschart) 59


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Sundaram Tagore Gallery 57-59 Hollywood Road Central, Hong Kong Tel: 852 2581 9678 Fax: 852 2581 9673 hongkong@sundaramtagore.com President and curator: Sundaram Tagore Director, Hong Kong: Faina Goldstein Director, New York: Susan McCaffrey Designer: Russell Whitehead Art consultants: Teresa Kelley Joseph Lawrence Benjamin Rosenblatt Melanie Taylor Printed in Hong Kong by CA Design

WWW.SUNDARAMTAGORE.COM First published in Hong Kong in 2011 by Sundaram Tagore Gallery Text © Sundaram Tagore Gallery Photographs © Robert Polidori All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Cover: Cabinet intérieur de Madame Adélaïde (detail), (56 C) CCE.01.058, Corps Central – R.d.C., Château de Versailles, France, 1986, archival inkjet print, 50 x 40 inches ISBN-13: 978-0-9839631-0-3


Robert Polidori  

Photography of Robert Polidori

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