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Fundación MAPFRE presents Ilse Bing

September 23, 2022–January 8, 2023

With the current show, Fundación MAPFRE offers the most thorough retrospective of photographer Ilse Bing ever presented in Spain (Frankfurt, 1899–New York, 1998). The exhibition, which was created by Fundación MAPFRE and was organized by Juan Vicente Aliaga, Associate Professor at the Universitat Politècnica de València, provides a thorough overview of this artist’s photography output from 1929 through the 1950s.

The places Ilse Bing lived and worked, including Frankfurt before the 1930s, Paris at that time, and post-war New York, where she most prominently experienced the status of a forced immigrant, all had an impact on her artistic career. Although her work was undoubtedly enriched by each of the photographic and cultural trends she experienced during her career, it is difficult to place it within those trends. The Neue Sehen (The New Vision) by Moholy-Nagy, the Weimar Bauhaus, André Kertész, and Man Ray’s surrealism all had an impact on Bing’s work. As the exhibition’s curator has observed: “Bing’s position escapes any strict norms or visual orthodoxy. In this sense, we are dealing with a very singular view and conception of photography in which modernity and formal innovation go hand in hand with a humanist disposition within which a social conscience nestles.”

Jewish middle-class parents gave birth to Ilse Bing in Frankfurt on March 23, 1899. At the age of 14, she started taking pictures. She is self-taught in this area and knew when she started taking photos to support her doctoral thesis that this would become her main occupation. Before choosing art history, Bing pursued studies in physics and mathematics. She gave up her undergraduate studies in 1929 and spent the next thirty years completely committed to photography while carrying her unbreakable Leica. She relocated to Paris in 1930, where she continued to work as a photojournalist while also creating her own, more artistic work, eventually rising to the position of one of the major figures in contemporary French photography. Her first show there at the Julien Levy Gallery took place the following year after she met Hendrik Willem van Loon, who helped promote her work there. Bing and her husband, the pianist Konrad Wolff, relocated to New York in 1941 in response to the rise of National Socialism. At the age of 60, she stopped taking photographs and began concentrating on collages, abstract art, drawings, and poetry writing instead. In 1998, Ilse Bing passed away in New York.

She belonged to a group of women photographers, including Germaine Krull, Florence Henri, Laure Albin-Guillot, Madame d’Ora, Berenice Abbott (the subject of a Fundación MAPFRE exhibition in 2019), Nora Dumas, and Gisèle Freund, who for the first time gained some visibility in the world of art and culture.

A chronological and thematic overview of Bing’s career is provided through the exhibition, which is divided into ten sections and contains 190 images in addition to documentary material. It gains from significant loans from the collections and organizations listed below:

Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg, New York; International Center of Photography, New York; Galerie Karsten Greve, Saint Moritz, Paris and Cologne; Art Institute of Chicago; Galerie Berinson, Berlin; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Centre Pompidou, Paris; National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C.; Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée Carnavalet, Paris; Biblioteca y Centro de Documentación. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; Galerie Le Minotaure, Paris; George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York; and James Hyman Gallery, London.

Following its closing in Madrid, the exhibition will be shown at KBr Fundación MAPFRE Barcelona, from February to May 2023.

Fundación MAPFRE
Paseo de Recoletos, 23
28004 Madrid
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