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Blog – Focus on the extra work for Sydney leg of JEFF WALL Photographs

Posted on May 23, 2013 in Curatorial.

Jeff Wall, Authentication: Claus Janke, costume historian, examining a document relating to an item in his collection, 2010, four inkjet prints, courtesy of the artist © Jeff Wall

Organised by the Art Gallery of Western Australia in association with the MCA, JEFF WALL Photographs is curated by Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Art Gallery of Western Australia Gary Dufour. The exhibition was first shown in Perth then travelled to Melbourne’s NGV with 26 works. For the Sydney leg, a 27th work was included, described here by MCA Curatorial Liaison and Head of Artistic Programs Judith Blackall:

'Authentication: Claus Jahnke, costume historian, examining a document relating to an item in his collection (2010) is the only work in the exhibition with multiple components, four parts, and is one of Jeff Wall’s more recent pieces.

The subject is a historic garment, a man’s shirt, in the collection of a well-known costume collector Claus Jahnke, a friend of the artist who lives in Vancouver, Canada. There is no correct image sequence, but the artist invites the viewer to look carefully and think about what he has chosen to photograph. A shirt is hanging on a coat hanger; the costume collector Jahnke is absorbed as he studies a catalogue that rests on an open tin, presumably the place where he keeps documents pertaining to his collection; we see an old-fashioned grey trunk with wooden slats, the catalogue Jahnke was studying rests upon its lid, the cover tells us it is from a department store called N-Israel in Berlin. It is dated Winter 1932, just seven years before World War II broke out. The last image shows a page opened at what Jahnke believes to be the actual shirt in his collection.

The portrait: Jahnke is captured in his room, with items from his collection in evidence around the space. There is a dress hanging, and the shirt, an open trunk and Jahnke is seated, portrayed in profile. A warm light is cast over the documents he holds. Jahnke explained to the artist that in the authentication of a collector’s item, evidence of the provenance provides valuable testimony; in this case Jahnke refers to the catalogue from the department store N-Israel , the maker of the shirt in his collection.

The catalogue: It is resting on a closed trunk and is visibly from the Berlin department store N-Israel. The cover image shows a woman modelling a winter outfit. It bears her signature: Leni Riefenstahl. At the time Leni Riefenstahl was a renowned actress in Germany. She often featured in films set in the Alps, starring as an athletic and adventurous young woman. She became an accomplished mountaineer during the winters of filming on mountains and learned filmmaking techniques. She went on to make her own films, the most famous being Triumph of the Will, a documentary film made in 1934 at the rise of the Nazi Party in Nuremberg. In the years leading up to the outbreak of war, she was personally associated with Adolf Hitler and her many films advocated the Nazi ideals.

In the smallest image, the catalogue is open at the page illustrating what Claus presumes is the shirt in his collection, in the second row from the top, second from the left.

The Shirt: Jahnke told Wall that men’s shirts are rare as collector’s items; they used to be worn until they were threadbare, or too old to keep, often then they were reused as rags. Dresses on the other hand were often kept for best, and were passed on to generations of daughters and granddaughters. The shirt has a separate collar and cuffs as these would soil more quickly and could be unbuttoned and washed separately. It still has the label N-Israel on it, a particularly valuable asset as it shows the item’s origin.’

JEFF WALL Photographs runs until 28 July 2013 in the Level 3 Galleries.

For more information on the exhibiton, visit the webpage

Posted by Kelly Stone