It is hard to believe because he was so vibrant and had the pulse of the times, but Richard Avedon would have been 100 years old this year. To mark the centenary of the birth of this giant photographer, Gagosian has organized a moving exhibition, Avedon 100. 150 artists, musicians, curators, writers, designers, people from the fashion world were each asked to select one photograph and to explain the impact this image had had on them. Among the people invited: art critic Hilton Als, Naomi Campbell, Elton John, Spike Lee, Sally Mann, Polly Mellen, Kate Moss, Chloë Sevigny, Taryn Simon, Christy Turlington, artist Jonas Wood.  

The show presents a wide selection of his different works - a total of 220 -  from fashion to the civil rights movement, the American West series as well as his work for advertising, his portraits and the murals. Some of the works have never been exhibited before. 

The selection shows the huge spectrum of Avedon’s work and how it crossed barriers and genres. He was Photography, as much as a photographer. The commentary from each of the people invited to choose a print also is a testament to Avedon’s profound impact on people and on the culture. The New York Times called him “American photography’s great purifier”. When Richard Avedon died, he had broken the barrier between art and photography. As Jason Farago wrote in his review of the Metropolitan Museum’s Murals exhibitions, earlier this year, “Annie Leibovitz and Steven Klein could appear without incidents in our museums and galleries, while fine-art photographers like Roy Ethridge and Philip-Lorca DiCorcia could shoot fashion editorials without losing their art world cred.” That’s as much Avedon’s legacy as his extraordinary portraits. 

Jean-Sébastien Stehli

Avedon 100. Gagosian, 522 West 21st, New York. Until June 24.  

A book, Avedon 100, published by Rizzoli and Gagosian is also published to coincide with the exhibition. 300 pages. $100. 

May 29, 2023 — Jean Sebastien Stehli