Nan Goldin (born in Washington D.C. in 1953) is one of the most important artists of our time for her brilliant exploration of the human experience, which has become legendary for having profoundly influenced successive generations. Taking inspiration from the amateur films of Andy Warhol, but also from Federico Fellini, Diane Arbus and Helmut Newton, Nan Goldin has constructed an explicit and decadent style, characterised by disjointed and spontaneous settings, real faces filmed in moments of disorienting, immediate, unfiltered intimacy. Her account of the so-called hard drug scene of the 1980s is a manifesto of the counterculture: the art of this incredible artist makes its way through the aesthetisation of the most private and fragile corners of everyday life, a fight against conventions without filters, a vision of the world that always comes from the margins and not from the centre. Her most famous work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1981-2022), documents her life in Provincetown, New York, Berlin and London from the 1970s and 1980s to the present day.
“I thought I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. Actually, my photos show me how much I have lost.”
Photographing the raw tenderness of the world through one’s own circle of creative and bohemian friends has become a rare political act of primary importance today, a way of expressing an artistic emergency through the forms of activism. His photographs are snapshots of raw life: snapshots of intimacy and coupling, of the everyday and of wild parties, of the struggle between autonomy and dependence. The exhibition will feature other crucial works, all of which are increasingly driven towards the moving image; she herself says at one point in her career that she felt the need to turn the photographic medium into something more changeable and less rigid, her approach to filmmaking reaching its peak in 2022 with All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In the documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed Goldin herself recounts how, at the beginning of her career, it was virtually impossible to place her work in New York galleries, when it was only middle-class white males who decided what was worthy of exhibition, and who certainly found the representation of drag queens, gay men in leather suits, bohemian flat messes and so on reprehensible. The stubbornness of this personality made its way, for instance, to publicise the AIDS emergency and to advance the demands of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I found a way to make films with still images. Making slide shows gives me the luxury of constant re-editing to reflect my changing view of the world.”
The exhibition presents a unique opportunity to explore pioneering works from a period that was transformative in every field of history and successfully presents a number of key themes within environmental and feminist art horizontally: gender, empathy, the importance of psychology, patriarchy and sexuality. Highlighting this crucial period in history, the exhibition challenges traditional narratives and emphasises the resilience and innovation of a visionary woman. The Stedelijk Museum was the first European museum of modern art to collect photography and has a rich body of work by Nan Goldin, who was first invited to present her slides as an exhibition in 1997. Now, decades later, works such as The Other Side (1992-2021) – a historical portrait made as a tribute to her trans friends – and Sisters, Saints and Sibyls (2004-2022) – a testimony to her sister’s family trauma and suicide – return to the museum to fill the immense gallery on the lower floor. In a world in which reality becomes increasingly indistinguishable from fantasy and illusion, Nan Goldin’s success lies in the radicality of uncompromising authenticity: her images charged with visual and formal power capture the most vulnerable moments of the human being, entering deep into the soul of the beholder.
For further information Stedelijk Museum