The largest exhibition ever devoted to Jürgen Teller

Three decades of the German photographer’s work are on display at the Triennale in Milan, in an unprecedented retrospective titled “Jürgen Teller i need to live”.

“If you don’t understand Juergen Teller’s shoot, maybe Instagram has rotted your brain,” reads the title of Max Grobe’s article published on Highsnobiety in February 2021, after the German photographer’s portraits of the actors and actresses nominated for that year’s Oscars were published in W Magazine.

A service that provoked criticism and hilarity, judged almost amateurish for the sloppiness of the set and the alleged anachronism of wanting to show celebrities as ordinary people in an era where social media represents a channel that puts them in direct communication with the public – especially after the pandemic, a long phase of over-sharing of everyday life for many, including celebrities.

Juergen Teller’s ironic response to the disproportionate amount of derogatory memes and tweets that flooded the Internet during this period was Notes About my Work, an artist’s book that collects screenshots of these “notes about his work” posted online by users.

View of the exhibition. Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani – DSL Studio. Courtesy Triennale Milano

“Notes about my Work” is also one of the thematic nuclei of the exhibition “Juergen Teller i need to live”, curated by Thomas Weski in collaboration with Juergen Teller and Dovile Drizyte, on view at Triennale Milano until April 1, 2024.

The exhibition, realized with the support of Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, is the most comprehensive retrospective ever organized on the work of the German photographer. Approximately one thousand works, including photographs, videos, and artist’s books, will be presented from the first half of the 1990s to the present day. The selection differs in part from that of the Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris, where the exhibition stopped at the end of 2023.

In the eleven rooms of the installation designed by 6a architects, who also designed the artist’s photographic studio in West London, Teller’s thirty-year career unfolds before the eyes of the visitor, retracing his iconic collaborations in the world of fashion, such as the one with Saint Laurent. The exhibition reveals the details of portraits of personalities from the world of entertainment and culture, from Joan Didion to Steve McQueen, Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood, Bjork and Agnès Varda, through photographic series that offer glimpses of the artist’s private life, with its infinite facets of pain, humor, romance and irony.

View of the exhibition. Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani – DSL Studio. Courtesy Triennale Milano

Often described as provocative and irreverent, Teller’s photographs reveal a desire to dismantle any rhetorical superstructure and to immortalize her subjects directly, exposing them, sometimes literally, with brutal honesty, placing them all on the same level, that of a passionate, fragile, and sometimes grotesque humanity. Famous personalities seem familiar, and the photographs on display seem to constitute a kind of family album of the artist, in which the personal and the professional tend to converge but do not overlap.

It is no coincidence that the three largest rooms in the exhibition are dedicated to the artist’s private life, as in the two rooms at the end of the corridor that house the series “The Myth,” which Teller describes as his most romantic project. In this series, his wife Dovile Drizyte is photographed in the rooms of the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio with her legs up (a position that, according to fertility legends, should increase the chances of conception), and the works celebrating the birth of their daughter Iggy are presented to the public in the last large room with the tenderness of a newborn, named after one of the world’s greatest rock stars.

The title of the exhibition, “i need to live”, is Juergen Teller’s response to the events that have marked his life, from successes to traumas and the loss of loved ones. It is an exaltation of the desire to explore oneself and one’s existence with a renewed and inexhaustible intensity.

Juergen Teller i need to live
Triennale Milano
from January 27 to April 1, 2024
Curated by:
Thomas Weski
In collaboration with:
Juergen Teller and Dovile Drizyte

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