Comments/Context: If there is any single theme underlying my efforts on this site, it is that the informed voice of the typically silent private collector can actually be a valid one (not just an exercise in puffery and ego stroking), and that we collectors can make real and important contributions to the dialogue around contemporary art (particularly photography) if we find ways to insert those ideas into the larger discussion going on around us. So it was with much anticipation that I visited the new Walther Collection Project Space in Chelsea, where collector Artur Walther has opened a bright new gallery and inaugurated it with a solid show of recent work by South African photographer Jo Ratcliffe. Walther is particularly interested in African and Asian photography, two areas that are often overlooked and/or misunderstood in the normal flow of art through New York, and so this space promises to be a place where high quality, out of the mainstream visual ideas will be on view. It is exactly the kind of thing I wish more major collectors would do, so before we get to the work itself, a hearty standing ovation from me for the spirit of collector activism that this new venue represents.
Ratcliffe's photographs have a silent emptiness to them, where the rocky desert and scrub forest stand mute in the face of history. Her pictures document mass graves, minefields, abandoned crops, ambush sites, improvised memorials, trench systems, and dusty battlefields, singling out some small marker or piece of evidence in the otherwise indifferent landscape. Her platinum prints further soften the harshness of the environment, their tonalities more gentle and forgiving; stands of swaying long grass hide a minefield, pockmarked murals lurk in quiet buildings, or lines of white stones call out the edges of a missle bunker.
Collector's POV: Since this is a non-commercial space, no prices were available for the works on view. Jo Ratcliffe is represented by Michael Stevenson Gallery in Cape Town and Johannesburg (here). Ratcliffe's work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.
Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)
- Review: La Lettre de la Photographie (here)
- Features: ArtInfo (here), Artnet (here), Snapshots (here)
The Walther Collection
526 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10001