Come for the painter's wife, stay for the bricklayer

Categories: Art/Museums

In the offices of the Weinstein Gallery on West 46th Street, there toils a man who should be paid by the governor--or at least the mayor--as an essential public servant. On the walls of the gallery hang a collection of photographs by the legendary German photographer August Sander's People of the 20th Century project, which Martin Weinstein worked three years to obtain. He'll sell them, sure (the prints are going for $7-15 thousand). But mostly, he wants you to see them.

And you really have to see them. August Sander is hardly an obscure figure in 20th Century photography. But I assure you, if you've seen these photographs before, you've never seen them like this. And if you've never seen them like this, you may never have the chance again. The prints are from the original negatives, some of them nearly 90 years old. They survived three years in an underground storage facility in Nazi Gemany during World War II. They emerged a bit scarred, and primitive touch-up techniques are not difficult to spot. It's the forensic evidence of the kind of lives these and countless other early 20th Century negatives have lived--and a reminder of how lucky we are to have them at all.

sander13x.jpg
Photo: Die Photographische Sammlung/SK-Stiftung Kultur –
August Sander Archive, Cologne; ARS New York, 2008.

The new prints were hand selected by Weinstein and printed by Sander's grandson Gerd, who apprenticed in his grandfather's darkroom and made these prints using the precise specifications adhered to by Sander in the 20's and 30's.

The prints are large and the subjects are impossibly vivid--all those incredibly strange and almost mythical people: the bricklayer, the gypsy, the painter, and the painter's wife (go just for this photo, seriously). If you stare at them long enough, I swear you can see them drawing breath and even blinking.

sander17x.jpg
Photo: Die Photographische Sammlung/SK-Stiftung Kultur –
August Sander Archive, Cologne; ARS New York, 2008.

Almost as remarkable as the photos themselves is the fact that this is the first ever solo exhibit by August Sander in the United States (the revered German photographer died in 1964). And for this, my fellow Minnesotans, we must thank Mr. Weinstein--because, at least for a few weeks, you don't have to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see a Sander print. You merely need to make your way to Weinstein Gallery on West 46th Street (there is always parking right in front) and push open the door. Most likely, you'll be alone in the space and surrounded by the paper-people who Sander, so many years ago, labored to see "as they are and not as they should or could be." You've got until April 12th friends. It's always free. Don't miss this one.

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