Hiroshi Sugimoto - Serpentine Gallery

Hiroshi Sugimoto's photographs of Henry VIII and his six wives look like paintings. They are, in fact, based on elaborately costumed waxwork figures. They too are part of this exhibition, but he also had another exhibition of his ghostly black and white photographic portraits of historical figures such as Shakespeare, Charles I, Napoleon and Oscar Wilde. Sugimoto's shots of his contemporary waxwork figures are at Madame Tussaud's. (Imitating Sugimoto, four years ago I had my photo taken with the Royal Family for my Christmas photo to send to the friends; I live near Madame Tussaud's, so I went there for my Christmas "shot". I sent the pictures and some people could not recognise me. When I said it was I in the starring role they thought I was actually at Buckingham Palace having my photo taken with the Royals. I was so amazed!But than again, some friends in Brazil and Italy do not know of Madame Tussaud's waxworks. )

Sugimoto has never taken a portrait of real person. He prefers to work through inanimate objects that he has been creating since 1976. He has turned historical figures into a sort of kitsch art form that is both meditative and funny. He must be very fashionable at the moment as he was showing his work at the same time at the Saatchi Gallery, the V&A and at White Cue 2 in Jan-Feb 2001. This idea of re-working history through copies can sometimes be better than the real thing.

Verinha Ottoni.


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