Friday, March 8, 2024

Early 20th-Century

Iconic Photographs Capturing Early 20th-Century Nightlife Go on View in New York

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A show at Marlborough gallery features photographers including Weegee, Brassaï, and Helmut Newton.

Brassaï, Au Monocle, le bar, à gauche: Lulu de Montparnasse (1932-33). © ESTATE BRASSAÏ – RMN-Grand Palais. Photo courtesy of Marlborough New York.

“Nightlife,” a new exhibition at New York’s Marlborough gallery, brings together the works of six photographers known for chronicling the nocturnal goings-on of European and American cities in the early 20th century, including Berenice Abbot, Brassaï, Bill Brandt, Weegee, Helmut Newton, and Irving Penn.

Each of these photographers approached their subject from a different angle. In the 1920s, French-Hungarian photographer Brassaï spent his evenings walking past Parisian bars and brothels, armed with his camera and 24 glass plate negatives. His images variously captured the intimacies, excesses, and joys of night-crawlers, and were celebrated upon the release of his 1933 book, Paris de nuit. Henry Miller dubbed him “the eye of Paris.”



Inspired by Brassaï, Brandt did the same for 1930s London, where he documented the nightly festivities of both the upper and lower classes. His own photography book, A Night in London, published in 1938, offered a glimpse into the prewar night life and labors of British folk across social classes.

Bill Brandt, In the Public Bar at Charlie Brown’s, Limehouse (ca. 1942). © Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive. Photo courtesy of Marlborough New York.

Many of the photographs in “Nightlife” were made possible by the invention and commercialization of the flashbulb, which for the first time in history allowed photographers to take pictures in the absence of natural or artificial light. Prior to the flashbulb, visual documentation of nightlife had fallen to draftsmen to record these environments in sketches.

Photographers Penn and Newton, however, worked in far more controlled settings. Both were active in the field of fashion photography and vastly expanded its scope. Penn’s minimalist portraits hinted at nocturnal trends and styles. Meanwhile, German-Australian photographer Newton favored private as opposed to public scenes. His first two photography books, 1976’s White Women and 1978’s Sleepless Nights, are filled with intimate and erotic pictures of fully or partially nude women posing in bedroomsa reflection of changing gender norms as well as a commentary on the male gaze that turns observers into voyeurs.

Helmut Newton, Security, New York III (1976). © Helmut Newton Foundation. Photo courtesy of Marlborough New York.

Then there’s Abbott and Weegee, two New York-based photographers who used the same documentary style to depict the Big Apple from opposite perspectives. Abbott’s images of 1930s New York see her hovering in the sky, presenting skylines, squares, and neighborhoods as they developed over time. The city is in the making and unless this transition is crystalized now in permanent form, it will be forever lost,” she once said. “The camera alone can catch the swift surfaces of the cities today and speaks a language intelligible to all.”

Conversely, Weegee stayed on the ground, listening in on police radio broadcasts so he could capture inner-city mishaps such as crime scenes and brawls in the moment. “What I did,” he said, “anybody else can do.” Though ostensibly a press photographer, Weegee’s dynamic frames appealed to the fine art world: his work was first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943, included the show “Action Photography,” and later compiled in his first photography volume, 1945’s Naked City.


See more images from the show below.

Berenice Abbott, New York at Night (1932). © Berenice Abbott/Getty Images. Photo courtesy of Marlborough New York.

Weegee, Lovers at the Palace Theatre (1945). Photo courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery © Weegee Archive/International Center of Photography.

Brassaï, Le bal des Quatres Saisons (1932). © ESTATE BRASSAÏ – RMN-Grand Palais. Photo courtesy of Marlborough New York.

Bill Brandt, Hermitage Stairs, Wapping (1930s). © Bill Brandt / Bill Brandt Archive. Photo courtesy of Marlborough New York.

Irving Penn, Girl Behind Bottle (Jean Patchett), New York, 1949 (1978). © Helmut Newton Foundation. Photo courtesy of Marlborough New York.

Weegee, Woman at a bar (1940s). Photo courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery © Weegee Archive/International Center of Photography.

Nightlife” is on view at Marlborough gallery, 545 West 25th Street, New York, March 7 through April 20.

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art depot

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV

MVRDV's Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen opens, giving the public access to 151,000 artworks

Glass display cases filled with artworks take centre stage in the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, an art storage building designed by MVRDV, which is now open to the public in Rotterdam.

Billed as the "world's first publicly accessible art depot", the building brings together the entire 151,000-piece art collection of the neighbouring Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Exterior of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen has opened to the public a year after the building was completed

Unlike most museum storage depots, this one is open to the public. It allows the museum to reveal its entire collection, whereas most other museums can only present around 20 per cent or less at any given time.

Visitors are able to explore the building's different storage facilities, which showcase paintings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics and more.

Interior of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
Circulation spaces weave between large display cases that showcase the museum's collection

MVRDV gave the building a bowl-shaped form, which is clad in mirrored glass, while its roof is a garden filled with trees. Inside, it combines storage spaces with restoration studios and galleries.

"As an architecture firm, it was our mission to allow a special art experience to go hand-in-hand with a building that takes an equally special form," said studio co-founder Winy Maas.

Glass display cases in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
The Depot allows the museum's full collection to be viewed by visitors

Located in Rotterdam's Museumpark, the Depot officially opened on Saturday 6 November, more than a year since the building was completed.

Revealing its art-filled interior to the public for the first time, the building now contains 63,000 paintings, photographs, films and objects, and 88,000 prints and drawings.

Staircase in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
A central atrium extends up the building's full 35-metre height

At the heart of the interior is an atrium that extends all the way up through the building's 35-metre-high volume.

As well as being framed by glass, this atrium is filled with display cases created by designer Marieke van Diemen.

Paintings in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
Panels display paintings, drawings, prints and sketches

Some of these cases line the sides of the space, while others form bridges that people can walk over and under. They are all filled with different objects from the museum's collection, giving visitors a different experience of the art.

Highlights include Untitled (Manhole), a sculpture by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan that was previously not exhibited in full, as the piece is designed to be partially concealed beneath a floor. Here, it's possible to see it all.

Storage area in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
Storage areas are divided into five different "climate zones"

The interior is organised over seven main levels, containing 20 different depot departments. Fourteen of these are used by the museum, while an additional six are leased by private collectors.

These storage areas are divided up into five different "climate zones", organised by their specific temperature and humidity requirements.

Restoration studio in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
Glass walls allow views of the storage areas from the atrium

Glass walls make it possible to see inside these areas from the atrium, giving a more dynamic feel to the interior.

Artist John Körmeling has fitted out the building's entrance lobby, using neons lights and sculptural elements to create a high-tech aesthetic. This is enhanced by the entrance doors, which lift up "like a gadget out of a James Bond film".

Entrance lobby in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
Neon lights illuminate the lobby

The upper level features a restaurant and events space designed by Amsterdam-based design studio Concrete. This connects with the building's rooftop garden, which features birch trees, pine trees and grasses.

"I hope that visitors will soon enjoy the interior, the rooftop forest, and the experience of being in direct contact with the art without the mediation of a curator," said Maas.

"Our ambition was to give the Museumpark a new dimension, and to bring different target groups – from schoolchildren to Feyenoord fans – into contact with the Boijmans collection in an innovative way."

Restaurant and roof garden in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
A restaurant and events space opens onto the rooftop garden

To announce the building's opening, Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist has created a light installation that brings the exterior to life at night.

Called Wasting Life On You, the installation sees the building and its surroundings filled with colour.

The mirrored bowl-shaped form reflects the surroundings in Rotterdam's Museumpark

Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is not the first major building that MVRDV has designed in Rotterdam, where the studio is based.

In 2014, it completed Markthal Rotterdam, a covered market shaped like a giant arch and wrapped by apartments.

The studio – which is led by Maas with Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries – was recently in the news following issues with its plant-covered Marble Arch Mound in London.

Night view of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen by MVRDV
Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist created a light installation across the exterior for the opening

The studio has been working on the Depot since 2004, when it won the design competition for the project.

The project was delivered through a collaboration between Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the municipality of Rotterdam and the De Verre Bergen Foundation.

Photography is by Ossip van Duivenbode, unless otherwise indicated.

Project credits

Architect: MVRDV
Principal in charge: Winy Maas
Partner: Fokke Moerel
Project team: Sanne van der Burgh, Arjen Ketting, Fedor Bron, Gerard Heerink, Elien Deceuninck, Jason Slabbynck, Rico van de Gevel, Marjolein Marijnissen, Remco de Haan
Competition team: Jacob Van Rijs, Sanne van der Burgh, Marta Pozo, Gerard Heerink, Elien Deceuninck, Saimon Gomez Idiakez, Jose Ignacio Velasco Martin, Jason Slabbynck, Mariya Gyaurova, Lukasz Brzozowski Strategy & Development: Jan Knikker, Irene Start
Contractor: BAM Bouw en Techniek
Structure: IMd Raadgevend Ingenieurs
Cost engineering: BBN
Installations: RHDHV
Facade consultants: ABT
Building physics: Peutz
Landscape architect: MTD Landschap architecten
Restaurant designer: Concrete
Art collaborations: John Körmeling, Marieke van Diemen, Pipilotti Rist

Join the discussion…


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    Fabulously beautiful, outside and inside, innovative and modern, the concept of allowing stored artwork to be viewed is just wonderful.

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        I wrote about the Depot when the design was presented and I'll gladly write a few words again now that it's finished. I was very critical against this out-of-scale object in my beloved Museumpark

        And although the building still has 'scale issues' in relation to the adjacent museum which it serves, its captivating presence does so much for its surroundings. I am not indifferent to the negative responses written below, but I would invite everyone to experience this celebration of space and light.

        In my opinion, it has delivered on a promise that its manifestation could be much more than a mere instagrammability. MVRDV has achieved a spatial interaction between building and city that I have never witnessed in architecture before. Watch it from a distance and then walk up really close, see it in the morning and again at night. If you love light, space, and form, you'll love this building.

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            Regarding birds, I suppose it is possible that it utilizes a UV coating that is visible to birds but not to humans. I'd like to know...

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                Formalism for the sake of it, ridiculous objectual urban feature designed to flatter the vanity of uncultured clients while rembering the basic laws of gravity. That over-scaled culinary utensil deemed as a museum is just the result of a collective thinking by non- architects wishing to reach a superficial mediatic publicity. It could be a successful toy for kids once model downscale reduced, thanks to Santa Claus.

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                    My favorite European city keeps getting better with architecture that supports the arts and the people. I just hope this boat-like shaped building is not going to harm the environment. Ken.

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                        The city has evolved so much in the past 10 years alone – it's also one of my favorites, although I'm biased because I called it home for a few years. The only issue now is that the housing crisis: i.e., limited housing availability, poor rent controls, and house pricing that is through the roof. It's evolving into Amsterdam.

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                          The presentation of the artworks doesn't do them justice and I suspect they are meant to serve as a mere colorful backdrop for selfies. Is this the bleak future of museums?

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                            I have not seen the inside myself, but I am not a fan of the external shape, nor the mirrors. Indeed birds might not like it either.

                            About Untitled (Manhole) by Maurizio Cattelan "that was previously not exhibited in full, as the piece is designed to be partially concealed beneath a floor. Here, it's possible to see it all."

                            Well, the whole point of this work is that it's precisely partly conceived and not visible, very typical of Cattelan. If you just display it suspended in a glass box (see the third picture from the top, on the right side) with some sort of faux floor around it just for context, then the whole work loses its point. Not that smart a solution after all.

                            Schaulager in Basel is a much finer accomplishment (and the storage is open to researchers by appointment). But that is Herzog & de Meuron. MVRDV has become a bit of an architecture villain frankly.

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                                Art is best appreciated in calm and understated spaces where the environment is deferential to, even subordinate to the art itself. I see too much busyness and distraction in these interiors.

                                The art looks like it was an afterthought placed in a building designed for a different use, but re-purposed as a museum.

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                                  I quite like the Escher mirror maze of stairs, glass and art. Except for the off the shelf glass standoffs. But the exterior is just stupid. Why does it have to be shaped like a flower pot? Why does it have to be mirror clad? It also obliterates the surrounding context in terms of it's scale, seems like some of that program could have been buried below grade.

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                                    I see a confused and disappointingly claustrophobic interior.

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                                        Reminds me of the yellow building somewhere near the train station and the water – complicated and confusing inside. Yeah like the outside though.

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                                            Innovative use of architecture as hunting weapon. Sadly, distorting funhouse mirror will make birds lough while crushing.

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                                                Normally I hate mirror buildings, but this one (and the 3XN's Cube in Berlin) actually work as sculptural objects. How they mitigate against birdstrikes though, I'd like to know... I hope that was factored in.

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                                                    It is wildly hard to maintain a clean form with all the program, support, servicing etc. Props to the building team – the rooftop is the true gem here!

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                                                        Some contents biliously emetic, but bldg un chef d'oeuvre.

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                                                            I wonder how many birds will die due to those mirrors... it is too sad and goes the opposite way in terms of preservation of the environment.

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                                                                This project is a timeless fusion of architecture and art, and another reason to visit the Netherlands.

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                                                                    The layout looks and feels odd. A group of artworks in a glass rectangle. Strange.

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                                                                        I hate mirror buildings like if I was a bird.