Bettina Rheims. A Retrospective


The KUNST HAUS WIEN presents for the first time in Austria a retrospective exhibition of Bettina Rheims - in association with Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris.
On show will be 133 works from the series: Animal, Female Trouble, Modern Lovers, Chambre Close, Les Espionnes, Kim Harlow, Les Aveugles, I.N.R.I., X'mas, Morceaux choisis, Pourquoi m'as-tu abandonnée? and Shanghai.

 At first glance, the photographs of Bettina Rheims appear sleek and professional and perfectly composed. The pictures are handsome. As a former member of the glamour business, she's got the seductive language of media imagery down pat. Her work can easily be admired and dismissed as brilliant celebrity portraiture and stylish magazine photography. But it would be a ¬mistake to jump to such conclusions. Her relentless exploration of the glamorous image demands a different kind of scrutiny.

Bettina Rheims' prime subject is glamour. Not sentiment, not nostalgia, and – though it can be a useful element – not even beauty. Just pure glamour, which has little to do with fame or celebrity, even though Claudia Schiffer, Kylie Minogue, Angelina Jolie, and Madonna make cameo appearances in her staged photographs. Their images are no more or less special than those of the nameless temptresses, seductresses, strippers, shop-girls, and models in garter belts or lingerie. Sexy nudes, glamorous transsexuals, boudoir semi-nudes in poses of mock-abandon, and portraits of naughty ingenues with perfectly glistening flesh share equally in her fictive portraits and scenes. Overly red lipstick and a dangling cigarette are more overt elements of image construction than a recognizable name, because what is at the core of these pictures is always an awareness of the creation of an illusion, for that's what glamour is.