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Quis Erudiet Without Documenta

Elio Montanari

For nearly thirty years, Elio Montanari has been photographing artists at work—either producing or installing their artworks in the context of major exhibitions and international events. The photographs reproduced within this publication capture with full spontaneity the working process involving artists, assistants, curators and peers.

Housed in his basement in Istanbul, Elio Montanari's extensive archive spans fifty years of independent production working with chemical photography. At the core of his practice is a desire to capture the beauty inherent within the image of labour. This is particularly evident in his photographs of hundreds of artists producing, installing and rehearsing their works for major art events and exhibitions around the world. Montanari pursued this area of interest from the early 1980s up until 2005, until a more professionalised and capitalist art world began to frown upon independent access, often capturing intimate moments shared with artists as they formed their work supported by assistants, curators and their peers.

This publication opens with responses to Montanari's work by Catherine David, Pier Paolo Calzolari and Donna Ferrato. The photographic content ranges in scope to include images taken during the production of the exhibitions “Ouverture” (1984), “Magiciens de la Terre” (1989), “Metropolis” (1991), and others that were evidently significant at the time, but seemed to have dropped off the map of art history, such as “Casino Fantasma” (1990). There are also images of rehearsals for major performative works, such as Claes Oldenburg, Coosje van Bruggen and Frank O. Gehry's The Course of the Knife (1985), and Matthew Barney's production of OTTOshaft (1992) at documenta IX. Additionally, Montanari's long-standing relationships with particular art world characters allows for a perspective on Pier Paolo Calzolari's installation of his exhibition at Castello di Rivoli in 1994, the inclusion of a portrait section, and a homage to James Lee Byars.

Language: English