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Luigi Ghirri - Preview

Luigi Ghirri

The Idea of Building

October 22 - December 19, 2020
526 W 22 Street

Press Release

Matthew Marks is pleased to announce Luigi Ghirri: The Idea of Building, the next exhibition in his gallery at 526 West 22nd Street. Organized by the artist Matt Connors, the exhibition features twenty-nine vintage prints, as well as a selection of books and ephemera from Ghirri’s personal archive.

“To me, as a painter,” Connors writes in an accompanying statement, “the photographs of Luigi Ghirri are built rather than composed, things rather than images.” The works on view, which span Ghirri’s career, highlight the photographer’s mission to conflate and confuse the physical world with the world of the image. The exhibition title comes from a text by Paola Ghirri, the photographer’s widow, describing Ghirri’s fascination with hand-built objects. This fascination shaped not only his approach to printing — each print is unique — but also the subjects he sought out and the way he composed them in pictures.

When Ghirri took a photograph, he often flattened his subject by shooting it head-on. In Lucerna (1971), an optician’s sign seen against an overcast sky could be mistaken for a fragment cut from a larger portrait. Ghirri’s photographs, with their flattened, interlocking elements, feel not so much observed as assembled. Many people, he wrote, “have mistaken these photographs for photomontages.”

In keeping with Ghirri’s conceptual approach to photography, he rarely made more than one print of an image. The works in the exhibition, which include well-known photographs and others never shown before, capture different aspects of what he called the “colossal photomontage” that surrounds us: images turned into objects (a painting used as a table in Modena, 1978), invisible things made visible (musical notes on a record sleeve in Modena, 1979), and readymade collages found in the street (the suburban walls of his Catalogo series, 1970–79). When he wrote about his intentions with the Catalogo photographs, he could have been describing his entire artistic vision: “to make distinctions and see connections, to reveal relationships between the parts, or to take mechanisms apart.”

Luigi Ghirri (1943–1992) spent his working life in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. He exhibited extensively during his lifetime, but only since his untimely death has his work begun to be more widely appreciated. In 2010 Thomas Demand organized the acclaimed exhibition “La Carte d’Après Nature” around Ghirri’s photographs, and Ghirri’s work was featured in the Venice Biennale in 2011 and 2013. In 2018 his work was the subject of a full retrospective at the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany, which traveled to the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid and the Jeu de Paume in Paris.

Luigi Ghirri: The Idea of Building is on view by appointment at 526 West 22nd Street from October 22 to December 19, 2020. To make an appointment, please click here. For additional information, please contact Jacqueline Tran at 212-243-0200 or

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