Brassaï – Graffiti

HIDDE VAN SEGGELEN proudly presents an exhibition of photographs by Brassaï, from his extensive series Graffiti. The exhibition is on view until 19 February 2023.  Begun in the 1930s and continuing into the 1960s, the photographs were taken in Paris and depict close-ups of graffiti carved into and painted onto walls around the city. Brassaï was interested in the marginal art form of graffiti, seeing it as a form of outsider art that could open the door to new forms of artistic expression. His atmospheric photographs capture the essence of this free form of creation. Stark contrasts of black and white alternate with softer shades of grey that meld into one another, smoothing the harsh gouges typical of graffiti.

Brassaï worked on the series alongside other projects for three decades, culminating in the publication of the photobook Graffiti in 1961. The photographs were printed by Brassaï in the 1950s as working proofs for the book and as a result are marked by the artist on the back with cropping instructions and page numbers; some also have small white crop marks on the front. Brassäi is best known for his images of Paris at night in the 1930s and 1940s. During this time, he captured images of deserted streets, prostitutes, lovers, sailors, and café night life, using extreme lighting conditions. With his contributions to the Surrealist magazine “Minotaure”, he became friends with Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Jacque Lipchitz. When photographing in the streets, Brassaï treated the graffiti he came across as found objects, respecting the original creators but at the same time using his judgment to make a selection, choosing only those he considered to be a formal success.

 The prints presented by HIDDE VAN SEGGELEN are from a group retained by Brassaï’s publisher, Chr. Belser Verlag in Stuttgart until the 1990s when they entered the collection of Wolfgang Wittrock, who opened his gallery in 1974 with a solo of Brassaï and remained friends with the artist until his death. Small groups of the prints were sold by him to Claude Berri, Paris, Paviot Gallery, Paris, Gallery Kicken Berlin and TATE Modern, London. Brassaï’s graffiti images were first published in Minotaure in 1933 and were exhibited in 1956 at MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in a show organized by the American photographer and curator Edward Steichen. A number of the graffiti images are also in the collection of MoMA.

 Please contact the gallery for more information.