New work by Valérie Belin to go on display at the V&A, London
Ten new works by award-winning photographer Valérie Belin will go on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Photography Centre later this month. As part of a special project, Belin was invited to create a new series inspired by the V&A’s collection of photographs – now one of the largest and most important in the world. Characterized by dreamlike scenes, which the artist obtains by superimposing images, Belin’s sophisticated and richly layered photographs explore the boundary between reality and imagination. For this project, Belin chose to focus on works from the permanent collection depicting signs, shop windows and storefronts: spaces which she considered to be specifically dedicated to the politics of theatricality and representation.
Belin took inspiration from several significant photographers represented in the V&A’s collections, including Eugène Atget, Walker Evans and Lee Friedlander, all of whom were drawn to the seductive nature of street scenes, specifically capturing signs and shop windows. In addition, Belin’s interests expanded to include commercial photography, such as that produced in the mid-century by the Worsinger Window Service – employed to record the window displays of department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue during a period of growing American consumerism between 1930 and 1950. The influence of these historical works is demonstrated in the exhibition through their presentation alongside Belin’s new work, which was shot by the photographer in Manhattan and various cities in the state of New York.
The new series, titled Reflection, thus reflects on the performance of consumerism through its intricately-woven textural layers of constructed images and text. Specifically, the work follows the theme of the ‘object of the showcase’ – a recurring subject in Belin’s work since the early 1990s: “The showcase, or the window, is a true ‘urban theatre’, open in the street; merchandise is exhibited and displayed against a decorative background. The window is also a transparent surface – and, paradoxically, a mirror. It’s the place where the urban landscape briefly appears as a reflection, in a variable manner according to the time of day, the lighting, and the position of the spectator.”
Valérie Belin’s Reflection series will go on display on October 23, 2019 at Gallery 101 of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Photography Centre, and runs through August 31, 2020. Three photographs from the series – Uptown Vision, Downtown Dresses, Manhattan and Lights On Lexington – have been acquired by the Museum, funded by the V&A Photographs Acquisitions Group.