Art Museum Tennis Palace will put on the first retrospective exhibition by Bettina Rheims (1952 in Paris), one of the most luminous and sensational contemporary photographers in France. The exhibition will be organised in collaboration with the artist and Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont of Paris. Rheims has been showing her work in galleries and museums since the early 1980s but this is the first comprehensive exhibition of her varied and talented work, with over 130 works from the earliest portraits in women in Female Trouble to the Shanghai series from 2002. After Helsinki, the exhibition will go on tour to Kunsternes Hus in Oslo and then to Germany, Austria and Italy.
Bettina Rheims started her career in the late 1970s by making a series of photographs of striptease dancers she met by chance in the street. The series was published in the Egoïste magazine in 1980 and made Rheims a celebrity. From the beginning of the 1980s, Rheims has moved with ease in the worlds of photographic art, fashion and advertisement; she also took the official portrait of the French president Jacques Chirac in 1995. Her most controversial and acclaimed works include I.N.R.I. (1997–98), made in collaboration with Serge Bramly. It portrays Christ in modern settings and its contemporary interpretations caused a scandal particularly in the Catholic Church.
But Rheims is best known as a dedicated portraitist of women, gifted at making her subjects blossom. No matter whether she is shooting Madonna or a saleswoman she met in the street, the photographs always convey an intensive and close relationship between the model and the photographer.
Bettina Rheims’ pictures are about posing, staging, deliberate illusion and considered seductiveness. Womanhood is just a role among others. Much of the fascination of Rheims’ photographs lies in their evanescent and volatile nature and confusion they cause – the sense that everything is not what it seems. This is especially obvious in her many portraits of transvestites and in the series of androgynous youth, entitled Modern Lovers (1989–90). Bettina Rheims is in full control of commercial glamour with all its clichés and makes powerful use of it in her art.
An extensive catalogue with Finnish and Norwegian text will be published in conjunction with the Bettina Rheims exhibition, with articles contributed by Jean-Christophe Ammann, Berndt Arell, Serge Bramly and Kim Levin. Its publisher is Schirmer/Mosel Verlag of Munich.
Partners in the exhibition are Anna magazine, M-Real, Air France, Image and the Centre Cultural Francaise in Helsinki.
Guided tours: guided tours are given free of charge in Finnish on Wednesdays at 18 o’clock and on Saturdays and Sundays at 14 o’clock, and in Swedish on the first and third Sunday of each month at 13 o’clock. To book a private tour, please call +358 9 310 87003.