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James Nitsch, Razor Blade, 1976, OstLicht Collection, Vienna
Nobuyoshi Araki, Lady Gaga, 2009. Polaroid SX-70 © Nobuyoshi Araki, Courtesy Fotosammlung OstLicht
Ellen Carey, Pulls (CMY), 1997. Polaroid 20x24 Polacolor © Ellen Carey, Jayne H. Baum Gallery, NYC, NY and M+B Gallery, LA, CA
Sandi Fellman, Grey Lion, Tokyo, Japan, 1983. Polaroid 20x24 Polacolor © Sandi Fellman
Barbara Crane, Private Views, 1981. Polaroid 4x5 Polacolor Type 58 © Barbara Crane, Courtesy Fotosammlung OstLicht
Robert Heinecken, Foodgram, ca. 1983. Polaroid 20x24 Polacolor, Fotogramm OstLicht Collection, Vienna © Robert Heinecken, Courtesy Fotosammlung OstLicht
Andy Warhol, Andy Sneezing, 1978. Polaroid SX-70 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. / VBK Wien 2017, Courtesy Fotosammlung OstLicht



Opening reception: 17.11.2017, 7 pm

Polaroid! The brand has long become a universal myth. The uses Polaroid initiated still inspire our everyday photography—as a quick check on Instagram suggests. For the first time the exhibition explores the Polaroid phenomenon at the intersection of art and technology in its full scope. Outstanding artists—from Ansel Adams to Andy Warhol—seized the medium of instant photography to strike new paths and came to define the aesthetics of an era. The Polaroid Project combines their unique creations with ground-breaking technology—camera specimen, concept studies and prototypes—which made this visual revolution possible in the first place. Vienna, which since 2010 is the new home of the International Polaroid Collection thanks to the initiative of WestLicht founder Peter Coeln, is the first stop of the exhibition in Europe.

The exhibition presents some 200 Polaroids by nearly 100 photographers, from the Corporation’s beginnings until today, focusing on the second half of the twentieth century. Along with these one-of-a-kind pictures in their characteristic formats—ranging from the well-known SX-70 snapshot with its large frame (8.8×10.7 cm) to the fascinatingly detailed 20×24-inch large format (50×60 cm)—the exhibition’s emphasis on instant-photography technology demonstrates that the creativity of the company’s founder, Edwin Land, and his team was on par with that of the artists themselves. Before the company missed the boat on the digital evolution, Polaroid was synonymous with visionary technology, comparable to the status of Apple at the start of the new millennium. It’s hardly a coincidence that Steve Jobs was one of the biggest admirers of Edwin Land and his inventions.

Today, the Polaroid phenomenon is more popular than ever, especially with the younger generation, as a unique, analog alternative to the onslaught of digital images. A venerable brand like Leica recently launched its first instant camera. And The Impossible Project, which revived the instant image process after Polaroid went bankrupt, is now trading under the legendary name, albeit in fresh garb: Polaroid Originals—with new film stock and a new camera in tow.

With Polaroids by Nobuyoshi Araki, Sibylle Bergemann, Anna & Bernhard Blume, Guy Bourdin, Ellen Carey, Helen Chadwick, Chuck Close, Marie Cosindas, Barbara Crane, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Joan Fontcuberta, Toto Frima, Luigi Ghirri, Richard Hamilton, Robert Heinecken, Gottfried Helnwein, Jan Hnizdo, David Hockney, Barbara Kasten, David Levinthal, Ulrich Mack, Robert Mapplethorpe, James Nitsch, Robert Rauschenberg, Lucas Samaras, Fazal Sheikh, William Wegman, Erwin Wurm and many more.

The Polaroid Project was coproduced by WestLicht and OstLicht. Gallery for Photography, Vienna, MIT Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts and Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography, Minneapolis / New York / Paris / Lausanne; curated by Deborah G. Douglas, William A. Ewing, Barbara P. Hitchcock, Rebekka Reuter and Gary Van Zante.

Exhibition Catalogue

Bringing together more than 300 works by internationally renowned artists, this book is the first to provide a comprehensive view of the Polaroid phenomenon at the intersection of art and technology.

With essays by Christopher Bonanos, Todd Brandow, Peter Buse, Deborah G. Douglas, William A. Ewing, Barbara P. Hitchcock, Dennis Jelonnek, Rebekka Reuter, John Rohrbach and Gary Van Zante.

The Polaroid Project – At the Intersection of Art and Technology, Thames & Hudson 2017, 288 pages, softcover, 39 Euro

Catalogue order here>>


Pictures from the opening event here>>

The Video of the opening event can be found here>>