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The Russian Museum

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21 September - 31 October 2006
Marble Palace

Nearly ten years ago Henry Buhl bought a photograph that impressed him and defined the theme of the collection. It was a portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe called Hands with Thimble (1920) by Alfred Stieglitz. Today the Buhl collection includes more than one thousand photos of hands, from daguerreotypes of the 19th century to modern works of photo art. The list of authors is also considerable: Man Ray, El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko, László Moholy-Nagy, Gustav Klutsis, Sigmar Polke, Robert Rauschenberg, Gilbert and George, Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Joel-Peter Witkin, John Baldessari, Cindy Sherman, Shirin Neshat… Buhl interpreted this theme freely, collecting not only the photographs of detached hands. Many works show a special role of the hand as a bearer of meanings — journalist or documentary photography, in which the content is reproduced through characteristic gestures. The other works from the collection have more likely the conceptual bond with hands than the literary one. However, in the whole variety Buhl manages to preserve a rather strict succession. Hands themselves are an interesting object for a collector, as the hand often symbolizes an instrument of acquisition and possession becoming a kind of a trademark. Thus, the Buhl collection possesses the self-portrait character, metaphorically fixing the processes of an author?s selection and the search of the objects for acquisition. Henry Buhl is a founder of a philanthropic organization that helps the homeless people to find job, training them in the elementary working skills. Hand, as an implement, and an image of a helping hand have a special meaning for him. The exhibition has been already shown in the Guggenheim Museum (New York and Bilbao) and in the Volkwang Museum in Essen where it was a great success.