Nan Goldin is an American photographer best-known for her deeply personal and candid portraiture. Her photographs serve to document herself and those closest to her, particularly the LGBTQ community and associated heroin-addicted subcultures.
Influenced by the fashion photography of Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, Goldin's earliest photographic works are portraits of close friends glamorously dressed in drag. From the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, while she was living in New York, Goldin continued to socialise with and photograph people of ambiguous gender. She intended her work to be an homage to their beauty and courage; exploring drag and its ability to fulfil the fantasy of reconstructed identities.
When Goldin first encountered drag queens in 1972, she quickly became obsessed. She explained:
‘I was eighteen and felt like I was a queen too- they became my whole world. Part of my worship of them involved photographing them. I wanted to pay homage, to show them how beautiful they were. I never saw them as men dressing up as women, but as something entirely different - a third gender that made more sense than either of the other two. I accepted them as they saw themselves; I had no desire to unmask them with my camera.’ The Other Side, p.5.)
Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi is part of a large series of colour photographs of glamorous drag queens taken by Goldin in New York, Paris and Berlin in 1991. This picture was taken in a cab as her friends headed uptown to join their float in the New York City Pride March. Misty and Jimmy Paulette stare directly at the camera from the backseat of the taxi. The camera’s flash has illuminated their heavy makeup and shiny clothes. In 2018, Goldin collaborated with the clothing brand Supreme by contributing three of her photographs, Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi, NYC (1991), Kim in Rhinestones, Paris (1991), and Nan as a dominatrix, Cambridge, MA (1978) to their spring/summer collection.
With her captivating and immediate 'snapshot' style, Nan Goldin's photography creates an intersection of autobiographical detail and documentary storytelling, as she honestly captures her friends as they live their lives, creating a body of work that is at once radical, intimate, personal, joyful and moving. Her circle of friends, subsumed as they were in the New York counter-culture of the 1970s and 80s, are shown in their beds, kitchens and living rooms, embracing, dancing, kissing, dressing, undressing and shooting up with a casual immediacy and frankness that can be disconcerting for the viewer. Yet Goldin was not a casual observer of this lifestyle, and was instead a close friend of all the people depicted, living with them and participating in this hedonistic lifestyle.
The Hug and Skinhead with Child, London, 1978 are two works that were included in the Ballad of Sexual Dependency, the over-arching name for a body of work created by Goldin depicting her social circle and their life through the 1970s and 80s. Created over many years, it was originally presented by the artist as a slideshow set to music, totalling approx. 700 images in a period of around 45 minutes, before being published as a book in 1986. It has more recently been re-presented in its original slideshow format in a selection of art institutions. Included in our August 2018 Contemporary & Post-War Art auction, The Hug sold for £3,750 incl premium while Skinhead with Child, London, 1978 achieved £3,750 incl premium.
Today, Goldin’s works are held in collections worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tate Modern, London, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
AUCTION | Contemporary & Post-War Art | Thursday 16th April at 11am | Online Only