Following an exhibit of its Weegee collection at Mana Contemporary Jersey City, the International Center of Photography (ICP) will open the doors to its new space at 250 Bowery tomorrow. Untapped Cities got a sneak preview and curator walk through of the space this week. The new space, located diagonally across from the New Museum, is on the first two floors and basement of a building designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). The glass front facade entrance opens onto a freely accessible space, described by the museum like a “village square,” with a cafe, a bookstore and rotating photography on display.
The first exhibit that inaugurates the new museum space is Public, Private, Secret, an exploration of personal privacy in an increasingly public society, studying how “contemporary self-identity is tied to public visibility.” Public, Private, Secret is curated by ICP’s first Curator-in-Residence Charlotte Cotton, with ICP Associate Curator Pauline Vermare and Assistant Curator Marina Chao. As Chao tells us in the walkthrough, the museum knew they needed to bring in someone to “help us think through what it means to be downtown and to deal with 21st century photography – a theme we’ve be wrestling with a long time now.”
It’s a fitting first exhibition for the institution, founded in 1974, by Cornell Capa, brother of famed war photographer Robert Capa. From the inception, the goal of the museum was to provide awareness for “Concerned Photography,” images connected to humanitarian and social ideals. Public, Private, Secret addresses imagery in today’s world – its proliferation, its impact on personal privacy, and how new technology and modes of consumption are resetting boundaries.
As Chao says, “Privacy as a photographic theme predates the digital revolution – we’ve included a 19th century stereoscope as a reminder of that. What’s especially interesting to our team is that photography is a medium uniquely positioned to deal with what we are seeing in this culture. We wove in data mining in a way I haven’t seen in institutional settings, and I think what’s special about this exhibit is that it is deeply psychological and personal.”
The works in Public, Private, Secret come from many different time periods, with photographs, videos and other works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Ron Galella (the infamous paparazzo following Jackie Kennedy), Weegee, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Vik Muniz, celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan, and more. The installation is shown on mirrored walls, bringing the viewer into the dialogue presented by the curation. Yet, the material warps the reflection – things are not quite what they seem.
Televisions play CCTV footage, with a note warning guests that they waive all rights to be photographed. In a timely design decision, both for the opening exhibit and for current societal debate, there are gender neutral bathrooms and gendered bathrooms in the new ICP museum.
The new location of ICP at 250 Bowery will open tomorrow at 10am. Scroll below for a more photos of the exhibition and the space: