Polidori’s Versailles at Galeria Carla Sozzani


Polidori’s Versailles at Galleria Carla Sozzani

We met renowned artist Robert Polidori at the vernissage of his new exhibition at Galleria Carla Sozzani this weekend. The French Canadian cum-New York photographer is well known for his imposing architectural reportage work, most recently for his deeply moving series of photographs of the devastation wrought on residential New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina. His past projects also include one of the only looks into the interiors of the abandoned habitations surrounding Chernobyl. In this exhibition, zeroing in specifically on the restoration of Versailles, are a series of photos, taken both in the mid 1980s and subsequently in the latter half of the last decade.

To those who have visited Versailles as tourist in all its punctiliously manicured perfection, Polidori’s images are strangely disorienting. As is common in his work, the sense of still and eternality is fully intact, but the disorder and imperfection in such an iconically untouchable place is an insight into its fragility. From an out of place painting, to a swatch of crumbling paint or conspicuously modern fire equipment hiding behind an open gold-lacquered door, the viewer gets the a sense that the palace is anything but eternal, and rather, is transitory and open to interpretation over time.

This intentionally forgotten layer of history – the focused modification (handily branded as restoration, because it was hardly straight preservation) of a palace originally intended to display unlimited grandeur and a point of pilgrimage today as a temple of an extreme monarch’s colossal (mis)use of wealth – is perhaps a key lesson in understanding the construction of history itself. Polidori summed up brilliantly, saying, “With Versailles, I had the opportunity to witness museum restoration but I realised what was really going on was historical revisionism. What does it mean to restore something? It means to make something old new again… When you choose to restore a certain room as it was in a certain period, the period you chose is based on your contemporary worldview.”

The series is full of gorgeous, rich images that require plenty of time to ponder, and amount to perhaps one of the most honest looks into Versailles you’ll ever come across. Opened at Galleria Carla Sozzani Saturday 15 January, and will run until March 27. 10 Corso Como in Milan.

Tag Christof