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The Magnum Gallery is pleased to present a selection of works from RUINS, the monumental oeuvre by Josef Koudelka spanning almost three decades of recent work. The exhibition coincides with, and culls from, the artist’s current solo exhibition at the Biblioteque National de France, Francois-Mitterand (September 15 – December 16, 2020) as well as book (Xavier Barral, 2020) of the same name.
For more than 20 years, Koudelka has traveled through the Mediterranean — visiting countries including Italy, Libya, Greece, and Syria — to photograph more than 200 archaeological sites. Stark and mesmerizing panoramic photographs take the viewer to Delphi, Pompeii, Petra, Carthage, and other ancient locations, including sites now greatly altered or destroyed due to recent conflict. Ruins is a monument of architectural and cultural history, as well as civilizations long past.
These landscapes are an ode to the ruins of The Mediterranean Sea, and challenge us on the need to safeguard the heritage of this civilization; some of the traces photographed by Josef Koudelka have now disappeared, destroyed by wars and terrorism, as in Palmyra. The photographer thus enhances a territory, at the origins of our European cultures, rich in the circulations that have shaped it and the archipelagos that inhabit it. What drives Koudelka here, as in all of his previous work, is the search for beauty, a beauty that can nestle in the heart of destruction but which, like that of ancient ruins, resists.
Josef Koudelka, born in Moravia, made his first photographs while he was a student in the 1950s. About the same time that he started his career as an aeronautical engineer in 1961 he also began photographing gypsies in Czechoslovakia and theater in Prague. He turned full-time to photography in 1967. He has won significant awards such as the Prix Nadar (1978), a Grand Prix National de la Photographie (1989), a Grand Prix Cartier-Bresson (1991), and the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1992).
Significant exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; the Hayward Gallery, London; the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art, Amsterdam; the Palais de Tokyo, Paris. In the fall of 2020, the BnF (Bibliothèque nationale de France) in Paris opened the solo exhibition «Ruines» (catalogue by Xavier Barral), a vast photographic study of Mediterranean archeological ruins which will subsequently travel to Rome.