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 Pieter Hugo  (1976 - )

About: Pieter Hugo


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Lived/Active: South Africa/Italy      Known for: documentary photography, portrait

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Artist Statement:


There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends is a series of head and shoulder identikit style portraits of my friends and me, all of whom call South Africa home. Through a digital process of converting colour images to black and white while manipulating the colour channels, I emphasize the pigment (melanin) in my sitters’ skin so they appear heavily marked by blemishes and sun damage. The resulting portraits are the antithesis of the airbrushed images that constitute the canons of beauty in popular culture, and expose the contradictions of racial distinctions based on skin colour. As the critic Aaron Schuman writes, “although at first glance we may look ‘black’ or ‘white’, the components that remain ‘active’ beneath the surface consist of a much broader spectrum. What superficially appears to divide us is in fact something that we all share, and like these photographs, we are not merely black and white - we are red, yellow, brown, and so on; we are all, in fact, coloured.”The title of the series comes from a Morrissey song. There is a verse in it that has particular resonance with me:

“All that we hope Is when we go Our skin And our blood And our bones Don’t get in your way.
In these portraits one sees how the sitters’ environment, a place where there is incredibly harsh sunlight, has started to ‘corrode’ our epidermis. This speaks to me about the South African colonial experiment - all these people from all over the world, thrown together within the confines of a nation by the forces of history. The damage left by the sun and the environment becomes allegorical of the burden of South Africa’s tempestuous and fraught past. History leaves its marks on us. It eats away at us. We cannot escape its heavy weight.


Born 1976 in Johannesburg; lives in Cape Town.


This Must Be the Place, Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne
This Must Be the Place, The Hague Museum of Photography, The Netherlands

Permanent Error, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Permanent Error, Cokkie Snoei, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Permanent Error, Contact Photography Festival, Toronto
?Permanent Error, MAXXI - National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome
Nollywood, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand
Nollywood, Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Auckland
Nollywood, Théâtre de La Ville, Paris

Permanent Error, Michael Stevenson, Cape Town;
Brodie Stevenson, Johannesburg
Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
Photographic Centre Peri, Turku, Finland
Le Brass, Brussels
Shoshana Wayne Gallery, Los Angeles
Le Chateau d’Eau, Toulouse, France?
Colette, Paris
The Hyena and Other Men, Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art, Israel
Nollywood, Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
Nollywood, Cokkie Snoei Gallery, Amsterdam
Nollywood, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, Australia

21c Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Bass Museum, Miami, Florida
Cincinnati Art Museum
Daimler Art Collection
Deutsche Börse Group, Frankfurt
Ethnologische Museum, Berlin
FNAC, France
Foam Photography Museum, Amsterdam
Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany
Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, Modena, Italy
Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, The Netherlands
Huis Marseille, Amsterdam
Johanesburg Art Gallery, South Africa
Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
LaSalle Bank, Chicago, Illinois
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris
Margulies Collection, Miami, Florida
Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
MOMA, New York
MUDAM, Luxembourg
Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland
MUSAC_Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León
Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey
North Carolina Museum of Art
Progressive Art Collection, Cleveland
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
South African National Gallery, Cape Town
Victoria & Albert Museum
The Walther Collection, Burlafingen, Germany
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachu

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