By Caryn Coyle

“It looks like a painting. But it is reality,” said Baltimore Museum of Art visitor Toby Brookes of Columbia, Md. She stood in front of German photographer Candida Höfer’s interior of the Library of the Archiginnasio in Bologna, Italy, adding, “You can’t escape the crack in the marble floor even in the beauty of this photo. This is a fabulous portrait of a building that is in use.”

The Baltimore Museum of Art’s “Candida Höfer: Interior Worlds” runs through Sunday, Feb. 26 and features 13 six foot tall photos of European and American interiors, including Baltimore’s George Peabody Library and the Walters Art Gallery. The exhibit “demonstrates how the artist goes beyond documenting architecture to capture moments of contemplative beauty,” according to the BMA.

(credit: Caryn Coyle)

On the marble floor of the Bologna library are speckled diamonds in salmon and beige and the bookshelves are all deep blue and brown. The books are shelved behind criss-crossed black wire. Photos of the Baltimore Peabody Library share the wall with the Bologna photo. In the Peabody photos, the skylight illuminates the library’s multi colored books. The light-colored cast iron balconies in the Peabody Library rise from its ornate black and white patterned floor.

According to Kristen Hileman, the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Curator of Contemporary Art, the Walters Art Museum and the George Peabody Library “graciously opened their doors to become sites for contemporary art-making. The resulting series of images juxtaposes the exciting, post-Industrial Revolution density of the cast iron decoration in the library’s 19th century reading room with the refined, Italian Renaissance-inspired space of the early 20th century museum interior.”

(credit: Baltimore Museum of Art)

The Höfer exhibit is housed in a suite of galleries that were designed by John Russell Pope in 1937. They feature skylights and elaborate ceiling moldings, not unlike the Höfer interiors that are hung on the warm, wine colored and light green walls. They invite “quiet study. In the artist’s works, light emanating from fixtures and windows, as well as bouncing off immaculately polished walls and floors, might be seen as a metaphor for the acts of illumination and reflection that occur in buildings dedicated to preserving and presenting culture,” according to the museum’s introduction to Höfer’s work.

Born in Eberswalde, Germany in 1944, Candida Höfer is an internationally renowned photographer.  Her work is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“I am amazed at her talent,” said Ethel Brandt, who viewed the exhibit with members of the Art Museum Resource of Howard Community College. Brandt added that she had just been to the Walters Art Gallery and stood at Höfer’s photos of the Walters, “That she is willing to devote her time to this, it is pure art.”

There will be a free lecture, “Candida Höfer and the Poetry of Architecture,” by art critic and historian Michael Fried on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. Space is limited, so contact the Baltimore Museum of Art for details.

“Candida Höfer: Interior Worlds” through Sunday, Feb. 26
The Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, Md. 21218
Hours: Wed-Fri 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Sat-Sun 11 a.m- 6 p.m. 

Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.


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