Pierre Leguillon: Arbus Bonus

September 21, 2019 – January 5, 2020

Pierre Leguillon’s interest in the lesser-known dimensions of eminent artists’ practices has been a motivating force throughout his career. His artwork-as-exhibition Arbus Bonus encompasses 256 images made or inspired by famed photographer Diane Arbus (1923–1971), who is well known for her street photography and candid portraits of society’s misfits and marginalized communities. While she only participated in one major museum exhibition during her lifetime, her work appeared far more frequently in magazines and newspapers; she also produced editorial, fashion, and commissioned portrait photography for publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Seventeen, and Harper’s Bazaar. In Arbus Bonus, Leguillon brings together every published magazine spread that features Arbus’s photography along with appropriations of her iconic compositions in the form of album covers, cartoons, and the work of other artists.

In presenting this idiosyncratic archive of Arbus’s work and its reverberations, Leguillon invites critical examination of the cultural construction of pictorial tropes and artistic mythologies, as well as consideration of the value ascribed to different types of visual material. Amassed through an intensive process of research and procurement, the images are taken directly from the publications in which they originally appeared and mounted by the artist in annotated, typological constellations within the gallery. Leguillon oversees all aspects of the installation, from the label text and font, to the framing, wall color, and placement of the shipping crates that double as exhibition furniture, exposing the structures—physical and hierarchical—embedded in our ways of seeing.

By creating a space that calls attention to Arbus’s major role in defining the image of American postwar popular culture, Arbus Bonus reveals the ways larger cultural histories are assembled and disseminated, and encourages us to form our own, more inclusive counter-narratives.

Pierre Leguillon (b. 1969, Nogent-sur-Marne, France) lives and works in Brussels, Belgium. He is known for transforming the slide-lecture format into performance art, including his “Diaporamas,” slideshows comprised of juxtapositions that offer unexpected connections and new classification systems. Leguillon also makes assemblages, dioramas, and performances exploring new ways to write history. His work has been the subject of monographic presentations at WIELS, Brussels (2015); Raven Row, London (2011); Mamco, Geneva (2010); the Moderna Museet, Malmö (2010); the Musée du Louvre (Paris, 2009), and Artists Space (New York, 2009). He published the journal Sommaire (1991–1996), and his writing has appeared in Purple, Art Press, and Journal des Arts.

Pierre Leguillon: Arbus Bonus is organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Amanda Donnan.

Pierre Leguillon. Installation views of Arbus Bonus, 2014. 256 framed magazine pages, pile of vintage magazines, 11 crates, captions. Dimensions variable. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh: The Henry L. Hillman Fund, 2014.13.1-.269. Photo: Bryan Conley.