After a long absence from my blog and from travel, I am extremely pleased to have been able to once again take in an exhibition. I don’t know if the Martin Parr show at the Villa Medici was intended to be a show for COVID-times, or if it is merely a happy coincidence, however, the exhibition is a photography show in the open air. I have rarely experienced these other than on the fence that runs along Les Jardins du Luxembourg in Paris, which is OK, but a rather terrible setting, and the odd temporary things you meet on the road that are neither curated, nor usually very interesting.
The Parr show on the contrary is well thought out and placed in a corner of the Villa Medici gardens, high above the rooftops of Rome. Using various formats from maybe 1.5 m tall by 4 m wide, to smaller 30 cm by 40 cm, a couple even smaller, and finally a few lawn loungers with Parr images printed on the seating fabric. The show offers various views of Parr’s work in an unusual setting.
This section of the Villa Medici gardens are laid out with a grid gravel path and tall hedges that make up large rectangular spaces of grass with a few architectural fragments, the occasional sculpture, but still quite formal. You walk the path, get to an opening and step in. There are ‘6 rooms’ in the show, closed off with fences and images on two ends. The show takes up only a portion of the whole garden, and the balance is blocked off for those that pay for another ticket to tour the gardens. Not cool, but at COVID times, I guess any museum is excused for gouging a little. It has been a heavy drought in the money department for most all of them, the private ones in particular.
Unfortunately for me, I guess I have seen too many Parr shows in the past few years and found that most of the images in this show are retreads of greatest hits. The scale of the images do nothing for quality, and the fact that they are set the way they are, exposed to the elements, it is perhaps understandable that it is more about the image than the quality of printing. As prolific as Parr is, there is a certain disappointment – at least on my part – when you see the same lady on the beach with her eye protection, and the man with the hat not quite covering the bald spot. But, I must say, I was happy just to be there and see photography once again.
Was it great? No. Was it worth seeing? Yes. Would I pay for it if I knew what I was going to get? Probably. I was just happy to be among photographs again.