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Ivo Pogorelich in the lens of great photographers

Ever since his dramatic rise on the international music stage at the beginning of the eighties, Ivo Pogorelich has found himself the focus of numerous photographers who quickly made his face globally recognisable, even far outside the boundaries of classical music. The face of the charismatic pianist with a rebellious spirit thus became one of the symbols of an entire generation coming of age in a period marked by art, but also fashion magazine covers, often baring the face of Ivo Pogorelich himself.

The front pages of Vogue’s journal L’uomo or the photos in the extravagant Paris magazine Egoïste, are just some of the examples of the confirmation of the iconicity of the artist’s face at the time of his spectacular international affirmation, representing to this very day a unique case of the global popularity of a classical musician.

Ivo Pogorelich on the cover page of February issue of Vogue’s magazine L’uomo in 1984 (left), and inside of Franch art-journal Egoïste No. 10 from 1987 (above).

Ivo Pogorelich was presented to the international community for the first time in a series of portraits by the German photographer Werner Neumeister taken in 1981, when Pogorelich recorded his first studio album for Deutsche Grammophon. This was to be followed by a chain of significant and, in those days cult photographs, through cooperation with artists such as Malcolm Crowthers, Davor Šiftar, Reinhardt Wolf, Susesch Bayat, and Jože Suhadolnik to name but a few.
A special place in this series belongs to the British master of photography, Malcolm Crowthers, whose portraits of Pogorelich from the beginning of the 1980’s, in addition to its documentary value, also possesses distinct artistic qualities, equal only to the inspiring compositions of the legendary photographer from Zagreb, Marija Braut, taken during the same period. Crowthers’ portrait style stands out for its static and contemplative compositions directed towards the presentation of the artist’s psychological state and moment of contemplative transcendence. The works of Croatian photographer, Rajko Šimunović, create a certain contrast to such images, succeeding in capturing and maintaining the moment of Pogorelich’s spontaneity on the instrument, and still radiate with suggestive engagement today…

Ivo Pogorelich, portrait by Marija Braut, 1984. 

If we were to set aside the aforementioned contemplation as a specific feature of Pogorelich’s spirit, the most varied photographic evidence of his contemplative aura might be best seen in the recent works of Spanish photographer, Bernard Martinez and the Frenchman, Pierre-Anthony Allard. Those, in a specific way, are joined by a slightly older portrait by the Slovenian photographic master, Jože Suhadolnik, from the 1990’s. The “biographical portrait  of maestro Pogorelich is inevitably complemented by the photographic works of Susesch Bayat, Deutsche Grammophon’s portraitist for many years, which have gained the status of his official portraits. In these photographs, however, in addition to the documentary dimension, what is equally noticeable is the significant skill of the author to effectively achieve the photographic mediation of the naturalness and simplicity of Pogorelich’s expression.

The unique chronological culmination of this retrospective was achieved through a discreet dialogue between the old and new works of Malcolm Crowthers. Through a deliberate, yet charming game played with Pogorelich’s repetitious poses and gestures, identical to those from his anthological portraits made almost forty years ago, Crowthers’ new works achieve a palpable and convincing impression of continuity. This continuity, achieved in the media of photography, discretely and symbolically also denote the character of Ivo Pogorelich’s artistic endeavours over the last forty years.