Christian Tagliavini

05.12.2020 - 20.02.2021

Christian Tagliavini’s new and much anticipated series »Circesque« is on view at CAMERA WORK gallery from December 5, 2020 through February 20, 2021 for the very first time worldwide. The exhibition features more than 20 new extraordinary portraitures by Christian Tagliavini. »Circesque« is Tagliavini’s most complex, elaborate, and haunting series so far.

Christian Tagliavini

Christian Tagliavini (*1971 in Switzerland) studied graphic design and worked as an architect and graphic artist before focussing on photographic art in 2000. His artistic development shaped his complex relationship with the art form. His works are not simply »pictures« but designed narratives for which Christian Tagliavini designs all visible components himself: ranging from the interior of the set to the clothing of the protagonists. He regards himself as »photographic craftsman« with these unique compositions. His highly praised series »1503« (2010), »Carte« (2012), »Voyages Extraordinaires« (2015), and »1406« (2017) have been part of numerous international exhibitions and art fairs.

Tagliavini ranks among the most influential contemporary photographic artists in the field of staged photography. His works are part of leading international private, public, and corporate collections.

Christian Tagliavini works and lives in Switzerland and is exclusively represented by CAMERA WORK gallery.

The series »Circesque«

For his new and much-anticipated series »Circesque«, Christian Tagliavini was inspired by the famous American Circus Sideshows. Being part of the American culture, in Sideshows special women and men present their extraordinary talents and their incomparable personalities. For his personal narration »Circesque«, Tagliavini »invented« and created fictional personalities becoming the protagonists of his interpretation of his own sensational Sideshow.

More than 20 sublime and mysterious portraits show staggering figures that are beyond imagination but part of Tagliavini’s amazing intellectual world and fantasy. Each person in his visual cabinet – acrobats and tamers, amongst others – are being presented in a staged scene and in classic portraits. Based on his self-conception of a »photographic craftsman«, all contents of the images are handmade such as the backgrounds, floors, objects, applications, hats, and even the elaborate dresses. In the end, all elements conflate into a fascinating photographic work exuding harmony, dignity, and power.

With the series »Circesque«, Tagliavini exceeds all expectations and cements his exceptional position in the art world. Consequently, he continues being the most spectacular and most exclusive photographic artist in the field of staged portraiture. In comparison to his famous series »1503« and »1406« – with their visual composition inspired by the Renaissance – »Circesque« is more complex. Because of this process of creation and way of work, in »Circesque« Tagliavini fully unfolds his unique visual language and extraordinary abilities.

Artist Statement

Christian Tagliavini’s latest photographic series, »Circesque«, explores the untold lives of circus folk.

Stripped of the tired clichés of circus life, these mise-en-scène portraits reveal the human behind the archetype. The images betray the protagonists’ innermost feelings as they mount the platform, put themselves on the line, and take the risk: all under the watchful eye of their audience. »Circesque« invites the audience to tell the story for themselves, prompted by exquisitely detailed costumes, unexpected props, and a glimpse of the people behind the powder. The curtain parts and the story begins. Acrobats. Trapezists. High-wire performers. Escape artists. Tattooed ladies. Jugglers. Nature-defying contortionists. All present and accounted for as in any self-respecting big top.

But a closer look reveals some unusual details. Paper aeroplanes fall under their tamer’s spell with a mere carousel. A diminutive roller skater poses motionless on a pedestal. A high-wire artist sits on a small ladder balanced on a tightrope. A trapezist steals himself behind a trapeze, eluding his audience’s gaze. As they ready themselves for the next breath-taking stunt – the unforeseen, the unavoidable falls, the disappointments – their faces betray them. Fearful. Formidable. Focused. Inevitably, they fall. Dignified, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start again. Costumes and props complement the circus performer’s role, helping them express themselves. But they are also an armour, a mask that belies the true self. Tagliavini designed and, for the most part, crafted each prop himself. To achieve the series’ refined aesthetic, each model’s costume was tailored and dyed to perfection.

»Circesque« signals a point of departure from Tagliavini’s previous work. Unlike past series, it cannot be pinpointed to a given time or place. Nor does it correspond with an established style or movement. Instead, the series evolved slowly and instinctively: the patient product of slow photography. An initial fascination with the heaving, mobile city that was the circus and its traditional imagery gradually gave way to the allure of the sideshows with their outlandish acts.

This method was not without its challenges. In approaching his subject without the safety net of historical or stylistic references, much like a trapezist, Tagliavini took a leap of faith: opening himself up to the audience’s watchful gaze; exposing himself to the same risks, misgivings, and uncertainties. Will the spectator like it? Will they roll up! roll up! to see the show? Will they demand an encore? And most importantly: where will the next show be?

The curtain falls and the show ends, artist and artists alike leaving their stories untold. »La Strada« director Federico Fellini famously once said: »Non voglio dimostrare niente, voglio mostrare«, a »show, don’t tell« attitude that Tagliavini has made his own in »Circesque«. Are we not all simultaneously observing and observed? Are we not all maintaining a fine balance as we put ourselves on the line and take the spotlight?

Observe the artists, lose yourself in the details, and tell your own stories.

Dimensions and Editions

Most works exist in two sizes within one edition of 15: 85 x 68 cm and 160 x 128 cm.

All availabilities and prices are on request. Please request his list of works and you will receive all information and purchase options.

List of works