Installing Henry VIII

Yesterday, we installed seven large, lead-framed photographs at LACMA that constitute Hiroshi Sugimoto’s powerful Henry VIII and His Six Wives “portraits.”

When you first enter the dark gallery, you might be confused by what these pictures are—whether they depict actors dressed as Henry and his wives or whether they’re amazingly photorealistic paintings. They are, in fact, photographs of waxworks made by the legendary Madame Tussaud. For each, Sugimoto placed a black velvet cloth behind them and used a 3/4 turned and cropped framing of the “figures” akin to the first portrait photographers in the mid-nineteenth century. In so doing, Sugimoto breathes photographic life into the layers of simulation and equivalence of his historic subjects.

henry450

Henry VIII and His Six Wives, 1999
Seven gelatin-silver prints, edition 3/10
Courtesy the artist and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Hiroshi Sugimoto

aragon450

Catherine of Aragon
Queen of England, 1509–1533
Divorced

boleyn

Anne Boleyn
Queen of England, 1533–1536
Executed

seymour450

Jane Seymour
Queen of England, 1536–1537
Died

cleves450

Anne of Cleves
Queen of England, 1540 (January–July)
Divorced

howard450

Catherine Howard
Queen of England, 1540–1542
Executed

parr450

Catherine Parr
Queen of England, 1543–1547
Widowed

I’m so pleased we were able to bring these works to LACMA for the 500th anniversary of Henry’s accession to the English throne (and recommend you check out the wonderful Twitter site, I Am Henry VIII, which sends you bizarrely casual and daily updates from Henry on the build up to his June 24 coronation). To see Henry VIII and His Six Wives installed within this encyclopedic museum is quite amazing, potentially activating our imaginations upon all manner of historic objects and their possible stories.

Charlotte Cotton

4 Responses to Installing Henry VIII

  1. Wow, those are so beautiful and so three dimensional that Henry and his wives look as if they could walk out of the photos! They must be even more amazing in real life.

  2. Apolon says:

    These look great and I can’t wait to see them next time I come to LACMA.

    But I could’ve sworn I saw that these were passed up in the yearly Acquisitions Committee (?) meeting in favor of ‘Burn, Baby, Burn’ and the new textiles.

    Are these a permanent acquisition or a temporary exhibit? Did someone else come through with the funding for these works even though the Committee passed them up? Or did I just read the press release wrong? Would love to know the story behind the acquisition!

  3. Hi Apolon, thanks for your question. The Sugimoto installation is currently a temporary exhibit. As you note, the photos were offered for acquisition at the Collectors Committee, but only the Matta and the Kuba textiles were acquired. We haven’t given up on these–we’re working with some individual donors toward the Sugimotos, though at this time we’re still trying to raise the necessary funds. In the meantime, the piece is on loan to us and we felt the public would appreciate the opportunity to see it. If indeed we are able to acquire the work, we will let you know.

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