Paul-Martial's World of Ordinary Things
Newly acquired photographs from the Herzog Collection
On July 5, 2014, the Kunstmuseum Basel opens a new exhibition presenting a selection of one hundred photographs from the archives of the Paris-based advertising agency Éditions Paul-Martial. The black-and-white pictures formed the basis for posters, newspaper advertisements, and brochures and show ordinary things: buildings, cars, typewriters, radiators, mannequins. What was unusual and novel, however, were the composition, lighting, and exposure of the pictures. In today’s perspective, the collection reflects the multifaceted evolution of photography from the 1920s onward. At the same time, it is an invaluable source for historians, documenting early forms of the carefully designed presentation of commodities and strategies designed to lure the consumer. The photographs are part of a collection newly acquired from the Herzog Collection and have never been on public display.
Cans make it possible to preserve food for the long term; zippers allow bags and pockets to be securely closed; rubber soles protect the walker from slipping; car jacks make it easier to change a tire: the advertising photographs produced by Éditions Paul-Martial tell stories about everyday life and how products like radiators, boilers, and cooking stoves help make it more pleasant. This renders the collection an extraordinarily valuable resource for historians: it illustrates the early history of the staging of consumer goods and the strategies employed to seduce the viewer. Beyond consumer products, the agency’s photographers also captured the new worlds of work in factories and offices and the rise of modern travel and communication technologies. For the time being, most of the photographs’ creators remained anonymous; in the business perspective, individual authorship was obviously a secondary concern, especially since the majority of the pictures were a sort of intermediate product to be used by graphic artists in the design of brochures and posters.
New Objectivity and Neues Sehen