Mikhail Baryshnikov, a Russian dancer who defected to the West in 1974, moves through dance as Alice in Wonderland through the mirror. Firstly as a dancer, often cited as one of the three best dancers in history with Nijinsky and Nureyev; secondly as a choreographer and artistic director; and, finally, as a photographer. Baryshnikov enjoys a special place to document movement and energy in a way that the viewer gets a second chance to appreciate what is missed in such rapid gestures. Bold and colourful to the point of almost abstraction in some photographs where the figures morphs into another entity.
Untitled #2. Courtesy Mikhail Baryshnikov and ContiniArtUK
The exhibition titled: Dancing Away, currently in the ContiniArtUK Gallery in Bond Street, Mayfair, London, until the 31st of January, is a serene invitation to rediscover the physical aspect of dance. Through the use of a technique known as long exposure photography, which involves opening the camera shutter for a long duration of time, thus exposing the lens to more light. The result records the transition through several positions that takes place while dancing. The viewer becomes a diver who keeps immersing themselves in and out of a work of stunning beauty. It is impossible not to.
Dr Diego Giolitti, one of the ContiniArtUK directors, has kindly agreed to respond to the following questions:
1. Can you tell us a bit about ContiniArtUk Gallery’s background and about yourself?
ContiniArtUK was opened in May 2014 and is owned by Cristian Contini, the son of Italian gallery owner Stefano Contini. The gallery is set over two floors in Mayfair, Central London and exhibits both contemporary and modern art. The Dancing Away exhibition will be shown alongside a permanent collection of works from artists represented by ContiniArtUK. Artists include Mario Arlati, Fernando Botero, Teresa Emanuele, Enzo Fior, Enrico Ghinato, Robert Indiana, Julio Larraz, Helidon Xhixha, and Igor Mitoraj.
I am a specialist in emerging art markets, with a focus on Iranian, Middle Eastern and Russian contemporary art. I studied at the University of Venice, specialising in Persian Studies as well as at the University of Cambridge with a PhD focusing on Iranian contemporary art and gender. I have worked as a lecturer at SOAS in London, at the University of Cambridge and at the University Ca’Foscari in Venice. I am also an experienced gallery director, having worked in San Francisco, Amsterdam, Paris, and my native Venice.
2. How did you start having a working relationship with Baryshnikov?
Mikhail Baryshnikov has previously collaborated with Stefano Contini in Italy. Cristian and I thought of asking Baryshnikov to exhibit his work in London (for the first time) as soon as the gallery opened in May. We knew how much the UK loved Baryshnikov and the fact that we were already acquainted with his amazing photographic work made the choice a natural one. Baryshnikov was very enthusiastic with the idea and since the very beginning has given us his full support.
3. Where did the title of the exhibition Dancing Away come from?
The title was chosen by Baryshnikov. His exhibitions all have very similar titles: Dance this way, Dancing away. His main goal is to translate the importance of capturing the sense of movement in his photographic work.
Untitled #12. Courtesy Mikhail Baryshnikov and ContiniArtUK
4. Baryshnikov was very generous in paying homage to pioneers photographers in the Dance field such as: Alexey Brodovitch, Paul Himmel and Irving Penn. In which ways you can see their influences in his works?
Baryshnikov definitely studied and was inspired by these masters of photography (he has practised photography and studied the subject for more than 20 years). But in my own opinion Baryshnikov has absorbed and digested previous works in the field and found his own way. What is interesting in his approach to photography is that, like no other, he has been able to translate his trained mind, advanced awareness of the body, and almost mystical perception of movement into a two-dimensional work of art.
5. Photographs taken by one of the most respected dancers and choreographers in the world provide us with a privileged insight in the world of dance, specially movement and energy. What do you think the viewer can learn from this exhibition?
What I am most impressed by is Baryshnikov’s embracement of the world of dance as a whole. He is not focusing only on the elite world of classical ballet – Baryshnikov’s message is that dance has no colour or cultural entity, but is the expression of the soul no matter where you are from. None of his photos are staged, they portray actual performances or have been taken from the streets of Rio or on a beach in Hawaii.
For more information, please visit ContiniArtUK website on www.continiartuk.com
Untitled #32. Courtesy Mikhail Baryshnikov and ContiniArtUK