Random Thoughts: The Photography of Miroslav Tichy … Hype or Art?

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photo Print Collector on July 22, 2010 at 10:15 am


Courtesy ICP

With a recent major show at the International Center for Photography and a Howard Greenberg exhibit alongside images by Josef Sudek, (as well as European shows) … one would think we have a new art “Superstar” in Tichy.

Miroslav Tichy is known for his voyeuristic street photos of women, the use of various homemade cameras …


… and a state of mental illness that leaves him incapacitated in trying to lead a normal life … all the markings of a true tortured artist practicing outside the bounds of acceptable art circles.

“Not so fast” says Lorraine Anne Davis in the latest issue of Black and White magazine. She intimates that the “hype” is a conscious effort by collection owner Roman Buxman to profit from a mediocre artist’s romantic and tragic history. The photos have questionable provenance and prints are often in very poor condition. She also points out that “Tichy flunked out of art school”. She cites Glenn Ruga of the Photographic Resource Center in Boston with his belief the photos are not “formally complex” and “not worthy of our attention.”

Our reaction is that photographic art is found in standalone formal images and/or through background information presented on a particular image’s history or story.

The “artist” being “marketed” is found throughout art history… with prominent debatable examples today found all over the art world especially since the adoption of  conceptual art as a critical framework (Golden Calf anyone?)

We find the issue raised about print provenance interesting given the history of poor or no record keeping by photographers/collectors until relatively recent times. Yes, the Tichy images are often damaged but is that part of the allure or not?

We believe the marketplace and the viewer is the ultimate judge of art’s value … a critic can definitely influence both but a technical approach to understanding an art phenomenon is limited in its purview.

  1. I am not that familiar with Tichy, having only read a single article about him and I can’t even remember where I read that. I am by no means qualified to offer an opinion on whether his pictures are art or not, but his story is an interesting one, and flunking out of art school is not necessarily a bad thing in my mind. I agree completely with your statement about “the marketplace and the viewer” being the ultimate judge on the artistic worth. Art, like beauty, is ultimately in the eye of the beholder.

    • It is unfortunate that the ” market place ” is an “ultimate judge” of artistic worth. Does this mean that before Ansel Adam’s business manager signed on photography was of little worth.

      • Ahhh! Good point. If you mean intrinsic value you are are correct, if you mean monetary value we’ll stick with “the marketplace”.

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