Shunk-Kender: A Legendary Partnership in Photography

An exhibition named Shunk-Kender: Art Through the Lens, 1957-1983 dedicated to the collaborative works between photographers Harry Shunk and János Kender is now up for viewing at the Galerie de Photographies, Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Niki de Saint Phalle dans son atelier, impasse Ronsin, Paris, 1961 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender © J.Paul Getty Trust. Tous droits réservés. © Centre Pompidou/MNAM-CCI/Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Photothèque RMN-Grand Palais

The two artists met in Paris, 1957, and the two became involved both personally and professionally. They would take commissions from artists and galleries, forming connections with the fellow creatives they met – in and outside of their respective studios. Some of them were Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely, Andy Warhol, and Robert Rauschenberg. Their work with Klein, particularly, has been one of the most profound works from the partnership as they shot Klein, his paintings and private space. The photomontage Leap into the void (1960) came to be. The two would also visit parties and biennials (such as in Venice and Paris), and through the camera, they revealed the social scene. They also visit the pioneering art exhibitions and performances by Yayoi Kusama and Nam June Paik.

The two photographers parted ways in 1973. Kender lent all the rights and control of their collaborations to Shunk, and Shunk continued his artistic career for thirty more years. Looking back, we asked exhibition curators Julie Jones, Stéphanie Rivoire and Chloé Goualc'h about the nature of Shunk and Kender's dynamic:

“Shunk and Kender met in Paris at the end of the 1950s. Romantically and professionally involved, Kender was Shunk’s assistant, but some artists that knew him, like Sarkis for example, insisted on the fact that they were always working together side by side, and that it was difficult to understand who did what exactly. All their images were credited with the two names: 'Shunk-Kender'. After they separated in 1973, Shunk simply credited his images 'Shunk'.”
Vernissage de l'exposition Andy Warhol à la Galerie Ileana Sonnabend Paris, 1965 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender; Robert Rauschenberg dans son atelier, Lafayette Street, New York, 1968 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender; Autoportrait Italie, vers 1966 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender © J.Paul Getty Trust. Tous droits réservés. Yves Klein, vers 1961-1962 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender © J.Paul Getty Trust. Tous droits réservés. © Centre Pompidou/MNAM-CCI/Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Photothèque RMN-Grand Palais

All the important post-1945 art movements such as New Realism, Minimalism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art, and Performance were documented. The importance of the arts in the post-war era, where political tension, feminism, and sexual revolutions were being imbued into the works of everyone was curated in their partnership. During those times, the Shunk-Kender body of work served as pieces of art history of the mid-century. The exhibition curators further explained:

“Other photographers documented the same artists and events, but not in the same extent. Shunk and Kender were everywhere! They were among the first to go out of the studio and record the artists outside, in the street, working. Their images are also distinctly different from previous art photographic documentation: many of them were made in great intimacy with the subjects, at work, or simply at home. These images are also remarkable because of their technical quality and they reveal a true photographic 'eye'. Shunk and Kender were always looking for the best angle, the best viewpoint, etc., that seem to reveal the essential nature of the people they photographed. For all these reasons, they should be considered as genuine authors.”
Séance de tir de Niki de Saint Phalle, Jeanine de Goldschmidt- Rothschild, Pierre Restany, Daniel Spoerri et Janos Kender, Impasse Ronsin, Paris, 1961 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender; François Dufrêne dans son atelier, Paris, 1963 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender; Christo et Jeanne-Claude, La Côté empaquetée, 90 000 mètres carrés, taken during the project's installation. Little Bay, Sydney, 1968-1969 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender; Arman se faisant coiffer par Harry Shunk chez lui, Nice, vers 1964 Don de la Fondation Roy Lichtenstein en mémoire d'Harry Shunk et de Janos Kender (2014) Photographie: Shunk-Kender © J.Paul Getty Trust. Tous droits réservés. © Centre Pompidou/MNAM-CCI/Bibliothèque Kandinsky, Photothèque RMN-Grand Palais

There's plenty of time to visit the Centre Pompidou and retrace modern art history through Shunk and Kender as the show will run through 5 August. For more information on the exhibition, visit their website.


Images are provided by the Centre Pompidou through the press kit.

written by cielsan on 2019-04-07

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