The Verstile Roni Horn

Roni Horn. Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert), 2005/2013 Gerbermu?hle, Frankfurt © Roni Horn, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2013 photo by Norbert Miguletz
Roni Horn. Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert), 2005/2013 Gerbermu?hle, Frankfurt © Roni Horn, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2013 photo by Norbert Miguletz

 …and the many faces of Isabelle Huppert

If you happen to be in the city of Frankfurt these days, you might be under the impression that French actress Isabelle Huppert is promoting a new film, as her portraits are adorning billboards all over the city. But the portrait is, in fact, not exactly a portrait of Huppert, but rather, a portrait of an image.

American artist Roni Horn, in collaboration with Frankfurt’s Schirn Kunsthalle, is presenting an extended form of a photographic work she created in 2005, “Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert)”, and sixteen striking interventions with selected motifs from the serial work are distributed in Frankfurt’s urban space. The complete one-hundred-part series, meanwhile, is being shown in the walkways of the rotunda at Schirn. For Roni Horn’s artistic practice, this is a first – her work has never been staged in public space before.

The two-part series – each of which consists of fifty photographs in sequences of five motifs each—is based on a collaboration between Horn and the French film and stage actress, Huppert. Together they selected earlier roles Huppert had played that the actress then performed again for the camera. For these photographs, Huppert visualised her repertoire based solely her memory, without the aid of the scripts or the films themselves.


Roni Horn. Portrait of an Image (with Isabelle Huppert), 2005. 100 C-prints in up to 20 unique sequences, each 38 x 31,8 cm, Detail. Courtesy Roni Horn and Hauser & Wirth © Roni Horn

Setting out from the Schirn, Horn places a selection of these motifs in public space in a way that does not reveal that they are part of her work or an artistic project: no mention is made either of the artist or the exhibiting institution, and there is no title that would indicate that it is a work of art. Unlike other photographic works by Roni Horn, “Portrait of an Image” only exists in this form. It has not been recorded in a publication that includes all of the individual images.

Kristin Schrader, the exhibition’s curator, commented: “Roni Horn’s art is characterised by a mastery of disguise. Her work is as subtle and versatile as the many facial expressions worn by Isabelle Huppert in ‘Portrait of an Image’”. Schrader sees this series as paradigmatic for Horn’s oeuvre “not only for its subtlety and versatility, but also for the dialogue it creates with the viewer, which opens the space for reciprocity.” It’s the artist’s interest in engagement with the viewer that brought the work as interventions into the public space. “Where advertisement is usually displayed, which strongly relies on the impact of faces, we see Hupperts facial expressions instead, uncommented. They might touch us, challenge us, or maybe go unnoticed.”  

Can we read the face we are looking at even without a prescribed context? The confrontation with these faces in the cityscape provides an opportunity for unexpected, random encounters and recurring meetings, such as they take place in our everyday social coexistence.

Eva Berendes