Among the most consequential artists of her generation, Goldin has introduced new modes of image making that have transformed the role of photography in contemporary art. Emerging from the artist’s own life and relationships, her photographs and moving-image works are both deeply personal and profoundly influential, addressing essential themes of identity, love, sexuality, addiction, and mortality. Throughout her career Goldin has united art and activism, confronting the HIV/AIDS epidemic since the 1980s and more recently bringing international attention to the overdose crisis.
A current retrospective that focuses on Goldin’s moving-image work, This Will Not End Well, includes six slideshows and video installations displayed in unique pavilions designed in collaboration with architect Hala Wardé. Having recently debuted at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, the exhibition will travel to the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; and Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, over the next two years, before coming to the United States. The retrospective will be accompanied by a nine-volume box set published by Steidl. Each volume presents the content of each slideshow, with one volume containing texts by thirty writers contextualizing the artist’s work. Winner of the Käthe Kollwitz Prize 2022, Goldin is presenting five decades of her work in an accompanying exhibition at the Akademie der Künste Berlin, on view through April 16, 2023.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (2022), a film directed by Laura Poitras on which Goldin collaborated, interweaves narratives of the artist’s life, work, and activism. It was awarded the Golden Lion at the 79th Venice International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the 38th Independent Spirit Awards and won film critics association awards for best documentary in New York, London, Los Angeles, and Toronto. The film was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the BAFTA Film Awards and the 95th Academy Awards and is streaming on HBO from March 19, 2023.
Goldin’s groundbreaking work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency is a constantly evolving sequence of almost 700 slides, accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack, which documents her life and chosen family and the complexity of intimacy, friendship, and loss. Initially projected in nightclubs, it was included in The Times Square Show in 1980, the Whitney Biennial in 1985, and countless museum exhibitions around the world. It was published by Aperture in 1986 as the first of Goldin’s many books and was recently reprinted for the twenty-first time.
In her work, Goldin unflinchingly documents the struggles and courage that defined her community’s response to the devastating AIDS epidemic. In 1989, she organized Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing at New York’s Artists Space, the first exhibition featuring the work of artists who were living with or had died from AIDS, or whose art responded to the disease, including David Armstrong, Peter Hujar, Greer Lankton, and David Wojnarowicz. The US government attempted to censor the exhibition, provoking protests that resulted in restoration of funding.
Over the past five decades, Goldin has celebrated the transgender community. In her earliest black-and-white portraits from The Other Side bar in 1970s Boston, Goldin documented the lives of her roommates and closest friends, capturing their beauty, vulnerability, and joy. Goldin has referred to them as “pioneers” of the gender identity revolution taking place today.
In recent years, Goldin has focused on natural light in her work, exemplified by an ongoing series of large-scale photographs of the sky that are unbound by frames. These deeply serene works explore spirituality and mortality. Goldin’s portraits feature photographs of individuals and couples, children and families taken over extended periods; other series picture empty rooms with palpable traces of human presence. Whether presented as projected images, large-scale grids of multiple images, single prints, or books, Goldin’s photographs operate in narrative sequence with thematic relationships to one another. A major recent slideshow, Memory Lost (2019–21), scored by composer Mica Levi, with additional music by CJ Calderwood and Soundwalk Collective, relates a haunting and emotional narrative comprised of outtakes drawn from her archive of thousands of slides. Embracing elements of chance in photography, many of its component images are the result of what Goldin calls magic, describing the blurry and pulsating results as abstractions.
In 2017, Goldin founded P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) in response to the overdose crisis. The group stages direct public actions to hold Big Pharma accountable and expose the complicity of institutions that accept such funding. These protests have led to the removal of the Sackler name from the British Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Musée du Louvre, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Serpentine Galleries, Tate, and other museums and universities. The organization promotes life-saving treatments for people using drugs and advocates for a public policy of harm reduction.In addition to Gagosian’s global representation, Goldin will continue her longtime relationship with Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.
About the artist
Nan Goldin was born in Washington, DC, in 1953. She lives and works in New York, Berlin, and Paris. Her work is represented in major public and private collections worldwide. Retrospectives include I’ll Be Your Mirror, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1996–97, traveled to Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany, 1997; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1997; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland, 1997; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, 1998; and Národní galerie Praha, Prague, 1998); and Le Feu Follet, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2001, traveled as Devil’s Playground to Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2002; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2002; Fundação Serralves, Porto, Portugal, 2002; Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Turin, Italy, 2002–03; and Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, 2003). Goldin was appointed Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, France (2006), and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Hasselblad Award (2007), the Edward MacDowell Medal (2012); the Centenary Medal from London’s Royal Photographic Society (2018), and the Käthe Kollwitz Prize (2022).