On mini-billboards circling Jeu de Paume, bordering the Tuileries and the western face of Place de Concorde, Martin Parr’s Small World series (1986-2005) captures the international tourist class taking in sites from the Grand Canyon to Pisa. Opening just as the Parisians started their annual exodus from the city — temporarily leaving the French capital to the descent of international visitors — “Planet Parr” reveals the breadth of the English artist’s practice as a photographer, as well as parallels in his work to his pursuits as a collector.
While several of Parr’s historic and recent series are on display at Jeu de Paume, more than half of the show is made up of works from the artist’s personal collection. Maintaining the theme of tourism, the show opens with Parr’s framed collection of travel postcards from around the world. The artist’s impressive collection of British photography is also presented, including strong examples of work by Tony Ray-Jones, Chris Killip and John Davies. Parr’s collection extends to international photographers, such as Rinko Kawauchi and Frank Breuer, as well. Parr, who in his photographic work is clearly enamored with the kitsch, has also put his extensive collection of Obamania souvenirs on display — including a pair of flip-flops adorned with multiple rubber likenesses of the American President’s smiling head. In the galleries upstairs, two large vitrines encase Parr’s collections of Margaret Thatcher, Chairman Mao, John F. Kennedy, and Saddam Hussein memorabilia.
Meanwhile an important transition in Parr’s work is also apparent in this exhibition: the artist’s shift from working and middle-class subjects to the wealthy, luxury class. Treading nearer the ground of American photographer Tina Barney, or Mexican photographer Daniela Rossell, Parr’s Luxury series (1994-2008) captures scenes at the Millionaire Fair in Moscow, Ascot, France’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and Art Basel Miami. Viewed through the harsh, at times acidic, lens of Parr, and in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the images form a poignant collection of some of society’s most recent foibles.
(Images top-bottom: Plateau avec impression photographique; Martin Parr, Egypt. Giza. The Sphinx, 1992, from the series Small World, 140x175cm; Martin Parr, Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week, 2004 from the series Luxury, 153x102cm. All images ©Martin Parr, Magnum Photos/Kamel Mennour; courtesy of Jeu de Paume, Paris)