FotoFest Exhibitions

Andy Freeberg

Selected By: Karen Sinsheimer, Curator of Photography,
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, United States

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In a witty one-liner about Andy Freeberg’s Sentry series,The New Yorker quipped, “Freeberg is taking scalps.”True, but the photographer’s images also reveal thestark, massive, and impersonal environments thatcomprise the gallery scene in Chelsea. Mr. Freeberg’sphotograph of a New York art gallery was made onimpulse as the photographer revisited the convertedwarehouse gallery spaces in Chelsea, created at greatexpense in the flush years of the 1990s. The art gallerieswere larger, chillier, and even more intimidating than hehad remembered. Andy Freeberg found them in equalparts fascinating and frightening as he photographed thegalleries’ entry and approach: universally white, pristine,and devoid of people, with the perfect orchid as greeter.The environmental chill seeps out of his images andwraps the viewer in remembrances of galleries visited inthe past: the cool stares of gallery personnel, who haveswiftly appraised one’s art interest and potential, anddeemed both uninteresting—a lack of acknowledgmentthat, in the words of the artist, “affirms our humanity.”Mr. Freeberg’s deadpan aim is formal and direct as herecords the spaces where important art lives, but wherehuman contact is peripheral if not invisible. One neversees a face in the photographer’s frame, the receptionistreduced to “a glimpse of head bobbing above a stark whiterim,” as Andy Freeberg said.

Mr. Freeberg’s images viscerally communicate the feelingof being unwelcome or perhaps unworthy in theserarefied temples of “Art.” One gallery worker whose desk(or perhaps scalp) was photographed later complained,“The work showed a lack of engagement with thesubject.”

- Karen Sinsheimer


Andy Freeberg was born in New York and studied at theUniversity of Michigan. He began working as a photojournalistin New York with assignments forRolling Stone, Time, TheVillage Voice, and Fortune, specializing in environmental portraits.In 1990 he moved to Northern California and currentlylives in the San Francisco Bay Area, alternating his assignmentwork with personal projects. His project Sentry: Gallery Desksin Chelsea was presented in a solo show at Danziger Projectsin New York in September 2007, earning critical acclaim inThe New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications.His current project, Guardians of Russian Art Museums, wasawarded the book prize at Photolucida Critical Mass 2008 inPortland, Oregon, and will be published in 2010. Guardians wasalso selected as a winner at the Hearst 8x10 Photography Biennialin New York.