Contemporary Arts Center's Gorgeous Exhibition "Tom Schiff: Surrounded By Art" Sells the American Dream

"So why can’t I stop thinking about real estate photos?"

click to enlarge Excerpt of photo of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia. - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST, TOM SCHIFF
Courtesy of the artist, Tom Schiff
Excerpt of photo of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Tom Schiff’s panoramas of opulent museum interiors are dead gorgeous. The Cincinnati-based photographer’s current solo show at the Contemporary Arts Center is a culmination of years spent traveling cross-country capturing the interiors and exteriors of various museums through the lens of a Cirkut, an antique “full rotation” panoramic camera. The exhibition’s layout is smart and intuitive, and it manages not to feel overwhelming. So why can’t I stop thinking about real estate photos?

Real estate photography’s function is not just to sell buildings but also to sell fantasies of upward mobility. Their aesthetic (crisp, luminous, wide-angled) is optimized to that end: interiors become empty receptacles for our private fantasies. Schiff’s virtuosic photos are indeed more interesting than anything you’ll see in The Sunday Times, but I can’t shake the feeling they’re trying to sell me something: the American dream.


Tom Schiff: Surrounded By Art — Panoramic Views of America’s Landmark Museums is on view at the Contemporary Arts Center (44 E. Sixth St., Downtown) through March 1. More info: contemporaryartscenter.org




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