How is an artist invented? How is a photographer propelled from obscurity to fame in a few short years? How do exhibition curators construct a narrative around a photographer and his work? What factors determine the success or failure of such a narrative? This article highlights the curators’ work in attaining artistic recognition for the Czech photographer Miroslav Tichý. Initially exhibited unsuccessfully under the label of ‘outsider art,’ Tichý achieved renown in 2004 when the curator Harald Szeemann presented him under the aegis of contemporary art. He was subsequently honored with an award at the Rencontres d’Arles and exhibited at Kunsthaus Zurich, then at the Centre Pompidou, and his works were acquired by numerous collections. The critical analysis of schemas of presentation and legitimation that vary according to the context in which the works are being presented – outsider art or contemporary art – highlights the role played by curators in the artistic recognition of the Czech photographer; their work, however, runs up against the resistance of the artist himself.
The Invention of Miroslav Tichý