2015 seems to have been a less exciting year than many, and there is a great sense of expectation about future years under the recent appointment as Director, Sam Stourdzé.
Nevertheless, there were many highlights. There was less sense of discovery than sometimes and many of the best shows were also the least novel: Martin Parr’s exhibition was a highly enjoyable crowd-pleaser, although the selection broke no new ground. Similarly, the exhibition of Japanese Photography was powerful, although very narrow in its terrain. Meanwhile, the Walker Evans show explored the rich subject of the contexts in which his work was published, but left one wanting more. In contrast two shows, again of well-known figures, really did extend one’s appreciation of their work: the Stephen Shore exhibition showed a longer, more conceptual career than I had expected, and Tony Oursler’s crazy film, revealed the richness behind his familiar talking ‘sculptures’ and was accompanied by an enormous, wonderful publication of his collection of arcane and magical artefacts with incredible scholarship to match.
We also loved the two part exhibition of the collection of the Maison Europeen de la Photographie, which contained many of the best pictures in the festival, including an in depth presentation of Harry Callahan’s French pictures.
Among the contemporary presentations highlights were Markus Brunetti’s Facades project, extraordinarily detailed renderings of Cathedrals and churches; Lisa Barnard’s Hyenas of the Battlefield, Machines in the Garden display as a nominee for the Rencontres d’Arles Discovery Award; and BMW Prize Winner Natsaha Caruana’s exhibition Coup de Foudre; a witty pseudo-scientific attempt to understand and record the moment of falling in love was one of the festival’s most uplifting moments.