A monkey saunters across the marble floor of a sculpture hall at the Museé d'Orsay in Paris. Like an out-of-hours museum visitor, the solitary creature approaches a plinth on which classical statues stand semi-clad in drapery. Beyond this scene, the glazed architecture and grand gilded clock indicate the Victorian building's original use as a railway station and provide a spectacular backdrop to the unusual scene unfolding before us.
'Natural Selection' is from 'Visitors', a photographic series by Karen Knorr in which stuffed apes and monkeys look at works in the Museé d'Orsay's sculpture gallery. It alludes to the primarily French seventeenth and eighteenth century painting tradition of 'singeries', in which monkeys, dressed as humans are depicted engaged in human activities as a reflection on art's perceived 'civilising' influence. Playing with the idea of imitation, Knorr's work asks us to question what is real and what is a copy, from the stuffed monkey to the photograph itself.
Karen Knorr was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and grew up in Puerto Rico. She studied in London and Paris. Known for her distinctive photographic style, her works combine the anthropological with the art historical. Her early works include 'Gentlemen', black and white photographs of private clubs in St James, London; and 'Connoisseurs', images of interior spaces of English country houses. Recently, Knorr's work has focused on our relationship to the natural world through her representation of animals and natural history exhibits photographed in European museums and heritage sites, including the Musée Carnavalet in Paris and the Le Corbusier-designed Villa Savoye in Poissy.
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