Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann were born in 1957 in Dublin and Jerusalem. They went to New York where they met at the School of Visual Arts in the class of Joseph Kosuth and have been working as an artist duo since 1980. In their photographs, installations, material collections, interviews and videos they explore and reinvent the genre of portraiture. They develop models for communication and collaboration that include and redefine the participation of the viewer.
Present on the international contemporary art scene since the early 1980’s, Clegg & Guttmann take up a visual rhetoric reminiscent of the bourgeois portraits of the Dutch Golden Age, while at the same time referencing the group images that crystallize the powers of the 20th and 21st centuries. They use the conventions of 17th century Dutch portraiture to place them in a contemporary context. Clegg & Guttmann’s portraits, presented in the exhibition at the Konschthal Esch, are rejected commissions which involve a very particular protocol in the Clegg & Guttmann method. Thus, the subjects have commissioned a portrait from the artists, but are free to refuse the result. However, the artists retain the right to show and publish the work, which remains their property, even after the commissioner has refused it. This reverse tactic is also symbolic of the power issues in the particular category of portraiture.