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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Nerman museum exhibit looks at life with the world’s wealthiest people

In “Nirvana” (2006), Mexico City-based Yvonne Venegas photographs wealthy — and bored — children. In “Nirvana” (2006), Mexico City-based Yvonne Venegas photographs wealthy — and bored — children.

Wealth is an explosive topic these days.

Americans have spent months reviling the greed of bankers and Wall Street; now they are up in arms over states’ attempts to take collective bargaining rights away from public workers.

And in the face of a growing federal budget deficit, a chorus of voices is questioning the wisdom of extending the tax cuts from President George W. Bush’s administration to the wealthiest Americans.

“The rich have become too rich,” argues economist Robert Reich, “so the vast majority no longer has the purchasing power to lift the economy out of its doldrums.”

With all this going on — not to mention rising oil prices — the timing could not be more apt for “Embarrassment of Riches: Picturing Global Wealth, 2000-2010,” a new exhibit at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College.

The show was organized by David Little, curator and head of photography and new media at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where it made its debut last year.

Privacy is expensive. Which is one of the reasons, Little says, that we tend to see many more exhibitions featuring images of poor people — think Dorothea Lange’s photographs of migrants and Lewis Hine’s child laborers — than rich ones.

Little has done his part to tip the balance with this revealing exhibit, dominated by large color photographs of people with money and the environments they inhabit.

During a recent tour at the Nerman, Little said he was inspired to do the show by a photograph of Mikhail Gorbachev that Annie Leibovitz shot for a Louis Vuitton ad campaign.

Heading up the exhibit, it shows the former Soviet leader seated in a limousine with an open bag beside him and a view of the Berlin Wall — digitally inserted by Leibovitz — through the windows.

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