First as a teenager in Boston in the 1960s, then in New York starting in the 1970s, Nan Goldin has taken intensely personal, spontaneous, sexual, and transgressive photographs of her family, friends, and lovers. In 1979 she presented her first slideshow in a New York City nightclub, and her richly colored, snap-shot-like photographs were soon heralded as a groundbreaking contribution to fine art photography. The Ballad of Sexual Dependency—the name she gave her ever-evolving show—eventually grew into a forty-five-minute multimedia presentation of more than 900 photographs, accompanied by a musical soundtrack, and published as an award-winning book.
Goldin’s work has been the subject of major touring retrospectives, organized in 1996 by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and in 2001, by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. Her work has been exhibited widely, often in site-specific installations: her video piece Sisters, Saints, and Sibyls was presented at La Chapelle de la Salpêtrière for a 1-month run; her Scopophilia exhibition was part of Patrice Chéreau’s special program at the Louvre; and in 2019, an exhibition of site-responsive photographs opened at Versailles. The Ballad of Sexual Dependency was presented live in Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London, in 2008, and the slideshow was installed in the exhibition Here is Every. Four Decades of Contemporary Art at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 2008 to March 2009. In 2017, MoMA presented the piece in its original 35mm format. In 2022, Moderna Museet in Stockholm debuted an internationally traveling exhibition of six slideshows and video installations spanning her entire career, tiled “This Will Not End Well.”
In 2017, Goldin co-founded the group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), seeking to address the crisis of the ongoing Drug War by targeting the pharmaceutical companies that have profited from it. The group’s activism was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary co-directed by Laura Poitras and Nan Goldin, “All the Beauty and All the Bloodshed.”
Goldin was admitted to the French Legion of Honor in 2006. She was awarded the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in 2007, and the Edward MacDowell Medal in 2012. In 2022, she received the Kathë Kollwitz Award. She lives and works in Paris, Berlin, and New York.