The Paul Thorel Foundation was created in Naples in 2014 at the will of the artist, and in its first years of activity currently deals with the organisation of his archives — 1600 works by Paul Thorel and 100 works by Italian and international artists from his collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art. Since his death in May 2020, the Foundation is committed to conveying Paul Thorel’s name and legacy in the field of the digital image in Italy and abroad. Today the Foundation commissions new artistic proposals through the Paul Thorel Prize, which reactivates the artist’s studio in Naples in collaboration with the Gallerie d’Italia of Intesa Sanpaolo, and promotes projects in the form of residences and workshops at its spaces on the islands of Panarea — located in the Aeolian archipelago, in Italy — and Hydra — in Greece.
Paul Thorel, an Italian-French artist, was born in London in 1956. His pioneering work with the digital image was included in the first exhibitions dedicated to art and new media at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (1989 and 1992), Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles (1993), and in major American museums with the travelling exhibition Aperture Metamorphoses: Photography in the Electronic Age (1994). Thorel settled in Naples in 1994, where he created the Foundation that bears his name in 2014. In 2018, for the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina – Museo Madre, Thorel created Il Passaggio della Vittoria, a permanent mosaic work taken from one of his digital designs. Thorel died in Naples in 2020.
Paul Thorel began to create digital images in 1979, collaborating with the University of Genoa, RAI in Turin, and INA Institut national de l’audiovisuel in Paris as programmer and artist. His first photographic works have the known traits of friends, the glamour of Hollywood actresses, or else reinvent archetypal figures of the past with postmodern taste and formal suggestions from the world of television. In the 90s, lights and shadows sharpen and remind of glitch, the undulating interference of computers, but also the sinuous motions of the sea in the Gulf of Naples. The photographs of the 1920s further filter reality into a synthesis between image, memory and process that enhances the transience of the gaze and the subjectivity of vision. Upon his death, Thorel left a reservoir of iconic works, the result of a process of translation from the particular to the universal that intertwines the human element with contemporary technological language.
Paul Thorel’s work has been the subject of critical catalogues and essays in Italian, French and English, including in-depth manuals on the digital image such as Metamorphoses: Photography in the Electronic Age (Aperture, 1994); Photography reborn, Image making in the digital era di Jonathan Lipkin (Abrams, 2005); and The digital eye. Photographic art in the electronic age di Sylvia Wolf (Prestel, 2010). The archive has a copy of all the publications of the artist, national and international, made for his solo and collective exhibitions from 1977 to 2020, and the covers signed for writers and musicians, from Barry Gifford to Peter Gabriel.