Edition 2007


The jazz musicians and their three wishes

In the late 1960s Pannonica de Kœnigswarter took a host of polaroid shots of jazz musicians, catching her subjects in situations that make for highly distinctive images: many of the photographs were taken in the privacy of her own New York home, rather than in public. Thelonious Monk nicknamed her apartment – where he was to live for ten years – the “Cathouse”: firstly because “cats” is jazz slang for “guys” and musicians, and secondly because the other guests included a hundred or so cats. Before buying the apartment Pannonica had lived for several years in some of the city’s top hotels: the Stanhope, the Algonquin and the Bolivar. The reason for moving from one to another was that after jam-sessions in the clubs she would invite the musicians back to her suite to continue the musical festivities; and being fed up with the noise, the managers would do all they could to get rid of her. Weary of being persona non grata, Pannonica took Monk’s advice and bought the Cathouse, with its splendid view of the Hudson and midtown Manhattan. For her and her protégés the apartment became a place to relax, work creatively, play table tennis, sleep, rehearse and jam – with no one to interfere. At the time racial discrimination and economic exploitation made the musician’s life very difficult in terms of making a living and finding accommodation, and some of those who moved into the Cathouse are still there today. Nica – the nickname used by her family and the musicians – was close friends with, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, among others, who showed their gratitude by dedicating some twenty compositions to her. One of her projects was a book including her jazz photos and a text made up of three wishes from three hundred musicians. The wishes were collected as a kind of game during her meetings with jazzmen in 1961–66. In addition to these photographs there were her abstract paintings, endless portraits of the cats she lived with and intriguing experiments with abstract photography using light, movement and colour.
Nadine de Kœnigswarter

Exhibition presented with the support of Maison Hermès. Exhibition creted with the support of HP. Enlargements produced by Picto.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture