Born in London in 1920, John Coplans, who would be a master of the self-portrait photograph from 1980 onwards, was trained in South Africa and Great Britain.
He had diverse experiences and occupations throughout his life: he was a soldier in Ethiopia, India and Myanmar during the Second World War; a decorator; an art critic; an exhibition curator; and a museum director. When he was 40 years old he decided to emigrate to the United States, fascinated by the new art that was being produced there. He worked for a while at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1962 he founded the magazine Artforum, whose editorial committee he sat on for a long time. He also worked as the director of several museums, such as the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, conceived exhibitions for the Pasadena Art Museum by artists like Richard Serra and Andy Warhol and wrote texts on Cézanne, Weegee and Brancusi.
In 1971 he moved to New York, where he continued busying himself with Artforum. There his life took a sharp turn when he centred his activities on photographing his own wrinkled and aged body.
From the mid-1980s on, his work was recognised by institutions such as the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. He died in New York in 2003 at the age of 83.
Juan Vicente Aliaga