THE PHOTOGRAPH, framed without margins and behind Plexiglas, is just under four and a half feet high by nearly nine and a half feet wide. Its title is A Lunch at the Belvedere, and it depicts an actual event that took place at the Hotel Belvedere in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum of 2004. The lunch was hosted by Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, whose guest of honor was the famous American financier-philanthropist George Soros. The diners, eleven men, sit facing the viewer—though none looks toward the camera—on the far side of a long table that runs the full width of the picture. (To take this in the viewer must begin his or her engagement with the work by standing ten or twelve feet back from it.) One has the impression that the lunch has not properly begun. For the most part the men are talking quietly with one another, and to the left a chic young woman, possibly a waitress, bends over the table as if serving or taking an order. The image is by far most arresting toward its center, where the elegant, dark-haired and mustached Musharraf is shown talking earnestly to Soros, while a third man, to Soros’s left, listens in. And what is arresting is precisely the extraordinary accuracy, as it seems to one, of the depiction of an entire range of small-scale, unemphatic, but nevertheless intensely photogenic gestures, expressions, postures, and pieces of behavior: for example, the small-scale gesture–scarcely more than a tensing of the wrist–of Musharraf’s partly open left hand as he makes his point; the downward cast of Soros’s head and his inscrutable, almost sullen-seeming facial expression as he plays with something on the tablecloth with his left hand; and the diffident demeanor of the third man who sits with both elbows on the table and his hands clasped.
more from Michael Fried at Artforum here.