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Press release

Photographs: A Decade of Collecting

June 5 – September 2, 2001
Galleries for Drawings, Prints, and Photographs

Masterpieces of early French photography and American photographs since 1960 – two high points in the history of the 160-year-old medium – will be on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in an exhibition saluting the first decade of collecting by the Museum's Department of Photographs. Photographs: A Decade of Collecting will open on June 5, 2001.

"Collecting great works of art is the Metropolitan Museum's most important mission," noted Director Philippe de Montebello. "The enrichment of our photography holdings during the short period of a decade, through gifts and through purchases made possible by the generosity of many supporters, is a point of pride for the Metropolitan, and, we hope, a source of visual and intellectual delight for the public."

Early French photographs included in the exhibition will be Gustave Le Gray's light-dappled Oak and Rocks, Forest of Fontainebleau (1849-56) and serene twilight seascape Mediterranean with Mount Agde (1856-59); Nadar's portraits of the fiery left-wing politician, Eugène Pelletan (1855-59), and the affable composer, Gioacchino Rossini (1856); landscapes by Edouard Baldus, including the softly atmospheric Entrance to the Port of Boulogne (1855); views of medieval architecture in Normandy by Edmond Bacot including Saint Maclou, Rouen (1852-54); and nude studies by Julien Vallou de Villeneuve from around 1853, which served as models for painter Gustave Courbet. Exceptional works by lesser-known artists, including a cluttered farmyard scene in strong chiaroscuro by the virtually unknown V. Dijon, will also be on view.

Modern American works included in the exhibition are black-and-white photographs of the 1960s by Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, and Garry Winogrand; a large Polaroid self-portrait by Andy Warhol (1979); photographs linked to earthworks and conceptual art by Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, Chris Burden, and others; photographs from the 1980s by Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, and Sherrie Levine that offer a critique of modern media culture; and works by emerging artists of the 1990s.

The Metropolitan Museum began acquiring photographs within its Department of Prints (later known as the Department of Prints and Photographs) in 1929. The Department of Photographs was established as an independent curatorial department within the Museum in January, 1992, under the leadership of Maria Morris Hambourg, Curator in Charge, and curator of the American section of Photographs: A Decade of Collecting.

Malcolm Daniel, Associate Curator and Administrator in the Department of Photographs, and curator of the French portion of the exhibition, said, "These two aspects of the department's recent collecting are like bookends supporting a collection that already had great strength in the Photo-Secession (1902-1917) and in avant-garde photography between the two world wars. At one end is French photography of the 1850s and early 1860s – one of the most glorious moments in the medium's entire history – and, at the other end, a period of enormous creativity and a healthy integration of photography in the broader art world since 1960."

November 13, 2000

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