See MoMAs New Photo Acquisitions

Richard Avedon, Malcolm X, Black Nationalist leader, New York. March 27, 1963. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. (c) 2009 The Richard Avedon Foundation.

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Last week the Museum of Modern Art announced the expansion its collection of fine art photography by acquiring nearly 60 new works from the Suzanne Winsberg Collection, and 39 photographs by Richard Avedon. A selection of those new acquisitions is on view in the third floor Edward Steichen Photography Galleries through March 22, 2010.

The Winsberg acquisition follows the 2008 death of avid collector. All of the works were created from 1847 to 1893. Sarah Meister, Curator of the Department of Photography, explains that the gift of the Winsberg Collection happens to have filled a hole in the Museum’s holdings:  “We have long been aware of the Collection’s relative weakness in French photography from the mid-nineteenth century; however, knowing you’d like to improve certain parts of the Collection doesn’t mean you can find key pictures of the highest quality.” The works by Nadar and Le Gray included in Winsberg’s gift are “difficult to find today at any price.”

The current installation includes nearly all of the photographs that Suzanne Winsberg left to the Museum. Meister explains that the photographs on view evince a woman with varied tastes, and a familiarity with the masters, although not to the exclusion of lesser known photographers. Winsberg’s gift is also proof of variegated photographic activity of the late Nineteenth Century, says Meister, singling out Julien Vallou de Villeneuve’s life studies of exotically-clad women and Edouard-Denis Baldus’ view of the aftermath of the floods of 1856 in Avignon.

Winsberg and MoMA’s chief curator of photography Peter Galassi had discussed the gift informally for years.  After this installation comes down, the works will be available for viewing by appointment in the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Photography Study Center. And from there, “Without a doubt, these will appear in numerous future exhibitions and collection installations,” says Meister.