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Celebrating Twenty-five Years of the Department of Photographs

fenton-fruit-flowers

In Light of the Past: Twenty-Five Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art 
Image: Roger Fenton, Fruit and Flowers, 1860, albumen print from collodion negative, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund, 2005.52.4

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the department of photographs in 2015, the Gallery presented three major exhibitions exemplifying the vitality, breadth, and history of its photography holdings.

In Light of the Past: Twenty-Five Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art (May 3–July 26, 2015) honored the 25th anniversary of the Gallery’s photography collection by demonstrating how our exemplary holdings reveal the evolution of the art of photography. Drawn primarily from works acquired in the past 25 years, the exhibition featured rare, exquisite 19th-century and turn-of-the-century works; exceptional examples of international modernism of the 1920s and 1930s and seminal mid-20th-century American photography; as well as photographs exploring new directions in color and conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s. The exhibition demonstrated the richness of the National Gallery’s photography collection and showcased the strength of the medium as an art form from its birth through the late 20th century.

marclay-allover

The Memory of Time: Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Acquired with the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund & Exhibition Catalog
Image: Christian Marclay, Allover (A Gospel Reunion), 2009, cyanotype, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, 2012.22.1, © Christian Marclay, Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery

Opened simultaneously, The Memory of Time: Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Acquired with the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund (May 3–September 13, 2015) explored the work of 26 contemporary artists who investigate the complex and resonant relationship of photography to time, memory, and history. Featuring Sophie Calle (b. 1953), Adam Fuss (b. 1961 ), Idris Khan (b. 1978), Vera Lutter (b. 1960), Sally Mann (b. 1951), Chris McCaw (b. 1971), Christian Marclay (b. 1955), and Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953), among others, the exhibition revealed the multiple ways in which the concepts of time and memory have been explored by photographers who seek not simply to reflect the world but to illuminate how photography constructs our understanding of it. The generosity of the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund made it possible for the Gallery to acquire these works.

dijkstra-self-portrait

Celebrating Photography at the National Gallery of Art: Recent Gifts
Image: Rineke Dijkstra, Self-portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, June 19, 1991, 1991, chromogenic print, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of Photography at the National Gallery of Art, © 2015 Rineke Dijkstra, Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery

Events marking the 25th anniversary of the photography collection concluded in the fall with Celebrating Photography at the National Gallery of Art: Recent Gifts (November 1, 2015–March 27, 2016). This exhibition brought together an exceptional group of gifts and pledges made in honor of the collection’s 25th anniversary, ranging from innovative photographs made in the earliest years of the medium’s history to key works by important 20th-century artists and contemporary pieces that examine the ways in which photography continues to shape our experience of the modern world. Among the highlights were important vintage prints by August Sander, Aaron Siskind, and Robert Frank, strong groups of work by Lewis Baltz, Henry Wessel, and Joe Deal, and extraordinary portraits by Diane Arbus, Deborah Luster, and Rineke Dijkstra. The exhibition also celebrated the first acquisitions of work by the 19th-century photographers Joseph Vigier and Duchenne de Boulogne, 20th-century artist Albert Renger-Patzsch and contemporary photographers Paul Graham and Matthew Jensen, among others.

The exhibition was accompanied by a major publication, The Altering Eye: Photography at the National Gallery of Art. This volume charted the history and distinctive aspects of the National Gallery’s collection of photographs and highlighted 290 of its most important works, with brief essays situating these treasures in their historical and aesthetic contexts.