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Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans

January 18 – April 26, 2009
West Building, Ground Floor, Outer Tier Galleries G26 through G29

Installation view of Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Gallery Archives


This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: Some 150 photographs, 28 contact sheets, 17 books, and 15 documents relating to Robert Frank's The Americans were presented in this exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the American publication of the book. Collages of Robert Frank's original work prints, designed by National Gallery of Art curators with the photographer's consent, were presented to demonstrate his working method. Original prints of all 83 photographs reproduced in the book also were on view, as were letters from Walker Evans and Jack Kerouac. The exhibition concluded with a section titled Destroying Americans, which included a short film made by Robert Frank showing the physical destruction of the book. Many of the works on view were selected from the collection of the National Gallery of Art with additional loans from public and private collections.

Exhibition curator Sarah Greenough gave an opening-day lecture, Transforming Destiny into Awareness: Robert Frank's "The Americans." A public symposium, Robert Frank and the Photographic Book, was held on January 24. Robert Frank joined curator Sarah Greenough on March 26 for the Elson Lecture A Conversation with Robert Frank. On January 18, the film An American Journey, by French filmmaker Philippe Seclier, had its North American premiere. The film retraces Frank's 1955–1956 trip around the United States, on which The Americans was based. Additional screenings of the film were held in April. A program of films by Robert Frank and his contemporaries was shown in the auditorium during January and April. In honor of the exhibition, the 63rd American Music Festival in March presented works by American 20th-century composers.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs, was curator.

Sponsor: Access Industries was principal sponsor. The exhibition was also supported by the Trellis Fund. Early support for research was provided by the Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation. The catalogue was published with assistance of the Getty Foundation.

Attendance: 114,564

Catalog: Looking In: Robert Frank's "The Americans" — Expanded Edition by Sarah Greenough, with Stuart Alexander et al. Washington: National Gallery of Art in association with Steidl, 2009. A softcover edition with abbreviated backmatter also was published.

Other Venues: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 16–August 23, 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 22–December 27, 2009

Peter Vinograde, pianist
Audio, Released: June 15, 2010, (26:05 minutes)
Looking In: Robert Frank's 'The Americans'
Audio, Released: January 13, 2009, (28:33 minutes)