With its director calling it "a dream come true", this week the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired the Gilman Paper Company's photography collection, which consists of more than 1,350 stand-alone photographs and photographic albums--comprising more than 8,500 individual photographs in total. The collection was widely considered to be one of the most important such private collections in the world. Estimates of its value have been placed as high as $100 million.
The museum and the Howard Gilman Foundation would not say how much the collection cost or how much of it was a gift, citing a legal agreement between the museum and the Howard Gilman Foundation which prohibited disclosing the dollar value. Malcolm Daniel, curator in charge of the Department of Photography at the Met, did tell me, "A significant portion of the collection (a group of images, not a percentage) is a gift of the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the credit line for those images will so note."
For tax purposes, it is often common for gifts to minimize the tax consequences of the purchase price by roughly 30% of the purchase.
The "dream come true" was very nearly a nightmare for the Met. Gilman died nearly seven years ago and it was expected then that the collection would quickly go to the Met. Instead lengthy negotiations began with Gilman's estate and his foundation. It has been reported that the Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington were also interested in the collection, but agreed not to pursue it while talks continued with the Met. Many observers thought that the slow progress behind the scenes meant that the Met would not get the collection, but in the end the Met became the home for this very important and cohesive group of images, which had been formed almost in concert with the Met's staff, Howard Gilman and his curator Pierre Apraxine.
Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan, noted that, in addition to allocations from the Museum's general art acquisition funds, including the Rogers Fund, major gifts in support of the Gilman acquisition were received from Joyce F. Menschel, a museum trustee and chair of the Department of Photographs visiting committee, and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee; Harriette and Noel Levine; Mr. and Mrs. Andrew M. Saul; Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation; Joseph M. Cohen; Jennifer and Joseph Duke; Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Kravis; Cynthia Hazen Polsky; and, collectively, the Alfred Stieglitz Society, the Friends group that supports the activities and acquisitions of the Department of Photographs. He also noted generous and timely support from the William Talbott Hillman Foundation; Robert Rosenkranz; the Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation; W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg; the Sam Salz Foundation; Heidi S. Steiger; and two anonymous donors. Additional funds for the purchase will be raised during the coming year through the sale of duplicates and other photographs from both the Met and Gilman collections.
The museum announced that a changing selection of masterpieces from the Gilman collection would be on view in the museum's Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery beginning April 17, 2005, and continuing for the next year. In addition, selected works from the Gilman collection will be on view in two special exhibitions already scheduled to appear at the Metropolitan later this year: "All the Mighty World: The Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852-1860" in the Robert Lehman Wing, May 24 through August 21, 2005; and "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult" in the Harriette and Noel Levine Gallery and the Howard Gilman Gallery, September 27 through December 31, 2005. Further exhibition and publication plans will be announced in the future.
In announcing the acquisition, de Montebello noted that, as mentioned previously, during the 1990s, Howard Gilman and his curator Pierre Apraxine had worked in unison with Maria Morris Hambourg, then curator in charge of the Metropolitan's Department of Photographs, to shape the Gilman Paper Company Collection as a perfect complement to that of the Museum. Under Hambourg's direction, the Museum presented a selection of more than 250 masterpieces from the Gilman Collection in 1993 in the widely acclaimed exhibition "The Waking Dream", which was shown in the Museum's special exhibitions galleries normally reserved for Old Master paintings. The exceptional quality and beauty of the work exhibited, the individually considered presentation of each object, and the elegant, majestic galleries in which they were shown made "The Waking Dream" a pivotal event in helping change public perception about photography as art and put the Metropolitan at the forefront of museums exhibiting the medium. Photographs from the Gilman Collection have been included in nearly every Metropolitan Museum photography exhibition and installation since.
Daniel told the New York Times on Thursday: "It's undoubtedly the most important thing that has happened at the Met in the area of photography and is probably the most important thing that is likely ever to happen. For at least the last 15 years, the acquisition of the Gilman collection has been our No.1 priority and goal."
Daniel added to those comments when he told me, " It adds enormous strength to our holdings in photography of the first hundred years of the medium. Indeed, in many areas the Gilman collection alone is stronger than the Met's existing collection. Combined with the strength of the Rubel Collection, the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, the Ford Motor Company Collection, the Walker Evans Archive and the acquisitions we have made during the past two decades, not only in historic material but also in the modern and contemporary sphere, this places us in a preeminent position to present the encyclopedic history of the art of photography."
Daniels continued, "The purchase portion of the acquisition, without revealing numbers, represents an enormous commitment on the part of the Museum--our Director, the Trustees, and numerous individual supporters, who have been extraordinarily generous--and signals to our public the prominent place that photography has at the Met and that the Met has in the world of photography."
The Met is wasting no time with its new acquisition. Daniel told me, "All of the works exhibited in "The Waking Dream" or in other exhibitions and installations at the Met are already here; the rest are in our possession and will be on premises shortly."
The Art Newspaper has reported this past week that collector-extraordinaire Sheik Saud Al-Thani of Qatar has been placed under house arrest and is under investigation for alleged misuse of public funds. He was apparently detained at the end of February in the Qatari capital Doha.
Sheik Al-Thani holds the distinction of setting the record for the highest priced photograph at public auction--not once, but several times. The last and still record price of £565,250, or $922,488 if you use Christie's too low exchange rate, or over $932,000 if you use my more accurate rate, was bid on an iconic full-plate daguerreotype by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey of the Temple of Jupiter in Athens. He also purchased, what was at the time, the most expensive single photography collection to have been sold privately--the Bockelberg collection for a reported $12-15 million. This on top of being the major buyer at the first Jammes and Craven auctions.
Photography was a personal passion of Al-Thani's, and it may have been his undoing, although there are other possibilities.
As Chairman of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage (NCCAH), Sheik Al-Thani acquired art on behalf of the Emir of Qatar for the last eight years on a scale never before seen in various art and antique markets. The plan for all these purchases is for them to be put on exhibit in five museums, which are under construction in Doha--all part of a plan to transform Qatar into a major cultural center.
During this period, Al-Thani has also purchased art for his own personal collection, which may have lead to his current difficulties--and hence the possible connection to his photography purchases. After the Bockelberg sale, New York photo dealer Hans Kraus, Jr. said that the purchases would remain in London--not Doha. Several other photographs seem to have been bought at auction by the same phone under different paddle numbers, leading one to believe that Al-Thani was buying some pieces for the Qatar government and others possibly for himself. Why this would be a problem or even if it actually was the source of the current difficulty is currently unclear.
The Art Newspaper reported that it had received a letter from the NCCAH informing the paper of the nomination of Dr. Kafoud as the new president of the NCCAH. The brief statement did not mention Sheik Al-Thani and the Art Newspaper said it was unable to reach Dr. Kafoud for comment.
The paper also reported that Sheikh Saud's London office, the Islamic Art Society, was closed on February 7th and had gone into voluntary liquidation.
According to other reports published in Qatari newspapers, the Qatari Audit Bureau has begun an investigation into a "serious misuse and misappropriation of public funds." The Arabic language Al Sharq newspaper reported that a "senior government body" spent a billion Qatari Riyals ($275 million) on one of its activities. One official was reported to be under preventative detention and two other people involved were out of the country, the newspaper claimed. An article in the English language Gulf Times said that the government body in question was the NCCAH.
According to the Art Newspaper, "some of the Sheik's purchases may have upset members of his ruling Al-Thani family, particularly the Jenkins Venus (a Roman marble statue purchased for nearly £8 million at Christie's in London), which is a sensual, female nude. 'My family thinks I am mad (because of my art purchases),' Sheikh Saud admitted to the Art Newspaper during an exclusive interview last year at his family estate outside Doha."
Whatever the reasons, at least for the time being, the world's largest collector of art and antiquities is now on the sidelines.
In the meantime, work on the five museum buildings in Doha is well underway and nearing completion and a joint project with the Louvre is apparently moving forward as planned.
You can now see a Special Spring Clearance sale on I Photo Central brought to you by our photography dealers, starting Sunday morning, March 20th. These items are available at special sale prices (from 20% to over 60% off the regular list price) for only a limited time, from now until only June 20th. Many of the items regular list prices were reduced earlier by over 20%, so the actual net reductions may be well over 40% to 80% in many instances. These are all final prices, so no other discounts apply. Shipping/insurance may also be added. After June 20th prices will revert on these items to the original list price.
There are some great deals, so check them out soon at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/sale/sale.php .
If you want to do further sorts on the sale list, you can go to the Search Images page at http://www.iphotocentral.com/search/search.php and put SpecialSpringSale2 into the key word field. Then you can also use the other search fields, such as price range, country, etc. When you have all your choices made, simply hit the Search button (not the Show All Images button). When you put in the key word, you must have the capital letters in properly and no space between the words or the number "2". Also make sure you do not have any extra space after the key word. This way if you are bargain hunting, you can put in a range from $1 to $500, or if you want to focus on the top end, just put in a range from $1,000 (or $2,500 or $5,000) to No Limit.
Capitol Gallery and Christopher Wahren Fine Photographs will hold their spring Online Photography Week sales on Wednesday and Thursday, March 30-31, 2005.
The sales, in an absentee-auction format, encompass a large group of cased images, including daguerreotypes and ambrotypes of musicians, a pipe-smoking sailor, children, portraits and occupationals, and plates by Southworth and Hawes. Several excellent stereo daguerreotypes include plates by Trutpert Schneider, Betrand (Paris), and an English naval officer with signaling telescope. Rare thermoplastic cases are also found in the Capitol Gallery sale.
Included in both sales are 19th and 20th-century paper photography, including prints by Laura Gilpin, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, Disderi and Sebah, a large platinum print of an Indian squaw by Mossinger, several stunning images of Turkish warriors, and a group of contemporary platinum prints. Online catalogs and further information on the two sales are on the Online Photography Week website at http://www.photographyweek.com . Print catalogs for both sales are available.
You will now find a pair of new Special Exhibits up on I Photo Central, added to the other 37 current exhibits that were already on display. We have also continued to change images and add to our essays for all our Special Exhibits, so they are worth another peek, especially if you have not looked lately. In addition, approximately 50 new images have been added in just the last month to the I Photo Central website.
These newest Special Exhibits come from Charles Schwartz Ltd. The first Special Exhibit is a group of 26 photographs by W. Eugene Smith, which contains some of Smith's most important, iconic images, as well as some that are lesser known and priced under $1,000, but all share a very strong provenance. They are either from the personal collection of one of Smith's former agent's or from one of his family members. Several of these are large, exhibition prints, which are quite rare. Many prints have Smith's markings on them, and most are vintage. A few of Smith's top photo essays are represented here: Spanish Village, Nurse-Midwife Maude Callen, Man of Mercy (Albert Schweitzer) and Smith's important work in Minamata, Japan. Charles also wanted me to remind you that he has another 30 Eugene Smith prints in addition to those in the Special Exhibit.
Charles Schwartz's second new Special Exhibit is entitled "Construction of the 1862 International Exhibition, South Kensington". This is a wonderful collection of 15 albumen prints made between 1860 and 1862 which document the construction of the huge 1862 International Exhibition in London (South Kensington). This was an important exhibition that was much larger than the 1851 London Crystal Palace. Many of these prints are attributed to B.L. Spackman, and are in excellent condition.
You can see these fine exhibits, along with 37 others at: http://www.iphotocentral.com/showcase/showcase.php .
The I Photo Central website seems to keep hitting new records for number of visitors and hits each month. After December's steep increase, I thought we might get a bit of a let down, but, no, the traffic has continued to increase.
In January, I Photo Central had 104,953 visitors and 2,371,922 hits. In February (a short month at that) the site had 114,888 visitors and 2,857,044 hits.
I would like to thank all our readers who have visited the I Photo Central website ( http://www.iphotocentral.com ).
For those of you who have not yet checked us out, now is an excellent time with the big Spring Clearance Sale going on. Besides the nearly 5,000 images for sale, there is also lots of important information on photography collecting on the site, 39 Special Exhibits, an International Calendar of Photography Events, the complete archive of the E-Photo Newsletter (all 86 issues), and much more.
My mom died two weeks ago. I want to thank those of you who learned of this personal tragedy and expressed your kind condolences.
While I know that her passing has little to do with the purpose of this newsletter, I want to share with you a little about my mother.
My Mom was born on May 25, 1926 to Polish immigrants. Her parents named her Helen Hedwig Harsche, sort of the Polish equivalent of Herbert H. Hoover.
The year after she was born, the Great Depression began. On top of providing for her own family, her mother worked hard in other people's homes to help pay the bills, and it took its toll. One cold, frigid day her mother died from a heart attack coming back from work. My mom had to take on the duties of running the household at the tender age of 14. While other girls of her age were enjoying teenage social pleasures, my mom had to cook and clean for her family, after a full day at school. She became a very good cook, and cooking remained an interest of hers for the rest of her life.
She married my dad on a hot July day in 1945, while my dad was home on leave from the Navy. Two and a half years later, I was born. Then my sister Pat, my brother Leonard, and finally my sister Cathy.
In talking with my brother and sisters, it is funny that we all remember some of the same things. My mom was always interested in our educations and making sure each of us had good reading skills. We all remember going to the library with her. Both my sisters remember her teaching them to embroider.
She also tried her hand at business. She became an Avon Lady and although she might not have sold a great deal, we all still do have a lot of soap as a reminder of that time.
My mom loved people, especially children. Even at the end, her thoughts were for her grandchildren.
My mother had a mind like the proverbial "steel trap". She could remember names and events that had long gone out of my own head. I only wish I had a recorder on when she was talking about events that ranged from yesterday to more than 60 years before. When I saw her just a few hours before she passed away, she was still sharp and attentive.
Perhaps her memory was due to her always-curious nature. At the age of 55, she went out and got her first drivers license. She even took up yoga. She was notoriously good at puzzles, which my sister and I would buy for her. And I truly wish that I had inherited her language and these memory skills. Even during her short time at the Bear Creek Assisted Living facility, she managed to learn a few words of Spanish in order to thank and speak to some of the workers who would help her out there. At Bear Creek and in the hospital she would speak in Polish to some of the nursing and support staff, who were recent immigrants from there. She thought it was important to show she cared, but it also kept her mind sharp--continuing to learn right until the very end.
My mom was never in the best health over the last 25 years or so, having had a number of heart attacks and operations, including a quadruple bypass in 1986. After my dad died less than a year and a half ago, my mom seemed to give up a little bit of her spirit, which was understandable for a relationship that had spanned nearly 60 years.
She died just a few months short of her 79th birthday. We will all miss her for her caring and kind soul. Love you, mom.