New Photography Exhibition at The Morgan
The Morgan Library & Museum is pleased to present Seen Together: Acquisitions in Photography, opening January 26 and on view through May 26, 2024. Part of a year-long celebration of the Morgan’s centennial as a public institution, the exhibition features over forty works acquired since the founding of the Department of Photography in 2012, all exhibited for the first time. The thematically organized selection, diverse in purpose and historical context, traces networks of influence and association that connect photography to artistic, literary, and historical facets of the Morgan’s broader collection.
With works from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, the exhibition juxtaposes images that exemplify the medium’s many types of involvement with the arts. Unlike many public photography collections founded in the twentieth century, which aimed to represent a defined canon of major movements, schools, and figures, the Morgan’s youngest department has grown through a focus on image-to-image and object-to-object relationships. The result is a collection that echoes the manifold networks among photography’s many histories.
The largest of the exhibition’s thematic groups is devoted to photographs of artists from many creative disciplines. Represented are individuals from the worlds of visual art (Yayoi Kusama, Marcel Duchamp, Saul Steinberg), literature (Marianne Moore, Jack Kerouac), performance (Yoko Ono, Harlem Renaissance dancer Edna Guy), and music (Louis Hardin, aka Moondog). The Morgan’s earliest major holdings in photography were portraits of creative figures, first in 2008 with the acquisition of a large group of works by Irving Penn and Diane Arbus, and then with the founding of the Peter Hujar Collection in 2013. The theme has been extended historically back to the medium’s first decades and up to the twenty-first century, with an emphasis on portraits made outside the controlled studio environment and through collaboration between sitter and photographer.
Other themes explored in Seen Together include abstract and kaleidoscopic camera imagery, the visual dynamic between (artistic) “landscapes” and (touristic) “views” in the nineteenth century, and the artist’s body as subject. A unique and engaging group of thirty-one snapshots, compiled by the collector Peter J. Cohen, showcases the camera’s use by everyday people to document a wide variety of workers, from wait staff and lumberjacks to highway patrol officers and carnival game operators.
Two artists represented by several works are Eleanor Antin and Irving Penn. The installation features the fifty-one postcards from Antin’s influential work of correspondence art, 100 Boots. Collectively telling the story of a group of boots making their way across the continent from California to the Museum of Modern Art, the cards were mailed,
episode by episode, to approximately one thousand recipients around the world between 1971 and 1973. In 2022, the Morgan was given a rare complete set of the postcards, many of them received by mail art promoter and theorist William Wilson. Few people on Antin’s mailing list saved the first few cards, making complete sets uncommon. Also on view are three of Irving Penn’s photographs for Vogue, exemplifying his dazzling ability to reinvent his style and approach to suit his subject, be it from the world of high fashion, esoteric travel, or haute cuisine.
Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library & Museum, said, “The Morgan is pleased to celebrate our youngest department during this centennial year. The exhibition illuminates the ways in which our photography collection supports and highlights other collections at the Morgan, including drawings, printed books, and literary manuscripts.”
The Morgan Library & Museum, an independent research library and museum, began as the personal library of financier, collector and cultural benefactor Pierpont Morgan and is located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street New York, NY 10016. For more information call (212) 685-0008.