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Home Event Photography's Last Century Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Photography’s Last Century Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Exhibition to Explore One Hundred Years of Photography through the Remarkable Collection of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee

March 10–June 28, 2020

The Met Fifth Avenue, Galleries 691–693, The Charles Z. Offin Gallery,
Karen B. Cohen Gallery, and Harriette and Noel Levine Gallery

Opening March 10, 2020, the exhibition Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection celebrates the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last hundred years through the magnificent promised gift to The Met of more than 60 extraordinary photographs from Museum Trustee Ann Tenenbaum and her husband, Thomas H. Lee, in honor of the Museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The exhibition will feature masterpieces by a wide range of the medium’s greatest practitioners, including Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Ilse Bing, Joseph Cornell, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Helen Levitt, Dora Maar, László Moholy-Nagy, Jack Pierson, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Laurie Simmons, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Edward Weston, and Rachel Whiteread.

The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel and the Alfred Stieglitz Society.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, said, “Ann Tenenbaum brilliantly assembled an outstanding and very personal collection of 20th-century photographs, and this extraordinary gift will bring a hugely important group of works to The Met’s holdings and to the public’s eye. From works by celebrated masters to lesser-known artists, this collection encourages a deeper understanding of the formative years of photography, and significantly enhances our holdings of key works by women, broadening the stories we can tell in our galleries and allowing us to celebrate a whole range of crucial artists at The Met. We are extremely grateful to Ann and Tom for their generosity in making this promised gift to The Met, especially as we celebrate the Museum’s 150th anniversary. It will be an honor to share these remarkable works with our visitors.”

“Early on, Ann recognized the camera as one of the most creative and democratic instruments of contemporary human expression,” said Jeff Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs. “Her collecting journey through the last century of picture-making has been guided by her versatility and open-mindedness, and the result is a collection that is both personal and dynamic.”

The Tenenbaum Collection is particularly notable for its focus on artists’ beginnings, for a sustained interest in the nude, and for the breadth and depth of works by women artists. Paul Strand’s 1916 view from the viaduct confirms his break with the Pictorialist past and establishes the artist’s way forward as a cutting-edge modernist; Walker Evans’s shadow self-portraits from 1927 mark the first inkling of a young writer’s commitment to visual culture; and Cindy Sherman’s intimate nine-part portrait series from 1976 predates her renowned series of “film stills” and confirms her striking ambition and stunning mastery of the medium at the age of 22.

Ms. Tenenbaum commented, “Photographs are mirrors and windows not only onto the world but also into deeply personal experience. Tom and I are proud to support the Museum’s Department of Photographs and thrilled to be able to share our collection with the public.”

The exhibition will feature a diverse range of styles and photographic practices, combining small-scale and large-format works in both black and white and color.  The presentation will integrate early modernist photographs, including superb examples by avant-garde American and European artists, together with work from the postwar period, the 1960s, and the medium’s boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and extend up to the present moment.

The Icelandic composer Davíð Þór Jónsson has written and produced an improvisational musical component for the exhibition that will be accessible on a Museum rental device and on the website at metmuseum.org/PhotosLastCentury.

Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection is curated by The Met’s Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press ($45).  Beginning with Paul Strand’s landmark From the Viaduct in 1916 and continuing through the present day, the catalogue examines defining moments in the history of the medium.

The catalogue is made possible in part by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc.

Related Programs

A screening of the single-channel video A Lot of Sorrow (2013–14), by Ragnar Kjartansson and The National, part of the Tenenbaum Collection, will be presented in its entirety on Wednesday, March 11, from 11:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Following this first screening on March 11, a thought-provoking panel discussion with Ann Tenenbaum, collector; Lynn Novick, filmmaker; and Wynton Marsalis, musician, will take place that evening from 6:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. to discuss the nature of creativity and collaboration across disciplines. Additional screenings will take place on April 2 and May 7 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

MetSpeaks lecture with Jeff Rosenheim will take place on Wednesday, April 22. at 11:00 a.m. in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Tickets start at $30.

On Saturday, June 20 at 7:00 p.m., the Museum will host an evening of song and story by Rosanne Cash and A. M. Homes reflecting on the layers of meaning stirred by the images and themes found in works by Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Ed Ruscha, and others from Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee’s collection. Tickets start at $75.

The exhibition will be featured on the Museum’s website, as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #PhotographysLastCentury.

About The Met’s 150th Anniversary

In 2020, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will celebrate the 150th anniversary of its founding with a dynamic range of exhibitions, programs, and public events. Highlights of the year will include the exhibition Making The Met, 1870–2020, on view March 30–August 2; the opening of the newly renovated and reimagined galleries devoted to British decorative arts and design in March; the display of new gifts throughout the Museum; a three-day-long celebration in June; and a story-collecting initiative. More information is available at metmuseum.org/150 and in a dedicated press release.


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