The Met’s rich collection of photography can be explored through three exhibitions now on view: the recently opened Pictures, Revisited; the major 150th anniversary exhibition Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection, and the focused installation 2020 Vision: Photographs, 1840s–1860s. In celebration of the Museum’s 150th anniversary, these three exhibitions showcase the breadth and depth of The Met’s Department of Photographs, featuring new and recent gifts and promised gifts, many offered in celebration of the anniversary and presented here for the first time.
Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection (on view through Nov. 30) includes masterpieces by Paul Strand, Dora Maar, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy; Edward Weston, Walker Evans, and Joseph Cornell; Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, and Cindy Sherman. The collection is particularly notable for its breadth and depth of works by women artists, its sustained interest in the nude, and its focus on artists’ beginnings. 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 twenty-two.
Pictures, Revisited (on view through May 2021)takes a deep dive into The Met’s rich collection of contemporary photography to explore photographic strategies of visual appropriation while also provocatively expanding on the Museum’s landmark 2009 exhibition The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984. The show’s 29 works are comprised of images snipped from magazines, staged, or copied outright from other artworks. Of the tightly knit group of American artists who formed the first “Pictures Generation,” five are represented in Pictures, Revisited. They appear alongside key predecessors and contemporaries, as well as younger artists for whom the “Pictures” approach was a critical influence.
2020 Vision: Photographs, 1840s–1860s (on view through December 13) presents the initial years of photography. The works on view, from examples of candid portraiture and picturesque landscape to pioneering travel photography and photojournalism, chart the varied interests and innovations of early practitioners. The exhibition, which reveals photography as a dynamic medium through which to view the world, plays on the association of “2020” with clarity of vision while at the same time honoring farsighted and generous collectors and patrons.