AGO to Showcase Arbus Acquisition

by Photo Life

Diane Arbus. Mrs. Martin Luther King, Jr. on her Front Lawn, Atlanta, Ga., 1968, 1968; printed later. Gelatin silver print, Sheet: 50.8 × 40.6 cm. Gift of Phil Lind, 2016. Copyright © The Estate of Diane Arbus 2016/509

The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto has announced an upcoming solo exhibition to honour its 2016 landmark acquisition of 522 works by Diane Arbus—the second largest collection of the artist’s work. Sophie Hackett, the AGO’s curator of photography, said, “Arbus was fascinated by the differences between us as human beings and was moved to describe those differences in as clear-eyed and precise a way as she could. In fifteen short years, she produced perhaps the most compelling and demanding body of portraits the 20th century had seen to that point. The direct, even confrontational, gaze of the individuals in her photographs remains bracing to our eyes still today provoking recognition, empathy and unease. The acquisition of these works in 2016 was a landmark one for the AGO and furthers our goal of building a collection that reflects the artistic, historical, and social impact of the medium.”

This exhibition, Diane Arbus: Photographs, 1956–1971, will be the first to present the artist’s work chronologically. Mark your calendars: the exhibition will be on view from February 22 until May 17 and will be a core exhibition of the 2020 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

Diane Arbus revolutionized the art she practiced. Born in 1923, Arbus grew up in an affluent New York family that owned a department store on Fifth Avenue. At age 18 in 1941 she married Allan Arbus and for a decade the couple worked together – he as photographer, she as stylist, producing photographs for fashion magazines. Although she started making pictures for herself in the early 1940s, it was only in 1956, when she numbered a roll of film #1, that she began seriously pursuing the work for which she has come to be known. During the 1960’s she published more than 100 photographs in leading magazines like Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar. Arbus was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships in 1963 and 1966 for her project, “American Rites, Manners and Customs”. The photographs she produced in those years attracted a great deal of critical and popular attention when a group was selected for the legendary 1967 New Documents show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. When she died by suicide in 1971, she was already something of a legend among serious photographers, although only a relatively small number of her most important pictures were widely known. In a career that lasted little more than fifteen years, Diane Arbus produced a body of work whose style and content have secured her a place as one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.

Diane Arbus, A Young Man and His Girlfriend With Hot Dogs in the Park, N.Y.C., 1971, 1971. Gelatin silver print; printed later, Sheet: 50.8 × 40.6 cm. Gift of Jay Smith, 2016. Copyright © Estate of Diane Arbus 2016/723

Diane Arbus, Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, N.Y.C., 1963, 1963. Gelatin silver print; printed later. Sheet: 50.8 × 40.6 cm. Gift of Robin and David Young, 2016. Copyright © Estate of Diane Arbus 2016/934

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