Each year I compile a list of the biggest stories about photography that was advanced through philanthropy. Here's my list for the best of 2017.
10. Dawoud Bey and Trevor Paglin win MacArthur Genius grants
For individual photographers there is no bigger prize than a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, commonly known as the “Genius Grant”. Each recipient is chosen for having "shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction" — and each will receive a $625,000 award from the foundation "as an investment in their potential," paid out over five years with no strings attached. This year photographers Dawoud Bey and Trevor Paglin were among the 24 recipients of the awards.
9. Seattle Public Library Receives Complete Edward Curtis Masterpiece The North American Indian
Seattle philanthropist Harriett Bullitt has donated her family's set of The North American Indian books to the Seattle Public Library. Published by Edward Curtis from 1907 to 1930, the massive set is one of the most acclaimed photographic and anthropological studies of all time. It includes 1,505 small photogravures in the books and an additional 723 large gravures in the accompanying portfolios. Complete sets are so rare that one sold at auction in 2012 for $2.9 million. Bullitt's set was passed down through the family from her grandmother, whose husband was one of the original subscribers.
8. Crowdfunded Photo Gear Campaigns Raise Big $$$
This was the year that crowdfunded photo gear really came into its own. Individuals and companies raised at least $9 million through Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns for newly designed backpacks, cameras, lenses, and accessories. One person, Ryan Stout of Bozeman, Montana, raised more than $3 million for his innovative camera remote control and viewing system.
7. Fitchburg Art Museum Receives Major Gift of Photos
Earlier this year Massachusetts collector and philanthropist Dr. Anthony Terrana donated 500 important contemporary photographs to the small Fitchburg (MA) Art Museum. Included in the gift are prints by Abelardo Morell, Olivia Parker, William Wegman, Lynne Cohen, Yasumasa Morimura, and Laura Wulf. Terrana, who has also donated photos to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, chose Fitchburg because of his admiration for Stephen B. Jareckie, the Fitchburg Museum’s consulting curator of photography.
6. Robert B. Menschel gifts important photos to the National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has received a new gift of 54 important photographs from philanthropist Robert B. Menschel. The prints span more than a century of photographic art and include iconic images from William Henry Fox Talbot, Timothy H. O'Sullivan, James Van Der Zee (shown above), Brassaï, Roy DeCarava, Robert Frank, and Cindy Sherman. Menschel, a passionate collector of and advocate for photography, has also made major gifts from his collection to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
5. International Center of Photography to Move (Again)
Just a year after moving into their $24 million gallery in the Bowery neighborhood of New York, the International Center of Photography announced it will move again―this time to the dazzling Essex Crossing complex on the Lower East Side. The move will allow ICP to combine its school with its exhibition galleries in a massive 40,000 square-foot space. ICP leaders hope its new showcase home will boost visitor attendance, which had significantly decreased over the last year.
4. Getty Museum Receives Major Photography Gifts
The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles received two important groups of photographs from collectors Leslie and Judith Schreyer and Michael and Jane Wilson. The Schreyer's gifts include 50 photographs by major 20th century artists, including Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, W. Eugene Smith, Bruce Davidson, Jo Ann Callis, Graciela Iturbide, Helen Levitt, Arthur Leipzig, and David Vestal. The Wilson's gifts are concentrated on contemporary photographs, including Darren Almond, Robert Flick, Seung Woo Bak, Wang Jingsong, and Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao.
3. Art Institute of Chicago Receives Major Photography Endowment Gift
Brothers David W. “Buzz” Ruttenberg and Roger F. “Biff” Ruttenberg of Chicago announced they have given a major gift to the Art Institute of Chicago for their photography programs. The gift will endow the Ruttenberg Associate Curator of Photography position and the Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography exhibition series. The Art Institute does not provide the amount of specific gifts from its donors, except to say that this particular gift was “remarkable”. The brothers’ parents, David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg, endowed the Institute’s first gallery dedicated solely to photography.
2. Philanthropist Donates NY Times Trove of Canadian Photos to the Ryerson Image Centre
When Toronto real estate entrepreneur Chris Bratty heard the New York Times was selling its massive archive of 25,000 photos taken in Canada, he knew the collection had to be housed in his home country. The archive includes photos from every decade of the 20th century and includes everything from visits by the Queen and American Presidents to sporting events. Bratty was able to purchase the entire collection and has now donated it to the Ryerson Image Centre at Ryerson University in Toronto. Bratty won’t reveal how much he paid for the archive, but he estimates the collection is worth millions because of its comprehensive scope.
1. LUMA Foundation Builds a Home and a Photographic Legacy
This was a seminal year for the Swiss-based LUMA Foundation, as it moved forward with developing a 20-acre arts complex in Arles, France; helped London’s Tate Museum acquire Martin Parr’s 12,000 volume photography book collection; and acquired the entire archives of famed photographer Annie Liebovitz. The foundation is funded entirely by Maja Hoffman, an heir to the vast Hoffmann-LaRoche pharmaceutical empire, and a world-class art collector and highly enthusiastic supporter of photography around the world. For the Arles complex, which she see as a compliment to the famous Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival, Hoffmann has contributed at least $120 million for the project, which is planned to open in 2019