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Major photo collection acquired by Art Gallery of Ontario
Valentine & Sons, A Boat on Kingston Harbor, 1891 (variation), 21.59 cm x 26.67 cm. albumen print. Promised Gift of Patrick Montgomery.

TORONTO.- The Art Gallery of Ontario announced today that it has acquired The Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs, a singular collection of more than 3,500 historical images from 34 countries including Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad. One of the largest collections of such images, it brings to life the changing economies, environments and communities that emerged following the abolition of slavery across the region. The Collection includes nearly every photographic format available during the years 1840 to 1940, including prints, postcards, daguerreotypes, lantern slides, albums, and stereographs. This acquisition also continues the AGO’s focus on building depth in its photography collection, which in recent years has included the purchase of more than 500 works by Diane Arbus, as well as a major collection of Polaroids of African-Americans from the 1970s to early 2000s.

This acquisition was made possible in part by the generous contributions of a group of 27 donors, the majority of whom are from Toronto’s Black and Caribbean communities. Collectively the donors raised over $300,000, with a lead gift from Dr. Liza & Dr. Frederick Murrell. Many of the donors have never before contributed to the AGO. The largest known collection outside the Caribbean, The Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs now positions the AGO as a leader in Caribbean photographic research, and will make its debut in an exhibition in 2021.

Assembled by filmmaker and photography collector Patrick Montgomery, a part of this Collection has also been generously gifted by him to the AGO. A member of the Board of Trustees of George Eastman Museum, Montgomery has been building this collection for over a decade.

“There has been a significant Caribbean presence in Canada—specifically Toronto—since the early 20th Century. These works offer rich personal connections for audiences from these communities and meaningful opportunities for scholars worldwide,” said Stephan Jost, the Michael and Sonja Koerner Director, and CEO, of the Art Gallery of Ontario. “We are incredibly grateful to our community for coming together in support of this acquisition.”

With over 60,000 objects, the AGO photography collection is deep in its holdings of portraiture, press photography, pop photographica, photographic albums, and social documentary photography. Under the careful stewardship of Sophie Hackett, AGO Curator of Photography, and Julie Crooks, Assistant Curator of Photography, the AGO continues to acquire a diverse range of photographic works from around the world.

“This ambitious group of donors raised an impressive sum in less than a year, on the strength of these works and their ties to Toronto,” said Julie Crooks, Assistant Curator of Photography, AGO. “It’s an exciting moment for the AGO Collection and for the Black and Caribbean communities here.”

In 2018, the AGO acquired Fade Resistance, a collection chiefly of Polaroids documenting African American family life from the 1970s to early 2000s. Assembled by Toronto artist Zun Lee, this Collection was inspired by Lee’s discovery of a box of polaroids on the streets of Detroit in 2012. In these images—of friends, living rooms and graduations— Lee finds a tangible expression of black lives lived.

These works, like the Casa Susanna photographs and the World War I albums acquired by the AGO before them, further strengthen the AGO’s commitment to exploring the artistic, historical, and social impact of photography in its broadest sense. Works from the Fade Resistance Collection will also go on view at the AGO in 2021.

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