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Israel Museum receives major gift of 200 photographs by documentary photographer Eugène Atget
Hôtel, 1 rue des Prouvaires et 54 rue Saint-Honoré (1912), Eugene Atgét, courtesy of the Israel Museum.

JERUSALEM.- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, today announced the gift of 200 photographs by the pioneering French documentary photographer Eugène Atget (1857 – 1927), donated by Pamela and George Rohr, New York, and by an anonymous donor, New York. These works add an important new dimension to the Museum’s exceptional photography holdings, encompassing over 55,000 works from the earliest days of photography to contemporary times.

Seventy of these newly gifted works will be presented in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, an exhibition at Ticho House, the Israel Museum ’s historic venue in downtown Jerusalem , featuring Atget’s images of Paris from the mid-1890s until 1927. On view from March 23 – June 30, 2012, the exhibition marks the first ever presentation of the photographer’s work in Israel . The exhibition is curated by Nissan Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator in the Museum’s Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography.

French photographer Eugène Atget is recognized internationally for his integral role in the canon of documentary photography. After working as a sailor, actor, and painter for almost thirty years, he embarked on a self-assigned mission to document French life, culture, and history in and around Paris . He chose houses, streets, parks, and castles as his subjects, capturing interior and exterior details of architecture being transformed by modernity. Without any official recognition, this enterprise yielded a massive visual compendium of nearly 10,000 photographs that Atget loosely designated as “documents pour artistes” (documents for artists), created by means of anachronistic technology and an antiquated camera.

“We are deeply grateful to our donors for this generous gift of so important a trove of works by Eugène Atget, a pivotal figure in the history of photography,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum . “We are proud to be sharing Atget’s unique vision with Israeli audiences for the first time and in the resonant setting of our historic Ticho House, which also juxtaposes turn-of-the-last century Jerusalem with its encroaching modernity.”

“Atget’s photographs of Paris , including those featured in Eugène Atget: As Paris Was, do not depict the city as a bustling modern metropolis,” said exhibition curator Nissan Perez. “He trained his lens on the older, often decaying buildings and parks. The scenes he captured, mostly devoid of human presence, express desolation and solitude, reminiscent of an empty stage awaiting the actors’ entrance.”

The Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography at the Israel Museum
Since its opening in 1965, the Israel Museum has maintained a focus on the exploration and exhibition of photography. By the early 1970s, New York photographer Arnold Newman had begun acquiring photographs for the department, which was formally established in 1977, and in 2006, he bequeathed to the Museum seventy works by other photographers from his personal collection.

Over the years, the department has developed several areas of expertise, including important examples by the medium’s pioneering 19th-century practitioners, and photography of the Dada and Surrealist movements. It also features in-depth representations of such historically significant artists as Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Andre Kertész, and Man Ray; and the 1998 gift of The Vera and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art added works of unequaled importance, further securing the Museum’s place among the leading such holdings in the field. The department also promotes contemporary Israeli photography through an active program of acquisitions as well as through individual and group exhibitions dedicated to the work of Israeli photographers.

In 2008, longtime patrons Harriette and Noel Levine donated their extensive photography collection to the Israel Museum , encompassing 125 photographs spanning over 160 years of the history of the medium. Their collection, considered one of the finest private holdings in the world, comprises works ranging from 19th-century British calotypes, to modernist masterpieces, to recent examples of contemporary work.

In 2009, the Israel Museum together with the Shpilman family and the Shpilman Art and Culture Foundation launched the Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography, with the joint objectives of stimulating, encouraging, and cultivating international research projects in photography and of broadening the range of photographic investigations which integrate theoretical issues with practical ones. The $40,000 prize is awarded by an international jury once every two years, resulting in a publication by the Israel Museum , and if suitable, an exhibition. Nominations for the 2012 prize are being accepted until September 1, 2012. For more information, visit The department also awards the Gérard Lévy Prize for a Young Photographer, and the Kavlin Photography Prize for life achievement.

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