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First Gallery Dedicated to Photography Set to Open at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Nathan Noland, Mario Kart DS, The Star Cup, Wynn, Las Vegas, Monday July 31, 2006, 0:34 a.m. ‑ 0:52 a.m., 2006. Matthew Pillsbury (American, born in 1973) Photograph, archival pigment ink jet print. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. James N. Krebs Purchase Fund for 21st Century Photography © Matthew Pillsbury, courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, NYC. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

BOSTON.- On November 19th, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), will open its first exhibition space permanently dedicated to photography, the Herb Ritts Gallery. The gallery’s premiere exhibition, Photographic Figures, will be on view through May 10, 2009 in the Herb Ritts Gallery and the adjacent Clementine Haas Michel Brown Gallery. Artists have long taken advantage of the camera’s ability to capture expressive images of the human form, from straightforward documentation to poetic metaphor. This exhibition explores the diversity of these approaches by artists working with a camera. Photographic Figures is generously funded by the Shelly and Michael Kassen Fund and the MFA Associates / MFA Senior Associates Exhibition Endowment Fund. The media sponsor is The Boston Phoenix.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Herb Ritts Foundation, the MFA will have the opportunity to make photography accessible to our visitors throughout the year,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “The gallery will allow us to highlight the breadth and depth of the Museum’s superb collection of photography.”

Photographic Figures contains approximately 75 works and focuses primarily on the 20th century. It will be organized thematically and will include close-ups, nudes, and figural groups that range from the personal modernist viewpoint of Alfred Stieglitz to the surrealist poetry of Man Ray, from the searing photojournalism of James Nachtwey to the witty visual play of Lee Friedlander, and from the celebrity culture of Herb Ritts to the cycle-of-life ruminations of Dieter Appelt.

“This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for the MFA to display a portion of its renowned collection of photographs,” said Anne E. Havinga, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs at the MFA and curator of Photographic Figures. “Going forward, the Herb Ritts Gallery will give us the chance to show a wide range of works from the mid 19th century to the present day.”

The exhibition will include a number of new acquisitions from artists such as Berenice Abbott, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Sasha Stone, Alexey Brodovitch, Shomei Tomatsu, Rudy Burkhardt, Harry Callahan, Ray Metzker, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Lalla Assia Essaydi, Jen Davis, and Matthew Pillsbury, as well as several Boston-area photographers, including Nicholas Nixon, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Robert Cumming, and John Goodman.

The MFA’s Herb Ritts Gallery was made possible by a gift of $2.5 million from the Herb Ritts Foundation to the Museum’s Campaign, Building the New MFA. The MFA possesses one of the earliest and most historically important collections of photography in the country. It began in 1924 when Alfred Stieglitz gave 27 of his own photographs to the Museum and expanded when Georgia O’Keeffe gave additional photographs by Stieglitz in 1950. Today, the MFA’s collection contains nearly 5,000 works that highlight both the American and the European history of photography.

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