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"31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein" on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Todd Webb, American, 1905–2000, Avenue of the Americas, New York City (detail), 1948, gelatin silver prints. Gift of Lora and Martin G. Weinstein in memory of Joseph A. Weinstein 84.125.4 © Estate of Todd Webb, courtesy Evens Gallery.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- Martin Weinstein was a Brooklyn kid, a sports nut who became a prominent trial attorney after moving to Minneapolis. He also became a prodigious collector of photography, and donated more than 500 images over the decades to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The exhibition “31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein” at the MIA and features more than 70 images donated by Weinstein from some of the most prominent names in photography history, from Margaret Bourke-White and Ansel Adams to Robert Polidori and Harry Callahan.

Weinstein began collecting art in the early 1970s, but his photography collecting took off a decade later after meeting the late Carroll T. Hartwell (known as Ted), the founding curator of the MIA’s photography department. They became lifelong friends, and Weinstein began donating works to the MIA, starting in 1982 with Exchange, by Jock Reynolds and Suzanne Hellmuth. His four most recent donations, in 2013, were Paris (1989) by Elliott Erwitt; Falls 26 (2005) and Martin Weinstein, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2003) by Alec Soth; and Thomas (1987) by Robert Mapplethorpe.

The images on the walls relate not just the stories of the photographs themselves but also of photography’s embrace by museums. In the 1970s, just as Martin was nurturing his love of photography, the MIA was in the vanguard of museums recognizing the power of the medium, declaring it “the leading and only popular visual means.” Ultimately, the mutual interests merged as Weinstein was instrumental to helping Hartwell build the MIA’s photography collection and vice versa.

David Little, the MIA’s current Curator of Photography & New Media, says, “Martin has made tremendous contributions to the MIA’s collection through his in-depth knowledge of photography. In a way, Martin has been almost like an extra curator.”

Weinstein’s collection is rich and diverse, though heavily flavored by gritty city scenes, often of New York City, reflecting Weinstein’s urban upbringing there. Other interests include the highly crafted, soft-focused, and romantic images by Czech pictorialist Josef Ruzicka and portraits of athletes, musicians, nudes, workers, children, and political figures. Over the years, as Weinstein opened his own photography gallery in south Minneapolis, he began to devote more exhibitions to leading color photographers, such as Robert Polidori, Mike and Doug Starn, Sarah Moon, and Alec Soth. Yet his true passion remains vintage black-and-white images from now-classic photographers, such as Elliott Erwitt, Gordon Parks, August Sander, Andre Kertesz, Mario Giacomelli, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mary Ellen Mark, and W. Eugene Smith.

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