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Baltimore Museum of Art receives major gift of contemporary photography
Edward Burtynsky. Oxford Tire Pile # 1, Westley, California. 1999. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Nancy and Tom O'Neil, Baltimore, BMA 2013.332. © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, New York /Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto.

BALTIMORE, MD.- The Baltimore Museum of Art today announced a major gift of contemporary photography from Baltimore collectors Tom and Nancy O’Neil. The O’Neils’ generous gift, in support of the BMA’s In a New Light Campaign, advances the museum’s exceptional photography collection with important examples by artists active in the late 20th and 21st centuries. Featuring 24 color and black-and-white photographs from 19 contemporary artists, this is the most significant collection of photographs to come to the BMA since a 1988 partial gift from educator, gallerist, and collector George M. Dalsheimer. The breadth of the O’Neils’ gift is represented through works by Dawoud Bey, Edward Burtynsky, Rodney Graham, Richard Misrach, and James Welling. Beginning in May 2014, individual examples from the gift will be on view periodically in the revitalized contemporary wing’s collection galleries. The wing reopened in November 2012, completing the first phase of the BMA’s ambitious multi-year renovation. Through the BMA’s 100th anniversary in 2014, the museum is asking donors to strengthen and deepen its collection by committing important works of art to the museum.

“The passion, connoisseur’s eye, and thoughtfulness that Tom and Nancy O’Neil bring to collecting photography are truly exceptional. Through their generous gift, we have expanded the BMA’s contemporary photography collection in a way that we could not otherwise have imagined possible,” said Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman.

The O’Neils have collected 20th and 21st century photography for over two decades, acquiring impressive holdings of contemporary masters and emerging talents alike. They have placed a particular emphasis on collecting works that speak to today’s landscape and environmental issues, as well as portraits that offer sensitive studies of the human experience. In most cases, the O’Neils have assembled their collection in close consultation with the artists featured in it.

“We are delighted to be part of the BMA’s Campaign and we wish the museum a very happy centennial,” said Tom O’Neil. “For many years, we have been inspired by the compelling visions and exemplary generosity of the BMA’s many donors—most notably Claribel and Etta Cone, who steadfastly supported the artists of their time. Today, the BMA plays a vital role in our community, and we hope that this gift will sustain a vibrant conversation about contemporary photography and the important ongoing projects by these exceptional artists.”

Among the outstanding works included in the O’Neils’ gift are three photographs by Edward Burtynsky (Canadian, born 1955). These images represent some of the finest work the artist produced between 1991 and 2001. The images address the ecological impact of abandoned stone quarries in New England, massive tire piles in California, and ship-breaking operations in Bangladesh. Two powerful works by Richard Misrach (American, born 1949) and one by Naoya Hatakeyama (Japanese, born 1958) document the impact of industry on the environment, from the tragic consequences of pollution along the Mississippi River to the destructive force of industrial blasting.

The O’Neils’ gift also includes Rodney Graham’s (Canadian, born 1949) large-scale inverted image of a cedar tree from the early 1990s, a signature example of that artist’s examination of new ways of perceiving phenomena and the first work by Graham to enter the collection. James Welling’s (American, born 1951) lush black and white, almost abstract study of drapery from 2000 advances the BMA’s already strong holdings of the renowned artist’s work.

Dawoud Bey’s (American, born 1953) Shalanta, 2003, features a teenage student with dramatically manicured fingers seated in her classroom and confidently looking out at the viewer. The United Kingdom-based duo Anderson and Low (Jonathan Anderson, British, born 1961, and Edwin Low, Chinese-Malaysian, born 1957) are represented by a diptych of an accomplished student athlete at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. The youngest artist included is Bryan Schutmaat (American, born 1983), the winner of the 2013 Aperture Portfolio Prize. Two works from Schutmaat’s Grays the Mountain Sends series investigate the landscapes and inhabitants of declining mining towns in the American West.

Additional artists represented by works in the gift are Chan Chao (American, born Burma, 1966), Thomas Kellner (German, born 1966), Stefan Kirkeby (American, born 1963), Nathan Lyons (American, born 1930), Abelardo Morell (Cuban, born 1948), Zwelethu Mthethwa (South African, born 1960), Matthew Pillsbury (American, born France, 1973), Larry Schwarm (American, born 1944), George Tice (American, born 1938), and Brian Ulrich (American, born 1971).

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