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High Museum of Art announces gifts totaling nearly $4 million in support of Photography initiatives
Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura- View Of Midtown Atlanta Looking South In Conference Room, 2013. Inkjet print.

ATLANTA, GA.- The High Museum of Art today announced that it has received a series of gifts totaling nearly $4 million in support of its photography initiatives. The largest gift, from Donald Keough, former president and chief operating officer of Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Company, and his wife Marilyn Keough, will endow a permanent curatorial position in photography and support ongoing photography programs and acquisitions at the Museum. Currently held by Brett Abbott, the position will be named the Donald and Marilyn Keough Family Curator of Photography in recognition of their generosity.

The High has also received a significant gift from Lucinda W. Bunnen to create the first dedicated photography gallery in the Museum’s permanent collection space. Bunnen is an Atlanta-based photographer and longtime supporter of the High’s photography initiatives.

A gift of $500,000 from Paul Hagedorn will support photography acquisitions initiatives and initiate the department’s first acquisitions endowment.

Additionally, $400,000 from the Yellowlees Family, whose total support of the High over the past decade exceeds $1 million, will be used to strengthen the Museum’s noteworthy collection of Southern photography.

“These landmark gifts represent a transformational moment for photography at the High,” said Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. director. “Photography is our fastest growing area of collecting, research and programming, and these gifts will ensure that the High can continue our commitment to new scholarship and commissioning new works by living artists. We hope that these significant gifts inspire others to support our photography programs and the growth of our collection.”

“To have so many leaders in our community come together simultaneously to support the important work that we’ve been doing is immensely gratifying,” said Brett Abbott, Keough Family curator of photography at the High. “Their generous contributions ensure the long-term fiscal health and growth of the photography collection and that the High will continue to be a leader in the field. I’m excited by the opportunities these gifts present to take our collection to new heights and to expand our holdings in key areas, especially related to the work of Southern photographers.”

Donald and Marilyn Keough are longtime supporters of the High, with gifts totaling nearly $4 million to date. The Keoughs helped fund the High’s 2005 expansion, and a gallery in the Stent Family Wing is named in their honor. The family has also supported various exhibitions at the Museum over the past 10 years.

An avid collector and photographer, Bunnen has made many significant contributions to the High’s photography department over the past three decades, including helping the Museum add more than 650 works to its photography collection. Bunnen’s gifts to the High over the years include prints by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Chuck Close, Emmet Gowin, Clarence John Laughlin, Frederick Sommer and Cindy Sherman. The High recently presented “The Bunnen Collection of Photography,” an exhibition featuring a selection of works donated to the Museum by Bunnen, as well as works made by Bunnen.

Paul Hagedorn, an Atlanta-based artist and owner of Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, has been a supporter of the High since 2005, contributing significantly to recent acquisition programs and the High’s “Picturing the South” series.

Gifts from the Yellowlees Family have significantly contributed to the department’s growth and momentum over the past decade. Their support has allowed the Museum to build important collections of works by Harry Callahan and Peter Sekaer, as well as present noteworthy photography exhibitions.

The High Museum of Art is home to the most robust photography program in the American Southeast. The museum began acquiring photographs in the early 1970s, making it one of the earliest American art museums to commit to collecting the medium. Today, photography is the largest and fastest growing collection at the High. With more than 5,400 prints, holdings focus on American work of the 20th and 21st centuries, with special strength in modernist traditions, documentary genre and contemporary photography. Holdings include the most significant museum collection of vintage Civil Rights-era prints in the nation, as well as important holdings by Harry Callahan, Clarence John Laughlin, William Christenberry, Ralph Gibson, Richard Misrach, Walker Evans and Peter Sekaer. The collection also gives special attention to pictures made in and of the South, serving as the largest and most significant repository representing the region’s important contributions to the history of photography.

Since 1996, the High’s distinctive “Picturing the South” initiative has commissioned established and emerging photographers to produce work inspired by the area’s geographical and cultural landscape. Past participants include Sally Mann, Dawoud Bey, Emmet Gowin, Richard Misrach, Alex Webb and Alec Soth, whose commissions have all been added to the High’s permanent collection. The High’s latest “Picturing the South” commission features works by Abelardo Morell. For the commission, which debuted on Feb. 23, 2014, Morell focused on representing trees—an iconic subject that has captivated artists throughout the history of photography—in playfully unusual and imaginative ways. In addition to trees of the Southern landscape, he has employed a camera obscura to capture their urban counterpoint in select views of the Atlanta skyline.

Since joining the High Museum in 2011, Abbott has organized several significant national exhibitions, including the first retrospective in nearly 40 years for photographer Wynn Bullock, which will premiere at the High in June 2014. He has also continued the High’s “Picturing the South” series, commissioning and exhibiting new works by Richard Misrach, Abelardo Morell, Martin Parr, Kael Alford and Shane Lavalette, many of which then entered the Museum’s collection. Under Abbott’s leadership the High has acquired more than 1,000 new photographic works.

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