Peabody Essex Museum receives outstanding collection of modern Asian photography

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Peabody Essex Museum receives outstanding collection of modern Asian photography
Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao (Born 1977, Taiwan), 69th Street, Woodside, From the series Habitat 7, 2004, color transparency. Gift of the Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Inc., 2019. © Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao.

SALEM, MASS.- The Peabody Essex Museum has accepted a transformational gift of more than 1,600 works of photography from the Joy of Giving Something (JGS) Foundation. The JGS Foundation, a nonprofit formed in 1998, is renowned for work that explores the intersection of photography and social issues, as well as its support for emerging artists and arts education. This gift of photographs features the work of 123 artists, primarily those of East Asian descent or working in East Asia, from 1930 to the present day. The addition of these exceptional 20th-century artworks to PEM’s already strong collection of 19th-century photography makes PEM one of the leading institutions for Asian photography in the U.S. and Europe.

“We are so grateful for JGS’s extraordinary generosity in supporting PEM’s photography program,” said Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM’s James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Deputy Director. “These photographs deepen our museum’s 220-year relationship with East Asian culture and offer a compelling complement to our historic collection of Asian photography.”

Among the highlights of the gift are rare, early works such as an architectural study of the Bauhaus building in Dessau made by Iwao Yamawaki between 1930–1932, which complements a recent PEM acquisition of work by his wife and fellow Bauhaus artist, Michiko Yamawaki. Well-known Japanese artists are represented in a remarkable selection of postwar photography by Nobuyoshi Araki, Masahisa Fukase, Miyako Ishiuchi, Daido Moriyama, Toshiko Okanoue, Toshio Shibata, Issei Suda and Shomei Tomatsu.

Standout works from more recent decades include conceptual photography from China by pioneers Hai Bo, Hong Hao, Hong Lei, Wang Qingsong and Liu Zheng. Edward Burtynsky’s Three Gorges Dam Project, Naoya Hatakeyama’s Blast series, and bodies of work by Lynn Davis, Xing Danwen and Zhang Dali interrogate the impact of human intervention on the environment. Other key figures in photography today include Atta Kim, Lynn Yamamoto, Tseng Kwong-Chi and An-My Lê, who each examine issues of identity and cultural inheritance in their work. Several iconic photographs by photojournalists Marc Riboud, H.S. Wong and Pulitzer Prize-winners Max Desfor and Huynh Cong Ut document the tumultuous history of Asia in the 20th century.

Twenty-five percent of the photographers are female, including pathbreaking artists such as Tomoko Sawada, Yuki Onodera and Kunié Sugiura, providing rich material for an exciting, yet understudied field. The photographs are accompanied by a gift of 69 artists’ books, including works by Eikoh Hosoe and Daido Moriyama, which will enter PEM’s Phillips Library collection.

The breadth and quality of this collection reflect the outlook of JGS founder, Howard Stein. With a keen eye, Stein began acquiring photographs in the 1980s, connecting with the most innovative practitioners of photography from around the world and supporting emerging artists with publication projects, scholarships, and related programs. Though Stein died in 2011, his creative legacy lives on and his photographs now join PEM's collection to form an extraordinary archive of global photography spanning 250 years.

In 2022, PEM will open China Through the Lens, the first large-scale, traveling exhibition of 19th-century photography from China drawn from its remarkable collection. “The JGS gift opens up an entirely new realm of opportunities for dialogue between the past and present,” says Stephanie H. Tung, Associate Curator of Exhibitions and Research and co-curator of the exhibition with Karina Corrigan, PEM’s H.A. Crosby Forbes Curator of Asian Art. “We are committed to using our wealth of photography to showcase and explore different ways of seeing the world.”

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