This exhibition illuminates the role donors have played in enhancing the Center’s collections established by Paul Mellon (Yale College, Class of 1929), one of the greatest art collectors and philanthropists of the twentieth century.
From the broad range of gifts, promised gifts, and purchases of recent years, the Center has chosen to focus in this display on two areas in which the collections have developed significantly: art from roughly 1970 to the present day and photography from its origins to its most recent manifestations. The exhibition opens with Barbara Walker’s The Big Secret II, a large-scale drawing purchased through the Friends of British Art Fund from the artist’s Shock and Awe series (2015), which salutes black servicemen and women who have served in Britain’s Armed Forces. Walker’s drawing is flanked by photographic works by Tracey Moffatt (b. 1960) and Neeta Madahar (b. 1966). Beyond this opening space, the display divides.
One segment is devoted to contemporary art, organized in large part by the donors whose gifts have so enriched the Center’s collection. A selection of recent and promised gifts highlights outstanding works, both figurative and abstract, from British pop in the 1960s to the current moment. Major gifts and promised gifts from James Bartos, Joan and Henry Binder, Barbara Hoerner, Samuel and Gabrielle Lurie, Susan and Fredric Finkelstein, Robert Priseman and Ally Seabrook, and Driek and Michael Zirinsky, as well as purchases made with funds from John O’Brien and Friends of British Art, form a significant part of this section. Included are works by renowned British artists Richard Hamilton (1922–2011), Sheila Girling (1924–2015), Howard Hodgkin (1932–2017), David Hockney (b. 1937), Cornelia Parker (b. 1956), Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977), and South African artist William Kentridge (b. 1955), among others.
The other segment shows the depth and richness of the expanding photography collection, from the birth of photography, with prints by photographic pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) and well-known members of Talbot’s circle—John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810–1882) and Nevil Story-Maskelyne (1823–1911), to the work of contemporary photographers, such as Caroline Coon (b. 1945) and Susan Derges (b. 1955). The display celebrates the extraordinary gifts of Graham Howe, Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro, Dr. and Mrs. Charles Isaacs Sr., Hans Kraus Jr., Joy of Giving Something, Inc., and others who have enabled the Center to take this major step forward.
Photographs | Contemporary Art: Recent Gifts and Acquisitions has been curated by Scott Wilcox, Deputy Director for Collections; Chitra Ramalingam, Associate Curator of Photography; Amy Meyers, Director; Lars Kokkonen, Assistant Curator of Paintings and Sculpture; Molly Dotson, Assistant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts; and Elisabeth Fairman, Chief Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts.