An-My Lê, Fragment II: Restoration of J. M. W. Turner's Port Ruysdael, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 2018, from the series Silent General (detail), pigment print, Yale Center for British Art, courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, © An-My Lê

Yale Center for British Art acquires a work by An-My Lê, the first to enter the collection by a Yale School of Art alumna

NEW HAVEN, CT (April 5, 2021)—The Yale Center for British Art announces the acquisition of a large-scale photograph by An-My Lê (Yale MFA 1993). Fragment II: Restoration of J. M. W. Turner's Port Ruysdael, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 2018, from the series Silent General, is an intriguing, behind-the-scenes image of the Center’s Turner painting while it was being restored.

“Impressive in its scale and ability to capture the painterliness of its subject, this photograph is the first work by a Yale School of Art alumna to enter the Center’s collections,” said Director Courtney J. Martin. “Following the energy galvanized by the anniversaries of Yale’s coeducation in 2019–20, the Center has made a concerted effort to diversify our collections by including more women and artists of color and to support alums.”

Lê, whose work has explored naval seascapes, was interested in the opportunity to see a Turner maritime scene undergoing restoration while she was visiting campus in 2017. “I had no idea that her asking to photograph the painting on its easel was anything more than a desire to take some smartphone snaps. What fun it was when she showed up with a large-format view camera, film, and a studio assistant to make a formal study of our painting!” said Mark Aronson, Deputy Director and Chief Conservator at the Center, and Chair of the Conservation Laboratory at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage.

“Working with US military coastal and marine activities, I have often been in a position to channel what is frequently referred to as a sublime experience. Turner’s seascapes have always been an inspiration in that aspect,” said Lê. “It was more than fitting to want to photograph Port Ruysdael as it was being restored. This experience also connected to my interest in labor, craftsmanship, as well as a certain reenactment.”

The forty-by-fifty-six-and-a-half-inch-photograph is currently on tour in An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain, the first comprehensive survey of Lê’s work featuring more than 100 images from a selection of the artist’s major series. The nationally touring exhibition, organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art, considers the celebrated photographer’s nearly twenty-five-year-career exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs. Following the tour, the photograph will be exhibited alongside additional works by Turner in the Center’s collection. It will also be incorporated into the Center’s celebration of Turner’s 250th birthday in 2025.

Lê is a Vietnamese American photographer who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Born in Saigon in 1960, she and her family fled Vietnam in 1975, the final year of the Vietnam War, and settled in the United States as political refugees. Her photographs and films look at the impact, consequences, and representation of war, often framing a tension between the natural landscape and its violent transformation into battlegrounds. By blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, Lê’s photographs are multilayered and rich with meaning. 

Lê graduated from Stanford University and received a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University School of Art. Since 1998, she has been affiliated with Bard College, where she is currently a professor in the Department of Photography. Among her many accolades, in 2012, she was awarded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; in 2009, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award; and in 1997, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. She has had major solo exhibitions at museums worldwide, including the Museum Aan de Stroom, Antwerp, Belgium (2014); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); and MoMA P.S.1, New York (2002).

Related program

Lê will speak on Friday, April 9, 2021, about Fragment II: Restoration of J. M. W. Turner’s Port Ruysdael and her practice during the Center’s “Artists in Conversation” series with Deputy Director and Chief Conservator Mark Aronson and Assistant Curator of Photography Chitra Ramalingam.

Learn more

About the Yale Center for British Art

The Center is a museum that houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom, encompassing works in a range of media from the fifteenth century to the present. It offers exhibitions and programs year-round, including lectures, concerts, films, symposia, tours, and family events. Opened to the public in 1977, the Center’s core collection and landmark building—designed by architect Louis I. Kahn—were a gift to Yale University from the collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon. While the building is currently closed due to the pandemic, the museum offers a vibrant program of activities, events, and exhibitions online. Visit the Center at britishart.yale.edu, and connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube @yalebritishart. 

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