Published: October 24, 2000
Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection at the High Museum of Art
ATLANTA, GA. – An exhibition of Sir Elton John’s photography collection, regarded as one of the leading private photography collections in the world, will be shown to the public this fall for the first time. “: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection,” will be on view at the High from November 4 to January 28, 2001.
The show will be split between the High’s two locations in Atlanta, the High Museum of Art and the High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Gallery. The exhibition will feature 380 works by more than 100 renowned photographers, including masterpieces by Berenice Abbott, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Andre Kertesz, Tina Modotti, Paul Outerbridge, Norman Parkinson, Irving Penn, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, among others.
John has built his collection of over 2,500 works during the past ten years, and it is distinguished by its exceptional quality and remarkable range and depth. One of the most popular musicians and performers of all time, John has made Atlanta his part-time home for almost a decade, during which time he became a member of the High Museum of Art and then joined its Director’s Circle in 1996. Visitors to the High will have the opportunity to see works of art that are normally in John’s homes in Atlanta, England and France.
The High’s downtown annex, the High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Gallery, will concurrently present the second section of “,” entitled “Celebrity Portraits from the Sir Elton John Collection.” It will feature 70 portraits by a variety of photographers depicting great Twentieth Century musicians, artists, writers and performers.
The exhibition’s curator is Ned Rifkin, director of The Menil Collection and Foundation and former director of the High. The managing curator is Thomas W. Southall, curator of photography at the High. Jane Jackson is serving as consultant to the High and the Sir Elton John Collection.
“Collecting is fundamentally about passion, and John has demonstrated an unparalleled drive for collecting high caliber works,” noted Southall. “The outstanding quality of his collection will provide an exciting experience for our visitors and will serve as an inspiration for the development of the High’s own collection.”
While museums usually present photography collections either by artist or period, “” will be installed in the spirit in which they are displayed in John’s homes. The installation will enable the public to experience the resonances between works from different periods and styles and will highlight John’s aesthetic vision. An exhibition audio tour with commentary by John will provide visitors with additional insights into the collector’s passion and eye for photography.
John began collection photography in 1991 and since then has acquired nearly 2,000 superior quality photographic prints. The collection primarily comprises vintage Twentieth Century black-and-white photographs with an emphasis on portraits, fashion and floral subjects, and it is especially notable for its strong concentrations of early modernist and Surrealist works and its in-depth representation of pivotal photographers such as Man Ray and Irving Penn. John’s collection celebrates the beauty photographers have found in natural forms – from flowers and rock formations to the human body – highlighted in works by Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts. John’s acquisitions in color photography include flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe, Polaroid self-portraits by Lucas Samaras and large-scale pieces by Andres Serrano.
John’s interest in celebrity portraits is reflected in a range of elegant and dynamic photographs including such highlights as Edward Steichen’s portrait of Gloria Swanson behind a sheer veil and Richard Avedon’s head-on portraits of the Beatles. Irving Penn’s series of over-life-size close-ups of Miles Davis’ hands, and classic pictures of Billie Holiday, Charlie Byrd and Chet Baker show the collector’s fascination with portraits of musicians. These photographs are combined with fashion studies from the 1930s through the1990s and portraits of unknown subjects captured in the studio and street. The exhibition also includes contemporary photography and multi-media work that John avidly collects, including pieces by Lena Liv, Tracey Moffatt and Gregory Crewdson.
Of his love of photography and commitment to his collection, John states, “I never get fed up with looking at the images. I can honestly say that of all the things I’ve collected in my life, nothing has endeared me more than collecting photography.”
The High will use a portion of the exhibition proceeds to establish a fund for the purchase of photography for the museum’s permanent collection that will bear the name of Sir Elton John. An illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition and will contain an introduction by Ned Rifkin, an interview with John by Ingrid Sischy and essays by Jane Jackson and Thomas W. Southall.
The High Museum of Art’s main location at 1280 Peachtree Street in Atlanta’s midtown will show the first part of the exhibition while the celebrity portraits will be on view at the High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Gallery at 133 Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. The museum’s downtown annex, the High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Gallery, is a partnership of Fulton County Arts Council, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and the High Museum of Art. For information, 404/733-HIGH.
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