Museum Exhibition Catalogs

While I was in Paris, I went to see a major exhibition at the Musee D’Orsay, Masculin/Masculin, a retrospective of the male nude in art from 1800 to the present. It was beautifully presented, almost overwhelming in size and scope, and extremely memorable. At the time, I thought about buying the catalog because it had outstanding reproductions of the work in the exhibit, including many works and artists I was unfamiliar with. I decided not to because of the size and weight of the catalog, especially considering that it was only available hardcover and my bags were already close to the weight limit. After I got home, I was kicking myself for not buying it after all. I got a second chance, however, when a friend who lives in New York told me he would be going in early December, and he offered to bring me back a copy. It arrived today, just in time to be a Christmas present to myself.

This got me thinking about museum exhibition catalogs. I generally try to buy them for exhibits I’ve enjoyed when I have the chance, because it serves as a reminder of the work exhibited, and it goes a long way to helping support the museum mounting the exhibit, especially when the museum (like all the galleries of the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art) does not charge admission. As a result, I thought I’d list the exhibitions I’ve collected catalogs from.

In rough chronological order, descending, they are:

  • Charles Marville, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2013
  • Masculin/Masculin, Musee D’Orsay, Paris, France 2013
  • Photography and the American Civil War, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2013
  • Faking it: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2013
  • 40 under 40: Craft Futures, Renwick Gallery, Washington DC, 2012
  • Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2010
  • Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, 2010
  • Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O’Sullivan, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, 2010
  • Truth/Beauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art – 1845-1945, Phillips Gallery, Washington DC, 2009
  • Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC, 2009
  • Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice, Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston, 2009
  • Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 2008
  • All the Mighty World: Photographs of Roger Fenton, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004
  • Segnali di Fumo: L’avventura del West nella Fotograffia, Castello Sforzesco, Milan, Italy 1994
  • Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Columbus, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1992
  • Treasure Houses of Britain, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 1985
  • Tutankhamen, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC 1977
  • The Family of Man, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1955*

*obviously I did NOT attend the Family of Man exhibit, as I wasn’t even a fantasy in my grandparents’ minds in 1955. But I do have the exhibition book.

Also note that I’ve listed where I saw the exhibit, not necessarily who published the catalog.

Perhaps the oddest is the Segnali di Fumo catalog, purely on account of the incongruity of going all the way to Milan, Italy to see photographs of the American West (well, I didn’t GO to Milan to see the exhibit, but happened upon it as I was leaving the Castello Sforzesco), with a significant body from the Amon Carter museum in Texas. Which I haven’t been to yet, but really ought to. It would also help close the loop on my France trip, for it is there that the first known photograph ever is held – Niepce’s first known heliograph of the view out his studio window at his estate near Chalon-sur-Saone (that I couldn’t visit because it was closed for the season). I’m sure I’m missing one or two from my collection, and my collection of catalogs is a pale shadow of the total number of exhibits I’ve been to either because no catalog was produced (producing an exhibition catalog is a major undertaking and not done casually or cheaply) or because I couldn’t afford it at the time.

Another day I’ll put together a catalog of my photography monographs, as I know this is of interest to some. It’s not a huge collection, especially in light of my overall library size, but it is a work in progress.

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