New For Summer 2011 “Focus on photography Tate Modern”
The profoundly original work of American photographer Diane Arbus will be exhibited as part of Tate Modern’s, ARTIST ROOMS, a rotating collection,created by the Dealer, Curator and Collector, Anthony d’Offay. The works were acquired by Tate and National Gallery Scotland in February 2008 at a giveaway price which made it possible for the two Nations to secure these remarkable contemporary and modern masterpieces.
The Diane Arbus ‘Room’ will bring together some of the artists most iconic black-and-white photographs, spanning the artist’s career from the mid-1950s until her untimely death in 1971. This outstanding selection of Arbus’s images was put together by d’Offay, in collaboration with the artist’s estate, It is one of the finest collections of her work in existence.
Some of the works were originally commissioned for Esquire magazine who were first to publish Arbus’s work, in
1960. Arbus had mixed feelings about her commercial assignments, a period of imaginative
magazine publishing in the 1960s created opportunities for Arbus to work on projects that aligned
with her own personal interests. Well-known images such as A family on their lawn one Sunday in
Westchester, N.Y.C 1966 and A young Brooklyn family going for a Sunday outing, N.Y.C. 1966
were made for an article on ‘American Families’ published in the UK by The Sunday Times
Magazine. These images are typical of Arbus’s distinctively frontal, square-format portraiture, a style which
developed after she began using a 2 ¼ inch, twin-lens Rolleiflex camera in 1962. Arbus often placed
her sitters in the centre of the picture frame, intensifying the sense of an interaction or collaboration
between her and the subjects she sought out. She photographed many of her subjects in New York’s
public parks (Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962; Woman with a locket
in Washington Square Park, N.Y.C. 1965), but many of her portraits are of people she met,
befriended and then photographed, with striking intimacy, at home, usually in their bedrooms (Naked
man being a woman N.Y.C. 1968). Arbus was deeply interested in gender and identity, and often photographed transvestites and
transsexuals (Two female impersonators backstage, N.Y.C 1961; A young man in curlers at
home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C. 1966). These works also reflect her broader interest in the rituals
and customs of self-contained groups or mini-societies, such as ethnic minorities (Puerto Rican
women with a beauty mark, N.Y.C. 1965; Jewish couple dancing, N.Y.C. 1963); nudists (Retired
man and his wife at home in a nudist camp one morning, N.J. 1963); wealthy socialites (Mrs. T.
Charlton Henry in an evening gown, Philadelphia, Pa. 1965; Four people at a gallery opening,
N.Y.C. 1968); and the residents of institutions for people with learning disabilities (as seen in a series
of untitled images from 1970-71).
Diane Arbus’s singularly humane and compellingly personal approach to her subjects helped to
redefine documentary photography, bridging the gap between this most accessible medium and the
‘higher’ arts. Her work has been described as an uncritical ‘celebration of things as they are’, which
explores the extraordinary variety that can be found in the lives, emotions and appearances of
ordinary people. This exhibition will offer an excellent overview of a truly remarkable body of the
Also on display: Taryn Simon, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, along with new photography at Tate Modern from Tuesday 24 May 2011. Galleries across every level of Tate Modern,will showcase important new bodies of photographic work by Taryn Simon, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters, 2011; the first display in London of the iconic works by Diane Arbus drawn from the ARTIST ROOMS Collection and New Documentary Forms, consisting entirely of new acquisitions to the Tate Collection with recent work by Luc Delahaye, Mitch Epstein, Guy Tillim, Akram Zaatari as well as two earlier works by Boris Mikhailov.
Photography has become increasingly central to Tate’s programme of exhibitions and displays as well as to the development of the Collection. This series of new displays provides an opportunity to view a large body of major photographic work, both historic and contemporary, in the context of the Collection displays at Tate Modern.