Museums VS. Galleries: and the difference is…

A few weeks ago we attended a series of photography exhibit openings, with each having a distinctly different flavor.
One had the au courant provocative series of large color images, another gallery featured a historical bent, with black and white images of US history.
Both of these shows came with a price list, and books for sale for those who weren’t ready to make the purchase right then. You can scroll down on this page for the articles on those openings.

The last one we attended was at the Getty Museum, and had such a different mindset that it became a great comparison to the way we receive images and why it is all important to come at them from different viewpoints.

The museum show, expertly curated by 2 woman from the Getty photographic dept., gave us a way to tie in very classical photographic work, to a modern viewpoint, presented in a more unique way.
The Frederick H. Evans exhibit included mainly architectural landscapes, primarily platinum prints, with a few portraits added in.
“A Sea of Steps” – Stairs to the Chapter House, Wells Cathedral, 1903
Creator(s): Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853 – 1943)
Medium: Platinum print
Dimensions: (9 7/16 x 7 1/2 in.)
Copyright: © Mrs. Janet M. Stenner, sole granddaughter of Frederick H. Evans
Object Credit: RPS Collection at the National Media Museum, Bradford, England,
RPS 5012/1
Repro Credit: Royal Photographic Society at the National Media Museum/Science &
Society Picture Library

The sense of light reflected off of the stone or wood surfaces of churches, or other massive structure, is something so strangely liquid, you can only imagine the photographers timing of the daylight to get these images.
In fact, one of the photographs, has a companion shot nearby, as only the camera angle has changed slightly to reveal an entirely new viewpoint.
Earth shattering news? No, but for a generation weaned on digital prints this exploration of an “urban setting” in the turn of the century may give you a sense of a visual calm. It did to us.

And then the concept of the entire current show is further revealed, when you move to the adjoining spaces and rooms with the work of Jeff Cien-Hsing Liao, Catherine Opie, and Soo Kim, called Urban Panoramas.
Each photographer has their own space, and you can listen to the background of the series on provided handsets.
The artists exhibit work telling a tale of urban panoramas with a modern backdrop.
On the floor of each ones “area” there is a map of the path locating the images taken by the photographer. Perhaps, this it letting the viewer have a sense of the either the specificity of a path, or the wanderings of the creator.

The expression of each landscape is told in very different ways. We highly recommend you click on this link and have a listen to the photographers own voice, discussing their work.

Mr. Liao, shooting sheet film in a large format camera, and making up panoramic images from multiple, mainly horizontal, exposures, leads you on a trip around NYC; from the subways to parking structures, to impound yards.

Title/Date: Municipal Parking Garage, Queens Plaza, Negative 2005; Printed 2008
Medium: Inkjet print
Dimensions: (20 x 48 in.)
Copyright: © Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao
Object Credit: Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J.
Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Soo Kim did a series in Reykjavik, which online images cannot do justice. This is how she explained what she did to us: First a 12 shot panoramic series was shot at her pre-determined location. Then, if you consider the images numbered 1-12, she would combine the #12 image with the #1 image, cutting out structural flat planes so a skeletal remains would reveal the parts of the image underneath. These 2 images are slightly offset, meaning not flush, so there is a new dimensionality to the new image. Lighting in the gallery helped create a subtle shadow so you could get the space defined by the top print as distinct from the bottom print.
Whew! Is that clear at all?
The point is that we can show you this image here, but truly you should see them in person. She will explain it to you in this audio/visual presentation.

Title/Date: Midnight Reykjavík #5, Negative 2005; Printed 2007
Medium: Layered, hand-cut chromogenic print
Dimensions: Framed: 123.5 x 123.5 cm (48 5/8 x 48 5/8 in.)
Copyright: © Soo Kim
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Our own Los Angeles based Catherine Opie, gives us a panoramic tour of her home ground in a series of strip malls in black and white.
The strip mall is common cultural marker in our society, and change as the years and communities evolve and shift their make-up.
Her images present a laid back look at these ubiquitous islands of multi-purpose commerce. Mainly told in a flat non dramatic lighting, you can see the simplicity of the non pedestrian culture.

Title/Date: Untitled #2, 1997
Medium: Inkjet print
Dimensions: Image: 40.6 x 104.1 cm (16 x 41 in.)
Copyright: © Catherine Opie
Object Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

So here is our point: By going to the galleries you can get a, usually, more provocative experience where either very current art or very iconic images are being shown. And of course these are businesses and are meant to sell.
We do encourage you to start to collect photographs, as dictated by your wallet being able to handle it. It is a pleasure to see photographs on your wall that move you.
The investment potential is there, but we have never bought images we didn’t love. Sometimes it took seeing them for a couple of years to take the plunge and of course there will always be the ones we missed out on and regret to this day.

The museum experience brings the photography lover in you completely to the forefront.
A well curated show, which the Getty has been consistently delivering on, can lead you around a space, show you things you may not have discovered in your own life, inspire you, and maybe help you see the world around you in a different way.
Yeah. that’s a lot to ask from an exhibit.
It’s not all on the audio aids you can rent, but it’s always worth to get em. just make the experience that much richer if you don’t have a docent to take you around.
If you can make it to an opening, you also get the opportunity to ask the photographer or curator questions, you may never get answered otherwise.

Since there is nothing for sale, other than some books, or a catalog, the experience has nothing to do with commerce.
It is the sheer, visual, emotional and intellectual, excursion for your cultural pleasure.

There is a large place in this world for both formats, and we encourage you to take advantage of both.
The grid we live in now, asks us to feed back into the community, that which we have learned or experienced.

As a photography fan, these options are a pretty good source to get some impressions to share.

What was the last exhibit you saw?

A Record of Emotion: The Photographs of Frederick H. Evans
Urban Panoramas: Opie, Liao, Kim
February 2nd – June. 6th, 2010
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049
(310) 440-7300

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Current Exhibitions

  • Yossi Milo Gallery
  • Substance of Density
  • March 6th – May 2, 2020
  • New York, NY 10001
  • 245 Tenth Avenue
  • p. 212-414-0370
  • Annenberg Space for Photography
  • Vanity Fair: Hollywood Calling
  • Feb 8th- July 26th, 2020
  • 2000 Avenue of the Stars, #10
  • Century City, CA. 90067
  • Tel: 213.403.3000
  • Getty Center
  • Unseen-35 Years of Collecting photographs
  • Through March 8, 2020
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  • Tel: 310-440-7300
  • Howard Greenberg Gallery
  • Harry Gruyaert
  • Through March 14th, 2020
  • 41 East 57th Street, Suite 1406
  • New York,NY 10022
  • Tel: 212-334-0100
  • Peter Fetterman Gallery
  • Ansel Adams: Beauty And Truth
  • Through August 12th, 2020
  • 2525 Michigan Avenue Gallery A1
  • Santa Monica, CA
  • 90404
  • Phone: 310.453.6463

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