As Cassie Packard reports for Hyperallergic, the 76 artists featured in the collection include early Modernists, photojournalists and experimental artists active today. Kornblum made the donation in honor of Roxana Marcoci, MoMA’s senior curator of photography; in a statement, the collector praises Marcoci’s “brilliant writings and exhibitions often about women artists.”
Marcoci, for her part, says in the statement that “[t]he collection raises a whole set of questions.”
She adds, “How do we go about unsettling established art historical narratives? Unfixing the canon? Researching counter-histories? This gift offers the perfect platform to examine women photographers’ self-agency within a diversity of artistic strategies and activate new readings about their contributions to contemporary culture.”
Many of the artists whose work constitutes the collection will be familiar to frequent MoMA visitors, writes Alex Greenberger for ARTnews. Among these are Dora Maar, Susan Meiselas, Lorna Simpson, Louise Lawler and Sharon Lockhart. Others are new to the museum, including Cara Romero, a Chemehuevi photographer whose work often focuses on Indigenous people. Her featured snapshot, Wakeah (2018), is part of the series First American Girl, which puts real, modern women in human-size doll boxes.
“The First American Girl series is an examination of past misrepresentation of Indigenous women as dolls, and it's meant to reclaim an identity,” Romero told Native News Online’s Tamara Ikenberg in August. “It was a conscious decision to make sure not everything looks historic, so that psychologically when people see them, they immediately understand these are modern contemporary peoples, and living peoples. It’s not a photogravure from the 1850s.”
Per Hyperallergic, a second artistic friendship underscored by the collection is that of Frida Kahlo and Mexican photographer and gallerist Lola Álvarez Bravo, who gave Kahlo her only solo show in Mexico during her lifetime. As Madeline Barnes wrote in a 2017 blog post for the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Álvarez Bravo captured numerous portraits of Kahlo, in addition to directing a never-finished film featuring the artist. A 1945 Álvarez Bravo portrait of the Mexican Modernist is part of Kornblum’s donation.
The art included in the trove spans more than a century, from Frances Benjamin Johnston’s 1899 image of a school classroom, titled Penmanship Class, to many 20th-century images and some from recent years.
Kornblum joined MoMa’s photography committee in 2014, working alongside Marcoci, who has been curating MoMA exhibitions since 1999. In 2017, Marcoci organized Lawler’s first New York museum show, “Why Pictures Now,” which featured four decades of the artist’s work.
The museum will include the photographs in installations and encourage their use in collaborative research and study projects. It is planning a 2022 exhibition featuring works drawn from the gift, as well as a scholarly catalog to accompany the show.