Guggenheim Receives Major Gift by Photographer George Platt Lynes

Guggenheim Museum Receives Major Gift of 551 Works by Photographer George Platt Lynes


Lynes Gift, Along with Other Major Acquisitions,
Dramatically Expands Guggenheim Photography Program

Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, today announced several major gifts and purchases for the photography program at the Guggenheim Museum. This announcement was capped by news of the acquisition of the Monroe Wheeler Collection, which comprises 531 works by seminal twentieth-century photographer George Platt Lynes and has been valued at $1.75 million. These new additions to the permanent collection signific antly increase the museum's holdings in twentieth-century photography. The photography program was founded in 1992 following a $5 million gift from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

"The Guggenheim is very fortu nate to have received the Monroe Wheeler Collection of works by George Platt Lynes," stated Krens. "Along wi th important contemporary works purchased through our Photography Committee, International Director's Council, and Young Collectors Council, the Lynes gift has put the Guggenheim in an exceptionally strong position with regard to the collection and display of twentieth-century photo-based works of art."

The Monroe Wheeler Collection of works by George Platt Lynes was formed over the course of a long friendship between the two men. Wheeler was Direct or of Exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1935 to 1965 and met Lynes through their common frie nd, Gertrude Stein. The works fall into two main categories: portraits of many of the leading cultural fig ures of the middle years of this century, including W.H. Auden, Jean Cocteau, Colette, T.S. Eliot, Marsd en Hartley, Lotte Lenya, Thomas Mann, W. Somerset Maughm, and Igor Stravinsky, and male nudes. In addit ion, the collection features documentation of the repertoire and principal dancers of the New York City Ballet, an ongoing commission sponsored by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine, as well as several important early works, self-portraits, and portraits of Wheeler and his companion, Glenway Wescott.

The majority of the works in the Monroe Wheeler Collection are rare or unusual; in many cases, they are unique. The numerous portraits of literary and artistic figures, in particular, offer unprecedented insight into a side of Lynes that has never been fully explored and provide superb documentation of artistic activity in the United States at mid-century.

"These are works of great historical significance and impeccable quality," said Matthew Drutt, Associate Curator for Research, who was responsible for bringing the gift to the museum. "In addition, they prefigure many of the formal and narrative concerns of the photography program's progenitor, Robert Mapplethorpe. We are very grateful to Jane Corkin, who was instrumental in helping us realize this acquisition."

The Guggenheim's photography program has developed in accordance with the museum's overall approach to its collections and exhibitions. Focusing as much on contemporary artists who work with photography as on more traditional interpretations of the medium, the museum acquires photographs within the context of other forms of artistic practice, rather than as an isolated form of expression.

Besides the Lynes gift, the photography program has benefitted from numerous recent gifts and purchases and now includes works by Vito Acconci, Janine Antoni, Lewis Baltz, Oldele Bamgboye, Uta Barth, Max Becher and Andrea Robbins, James Casebere, Tseng Kwong Chi, Miles Coolidge, Thomas Demand, S tan Douglas, Anna Gaskell, Andreas Gursky, Tim Hailand, Jim Hodges, Roni Horn, Bill Jacobson, Gabriel Orozco, Steven Pippin, Aura Rosenberg, Clifford Ross, Cindy Sherman, and Ike Ude.

November 20, 1998


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