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Wednesday, 19 December 2007


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Times certainly change. It hasn't been that long ago since they rejected Georgia O'Keefe's offer of the Steiglitz archives.

Um, not to shake Bill Mitchell's world, but Georgia O'Keefe died in 1986. 21 years is a long time, even in my world.

I'll hazard a guess as to why the archives went to the Met rather than MoMA. I think there were probably two reasons:

(1) Without any hard numbers to back it up, I bet the Met gets significantly more visitors than MoMA. I'd also wager than the Met draws its audience from a wider cross-section of society than the MoMA. This isn't a value judgment, just a personal observation. In part, I think this is because the Met is a quasi-public institution. The City of New York owns all of the Met's buildings and pays for its heat, light and power. MoMA, while obviously a non-profit, is more of a private institution. This is reflected in their admission charges. MoMA has hard admission prices, whereas the Met only has "suggested" admission/contribution levels. You can visit the Met without paying a cent, if you want to. (You cheapskate!)

(2) Perhaps they felt that Arbus' archives would be more highly valued by the Met than by MoMA, given that the Met is trying to build up its photography collections.

Don't get me wrong, both are great museums, and ultimately, I don't really think it matters all that much which museum they go to. As John's comment indicates, what drew Arbus to MoMA was not necessarily MoMA the institution, but John Szarkowski (and possibly the coffee). That era has passed and without failing to appreciate John Szarkowski's contributions, we should be grateful that we live in an era when his work is bearing fruit and other museums are showing greater interest in photography. The important thing is that Arbus' archives are available to be seen and studied in New York.


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