June 5th, 2013

MoMA’s Photography Curator on Underappreciated Photographers

Quentin Bajac, who was appointed chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, gave an interview to critic and author Richard B. Woodward, published last week in the Wall Street Journal. Bajac talked about his ideas for future acquisitions for the permanent collection.

“Artists that he thinks the museum has wrongly ignored or undercollected include Luigi Ghirri,” Woodward writes.  “Among Americans, he cites James Welling as an ‘important’ figure underappreciated in the past by MoMA; and Mr. Bajac was ‘shocked’ it [MoMA] had not a single print by the photojournalist Susan Meiselas.” Bajac also tells Woodward he’d like the permanent collection to represent more Japanese, African and Latin America photographers. (Yes, MoMA’s holdings seem pretty provincial, especially compared to those of other institutions.)

During the interview with Woodward, Bajac also touched on ideas for new shows (note how Martin Parr’s name is mentioned), his thoughts on displaying moving images and media installations, and what role he believes museums and curators should play in a society that experiences “a surfeit of images” every day. One of Bajac’s comments will ring true to anyone who follows photography today: “Photography is no longer about the wall. The book form is basic to photography. Young photographers are self-publishing. We must be aware of that and work closely with the museum library.”

The full article, “Snapshot of a Curator,” can be found on online.wsj.com.

May 2nd, 2011

MoMA Photo Director Peter Galassi to Retire After 30 Years

Peter Galassi, the outgoing Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City announced today that their photography department director will retire in July of this year.

During his 30-year career with MoMA, Peter Galassi organized or co-organized more than 40 exhibitions, highlighting the work of Andreas Gursky, Jeff Wall, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander and Henri Cartier-Bresson among many other photographers.

Galassi is only the fourth person in the museum’s history to head it photography department. He succeeded the influential curator John Szarkowski, who served in the position from 1962 to 1981.

During his stint as chief curator, Galassi built MoMA’s permanent photography collection through major acquisitions, including 1,000 of Lee Friedlander’s photographs, Cindy Sherman’s complete Untitled Film Stills series, and more than 300 modernist images from the private collection of Thomas Walther. He also was a driving force behind the museum’s acquisition of postwar photography, which brought to the museum important bodies of work by Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Robert Frank, David Goldblatt, Nan Goldin, Jan Groover, Boris Mikhailov, Nicholas Nixon, Michael Schmidt, Judith Joy Ross, Joel Sternfeld, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, William Wegman, and Garry Winogrand.

“In addition to curating many important exhibitions and authoring publications, he has led to the growth and transformation of MoMA’s photography collection,” MoMA director Glenn D. Lowry in a statement.

The museum will begin a search to replace Galassi in the coming months.