Museums love to brag about their special collections. Maybe it’s old masters. Maybe they have a particularly good collection of Impressionists. Or they’ve specialized in minimalism, or romanticism, or the Renaissance. They may even build special rooms for their paintings of water lilies. But few museums brag about their photography collections. In fact, I’ve never been to a museum that so quietly and confidently bragged about it’s collection of photography like the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).
Don’t get me wrong, if you went to the museum’s Web site you’d be sure that they brag about only two things: their sculpture collection and their Faberge collection. (OK, I’m about to write the longest parenthetical statement ever. I admit I just recently saw an amazing Faberge exhibit in San Francisco. So my critique may be a little too harsh. But the NOMA Faberge collection is boring and displayed horribly. Really you shouldn’t brag about this. Particularly when the rest of the museum is so good.) But when you walk into NOMA, you realize that this is a museum that values photography like few others.
When you enter the doors of NOMA, you find yoursef in a beautiful grand hall, the walls of which lined with one of the best contemporary photography collections I’ve ever seen. This museum puts it’s amazing photography collection first. And these are huge, lush prints that capture your attention immediately. They’re also signature works by some of the world's greatest contemporary photographers.
Here are some pictures of some of my favorite pictures from the New Orleans Museum of Art:
Unite Lola, a 2008 Giclee print on paper from Dan Tague. It’s strange how attractive money is when it’s big.
I’m in love with Nic Nicosia’s Untitled (Sam) from 1986, a silver dye bleach photograph. It’s dramatic and playful, sinister and funny, all at the same time.
Then there’s Ysumasa Morimura’s Daughter of Art History, Princess B. If this looks surprisingly painterly, it because it’s a color photograph that is treated with a transparent medium which adds a feel of brush strokes.
Cindy Sherman never ceases to amaze me. Her early works, the film stills, are brilliant. But this photo may be even better. As always, it’s a self portrait—only Cindy never looks like herself. This huge photograph is historical and current all at the same time. Don’t look too closely, because as usual, Cindy’s innocent photographs are just a little disturbing. This photo is a dye coupler print from 1990 called Untitled (MP 225).
Here’s a backyard barbecue I’d like to attend. It’s Tina Barney's 1989 chromogenic color print titled Tim, Phil, and I. Don’t you just love summer?
P.S. A temporary exhibit at NOMA called The Art of Caring (no photographs allowed, damn it), was a photographic tour de force, with hundred of photographs by some of the best photographers ever. But that's a story for another post.