High Museum’s Photo Department Transformed By $4M in Gifts

Not long after SFMOMA revealed that it would be launching a new photo center in 2016, another museum has also shown a serious commitment to its photography department. Atlanta’s High Museum of Art announced this morning that it has received four major gifts, totaling $4 million, that will each contribute significantly to the expansion of its photography department and collection.

Longtime museum supporters Donald and Marilyn Keough, who helped fund its 2005 expansion among other things, have promised $2 million for the endowment of a permanent photography curator. Atlanta-based photographer and collector Lucinda W. Bunnen, who has donated many works to the museum, has pledged an unspecified amount that will go to the establishment of a photography gallery within the High’s permanent collection display.

Another Atlanta-based artist and owner of Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, Paul Hagedorn, has given $500,000 for photography acquisitions. Another $400,000 gifted by the Yellowlees Family will be used for for acquisitions of Southern photography, in particular the work of Harry Callahan and Peter Sekaer.

“To have so many leaders in our community come together simultaneously to support the important work that we’ve been doing is immensely gratifying,” Brett Abbott, the Keough Family curator of photography, said in a release. “Their generous contributions ensure the long-term fiscal health and growth of the photography collection and that the High will continue to be a leader in the field. I’m excited by the opportunities these gifts present to take our collection to new heights and to expand our holdings in key areas, especially related to the work of Southern photographers.”

The High currently holds 5,400 photographic prints and has fostered a collection that places a special emphasis on work made in and about the South. Such objects include a major collection of Civil Rights-era prints as well as photos by Harry Callahan, Clarence John Laughlin, William Christenberry, Ralph Gibson, Richard Misrach, Walker Evans, and Peter Sekaer.

The High’s special “Picturing the South” initiative has commissioned photographers — including Sally Mann, Dawoud Bey, Emmet Gowin, Richard Misrach, Alex Webb, Alec Soth, and most recently Abelardo Morell — to create work inspired by the South since 1996.

“These landmark gifts represent a transformational moment for photography at the High,” director Michael E. Shapiro said in the same release. “Photography is our fastest growing area of collecting, research and programming, and these gifts will ensure that the High can continue our commitment to new scholarship and commissioning new works by living artists. We hope that these significant gifts inspire others to support our photography programs and the growth of our collection.”

— Ashton Cooper (ashton_cooper)

(Photo: Jonathan Hillyer)