The much-anticipated Diane Arbus: In the Beginning opens today at Met Breuer. Previously, viewers have explored the works of this celebrated photographer after 1962, which she took using her iconic Rolleiflex camera. This exhibit explores the first seven years of her artistic career, 1956 to 1962, when she used a 35mm camera, and more than two-thirds of the photos in this exhibit have never been seen before.
There are over 100 photographs on view. Most are gelatin silver prints made by the artist herself, and most taken in New York City, where she was born in 1923. They include Fifth Avenue pedestrians, female impersonators, circus performers, children and couples. Each one is on a wall to be viewed as singularly as when the artist captured the image. The photographs in this exhibit came from boxes which were stored in a corner of her basement darkroom at 29 Charles Street in Greenwich Village. Arbus and her contemporaries frequented most of the same locations—Times Square, the Lower East Side, Coney Island, East Harlem among others. These prints weren’t inventoried until after her death in 1971, and subsequently gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by her daughters, Doon Arbus and Amy Arbus.
Miss Storme de Larverie, the Lady Who Appears to be a Gentlemen, N.Y.C. 1961. Diane Arbus in 35mm
Man at the Municipal Shelter, holding up a dollar bill, N.Y.C. 1960, Diane Arbus in 35mm
The iconic photograph, Child With a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park (below) signals the moment when Arbus started working with the 2 1/4″ square format Rolleiflex camera, which would be her camera of choice for the rest of her life.
Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962. Diane Arbus
The work of contemporaries such as Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, and Garry Winogrand are included on the walls of the exhibit Reading Room (below), as are photographs of the predecessors who heavily influenced her career, such as Lisette Model and August Sander.
Met Breuer Reading Room
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue by Jeff L. Rosenheim, with notes from the archives by Karan Rinaldo, is available. Accompanying programs include Studio Workshop: Portrait Photography on July 16, and Exhibition Tour on July 21. Diane Arbus: In the Beginning is curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in charge of the Department of Photographs. The exhibit is made possible by the Alfred Stieglitz Society. Located at 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street.
Exhibition catalogue published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press