The current Yale Center for British Art exhibition “Photographs | Contemporary Art: Recent Gifts and Acquisitions” celebrates the Center’s recent growth.
On view until Sept. 8, the exhibition is divided into two sections. The first, “Photography,” showcases works ranging from the first decades of photographic history to more recent examples, while the second, “Contemporary Art,” represents a category the curators understood as artwork produced roughly after the 1970s.
“Contemporary art and photography are two areas that the YCBA is not very well known for,” said Associate Curator of Photography Chitra Ramalingam. “This is our way of telling the world and the local Yale community that this is a place where you can come and think about photography and engage in contemporary art.”
Scott Wilcox, deputy director for collections at the YCBA, attributed the origins of the exhibit to the former director of the YCBA, Amy Meyers. He said that when Meyers was about to retire, she wanted to acknowledge some of the important developments and new acquisitions of the collection. The YCBA ultimately decided to focus on photography and contemporary art, as those two areas had developed dramatically through gifts and promise gifts in recent years. Wilcox described the two sections as having been “nascent” until the past few years.
The exhibit recognizes the numerous gifts donors have contributed to the YCBA in recent years. As a result, the art is grouped according to major gifts that the museum acquired simultaneously and reflects the donors’ personal collections and collecting motivations.
“In its essence, [the exhibition] is an acknowledgment of the expansion of our collection,” said Ramalingam.
The exhibition features works by Howard Hodgkin, David Hockney and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye as well as photographers William Talbot and Caroline Coon, among several others.
In the opening space, which showcases works by Barbara Walker, Tracey Moffatt and Neeta Madahar, the curators attempted to bring photography and contemporary art together. By highlighting a drawing that was based on a photograph and accompanying photographs that were retouched with paint, the curators wanted to establish that the two categories did not “divide up that cleanly,” according to Ramalingam.
According to Wilcox, cross-references to photography and contemporary art continue throughout the exhibition.
Ramalingam said that since the YCBA was largely known for its historical installations, this exhibit served as a means of highlighting lesser known facets of their developing collection.
“The exhibit also emphasizes the importance of our group of friends and donors,” added Wilcox. “We can only do this through their generosity and willingness to share their love of contemporary art and photography. We both rely on that and encourage that.”
The exhibition was curated by Wilcox, Meyers and Ramalingam, as well as YCBA curators Lars Kokkonen, Molly Dotson and Elisabeth Fairman.
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