High Museum of Art

Atlanta, GA





Chorus of Light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection and Chorus of Light: Celebrity Portraits from the Sir Elton John Collection

November 4, 2000-January 28, 2001


An exhibition of Sir Elton John's photography collection, regarded as one of the leading private photography collections in the world, will be shown to the public this fall for the first time. "Chorus of Light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection," organized by Atlanta's High Museum of Art, will be on view exclusively at the High from November 4, 2000 to January 28, 2001. (left: Close, Chuck, Elton, 2000, 2000, digital ink jet print mounted on aluminum, 92 x 70 inches, © Chuck Close)

The two-venue exhibition will feature 380 works by more than 100 renowned photographers, including masterpieces by Berenice Abbott. Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, André Kertész, Tina Modotti, Paul Outerbridge , Norman Parkinson, Irving Penn, Man Ray. Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, among others. The exhibition is made possible by J. P. Morgan. Generous support has also been provided by Equity Office.

Sir Elton John has built his collection of over 2.500 works during the past ten years, and it is distinguished by its exceptional quality and remarkable range and depth. One of the most popular musicians and performers of all time. Sir Elton John has made Atlanta his part-time home for almost a decade, during which time he became a member of the High Museum of Art and then joined its Director's Circle in 1996. Visitors to the High will have the singular opportunity to see works of art that are normally in Sir Elton John's homes in Atlanta, England, and France. (left: Bourke-White, Margaret, Chrysler Buildirng Spire, 1930, gelatin silver print, 5 5/16 x 3 11/16 inches. © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White)

Michael E. Shapiro, the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High Museum of Art, stared, "We are honored to present a photography collection of such superb quality. The High has long been dedicated to finding new and innovative ways to make great photographic works of art accessible and exciting to a broad range of audiences, and this unprecedented exhibition of Sir Elton John's exemplary collection is a wonderful opportunity to meet this goal. On behalf of the High, the people of Atlanta and its visitors, I thank him for his generosity."

The High's downtown annex, the High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Gallery, will concurrently present the second section of Chorus of Light, entitled "Celebrity Portraits from the Sir Elton John Collection." It will feature 70 portraits by a variety of photographers depicting great 20th century musicians, artists, writers and performers.

The exhibition's curator is Ned Rifkin, Director of The Menil Collection and Foundation and former Director of the High. The managing curator is Thomas W. Southall. Curator of Photography at the High. Jane Jackson is serving as consultant to the High and the Sir Elton John Collection. "Collecting is fundamentally about passion, and Sir Elton John has demonstrated an unparalleled drive for collecting high caliber works," noted Southall. "The outstanding quality of his collection will provide an exciting experience for our visitors and will serve as an inspiration for the development of the High's own collection.': (left: Man Ray, Noire et Blanche, Paris, 1926, gelatin silver print, 8 1/4 x 10 3/4 inches, © 2000 Man Ray Trust/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris)

While museums usually present photography collections either by artist or period, Chorus of Light will be installed in the spirit in which they are displayed in John's homes. The installation will enable the public to experience the resonances between works from different periods and styles and will highlight John's aesthetic vision. An exhibition audio tour with commentary by John will provide visitors with additional insights into the collector's passion and eye for photography.. (left: Man Ray, Noire et Blanche [reversed negative print], Paris, 1926, gelatin silver print, 8 3/4 X 11 inches, © 2000 Man Ray Trust/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris)

Sir Elton John began collecting photography in 1991 and since then has acquired nearly 2,000 superior quality photographic prints. The collection primarily comprises vintage 20th-century black-and-white photographs with an emphasis on portraits, fashion and floral subjects, and it is especially notable for its strong concentrations of early modernist and Surrealist works and its in-depth representation of pivotal photographers such as Man Ray and Irving Penn. John's collection celebrates the beauty photographers have found in natural forms - from flowers and rock formations to the human body - highlighted in works by Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Bruce Weber. and Herb Ritts. John's acquisitions in color photography include flowers by Robert Mapplethorpe, Polaroid self-portraits by Lucas Samaras. and large-scale pieces by Andres Serrano. (left: Modotti, Tina, Bandolier, Corn, Sickle, 1927, postcard, 3 3/4 x 3 1/4 inches, Public Domain: no copyright holder; right: Weston, Edward, Circus Tenl, 1923, platinum palladium print, 9 3/4 X 7 1/4 inches, © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents)

John's interest in celebrity portraits is reflected in a range of elegant and dynamic photographs, including such highlights as Edward Steichen's portrait of Gloria Swanson behind a sheer veil and Richard Avedon's head-on portraits of the Beatles. Irving Penn's series of over-life-size close-ups of Miles Davis' hands, and classic pictures of Billie Holiday, Charlie Byrd and Chet Baker show the collector's fascination with portraits of musicians. These photographs are combined with fashion studies from the 1930s through the 1990s and portraits of unknown subjects captured in the studio and street. The exhibition also includes contemporary photography and multi-media work that John avidly collects, including pieces by Lena Liv, Tracey Moffatt and Gregory Crewdson.

Of his love of photography and commitment to his collection, Sir Elton John states, "I never get fed up with looking at the images. I can honestly say that of all the things I've collected in my life, nothing has endeared me more than collecting photography." (left: Stieglitz, Alfred, Georgia 0'Keeffe: A Portrait Head, 1922, gelatin silver print, 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches, © Alfred Stieglitz, Courtesy of Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation)

The High will use a portion of the exhibition proceeds to establish a fund for the purchase of photography for the Museum's permanent collection that will bear the name of Sir Elton John. An illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition and will contain an introduction by Ned Rifkin, an interview with Sir Elton John by Ingrid Sischy, and essays by Jane Jackson and Thomas W. Southall.

rev. 8/22/00

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For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/23/11

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