May 13 – July 31, 2016

Acquisitions and donations over the last ten years

The role of museums, since their earliest days, has always been that of collecting, exhibiting and conserving art and cultural objects. In the 19th century, in particular, “successful collecting” involved bringing together objects of lasting relevance in a targeted yet comprehensive manner. The appropriation of these objects was driven by the desire to understand and (re-)construct past and present realities, and always went hand in hand with the twin tasks of categorization and classification, i.e. fitting them into an overarching structure and predicating, in a certain way, their universality. Similarly, the collecting of photographs also provided an opportunity to organize, classify and interpret the world of visual imagery.

The act of collecting always carries with it some kind of claim to completeness. In the 20th and indeed the 21st centuries, however, this ambition has been accompanied by an awareness of the ultimately fragmentary and subjective nature of any collection. Photography, as a medium, is of particular importance to the museum since it encapsulates the interaction between these two extremes. Photographs offer a snapshot of a moment frozen in time, and, as such, serve as a historical document, a memento, a resource for research and as a form of artistic expression.

In “GIVEN – BOUGHT – FOUND: Acquisitions and donations over the last ten years”, the Münchner Stadtmuseum Photography Collection will exhibit a careful selection of its acquisitions over this time. In addition to the 8,400 superb images on the theme of “Germany in the 19th century” purchased from the Dietmar Siegert Collection, the Museum now also possesses the complete archives of German-American photographer Hermann Landshoff (1905–1986) and a generous donation of contemporary photographic works by private Munich collector Wolfgang Begatik (1955–2013).

This thematically diverse exhibition brings together and showcases photographs from 1845 up to the present day not only enriching the Collection but also adding new photographic perspectives.

Seiichi Furuya, Christine IV, East Berlin 1985, 2005, C-Print, Donation, Wolfgang Begatik Collection, 2013 © Seiichi Furuya
Edgar Leciejeweski, Kingfisher #8, 2009, C-Print, Purchased from Edgar Lecejewieski, 2012, © Edgar Lecejewieski
Anonymous, Japanese mail runner, Circa 1885, Albumen print, colored, Purchased from Felix Lorenz antiquarian book and photo art sellers, 2009 © Münchner Stadtmuseum
André Gelpke, Rocker, Hamburg, 1970, Gelatin developing out paper, Purchased from André Gelpke, 2010 © André Gelpke

The exhibition is divided into different sections that occasionally overlap and blur into each other, showcasing not only the Collection’s main themes but also different approaches to photography in the 19th and 21st centuries. Topographical views and 19th-century landscape and architectural photos breathe new life into pictures of Italy and the Orient, and early travel photographs challenge what is meant by “foreign” and “exotic” when seen from a contemporary perspective.

An ethnographic study from Japan provides a particular treasure trove of delights. The hand colored photographs of Kimbei Kusakabe (1841-1932) include staged studio shots and scenes from Japanese working life that combine to form a distinctive pictorial universe.

Carefully selected portraits from the unique albums of royal librarian and tutor Dr. Ernst Becker (1826-1888) afford insights into the private life of the British court of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The “Christine” cycle by Seiichi Furuya (born 1950) documents the ultimately tragic blows dealt by fate to a personal relationship, while “Encountering”, a series of photographs by Munich photographer Zoltán Jókay (born 1960) captures everyday chance encounters.

Conceptual photography, in addition to portraiture, plays a key role in the 20th and 21st centuries series. Many of the works featured in the exhibition explore the question of space in its built, physical and social dimensions. The black-and-white images of Silke Grossmann (born 1951) examine different perceptions of space in relation to the human body; this year’s winner of the honorary cultural prize of the City of Munich, Herlinde Koelbl (born 1939), turns her lens on German living rooms and the social groups who live in them; the “2 One Child” series by Eva Bertram (born 1964) explores the complex role-playing carried out by her daughter as she grows up, while Edgar Leciejewski (born 1977) composes scenes featuring color photographs of #dead# birds that, at first glance, are reminiscent of illustrations in scientific books.

Last but not least, visitors are given an insight into conservation and restoration, activities that normally remain unseen. A video and a selection of objects serve to shed light on this facet of the museum’s work.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to all donors and sponsors of the gifts and acquisitions displayed in this exhibition. A brochure will be available to accompany the exhibition.