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The Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography at the Israel Museum

Since its opening in 1965, the Israel Museum has maintained a focus on the exploration and exhibition of photography, and its comprehensive collection marks the Museum as a leader among encyclopedic museums in developing its holdings in the medium. Over the years, through selected acquisitions, as well as gifts from key donors such as Arnold Newman, Arturo Schwarz, and Noel and Harriette Levine, the department’s collection has grown to comprise over 55,000 works from the earliest days of photography to contemporary times. Areas of expertise include pioneering 19th-century practitioners and photography of the Dada and Surrealist movements, as well as in-depth representations of such historically significant artists as Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Andre Kertész, and Man Ray. The department also promotes contemporary Israeli photography through an active program of acquisitions as well as through individual and group exhibitions dedicated to the work of Israeli photographers. In addition, the department awards three photography prizes, the Gérard Lévy Prize for a Young Photographer, the Kavlin Photography Prize for life achievement, and the Shpilman International Prize for Excellence in Photography.

A Rare Gift: The Noel and Harriette Levine Collection of Photographs

Through October 2, 2010, Robert and Rena (Fisch) Lewin Gallery, Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Kravis Gallery, Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing

Considered among the finest photography collections in private hands, the Noel and Harriette Levine Collection is presented in its first-ever exhibition at the Israel Museum as part of the inaugural program for its renewed campus. A Rare Gift: The Noel and Harriette Levine Collection of Photographs showcases 117 works from the collection, donated to the Museum in 2008. The collection and the exhibition span over 170 years of the history of the medium, ranging from 19th-century British calotypes to 20th-century modernist masterpieces and contemporary work, including notable images by André Kertész, Nadar, Man Ray, and Cindy Sherman, among others. Curated by Nissan N. Perez, the Horace and Grace Goldsmith Senior Curator of the Noel and Harriette Levine Department of Photography, A Rare Gift is on view from July 26 through October 2, 2010.

“We are delighted to present for the first time anywhere this extraordinary collection, which provides a comprehensive overview of the history of the medium of photography from its first years to the present day,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director. “Inaugurating our renewed galleries for photography, this display is exemplary of the important additions to the Museum’s encyclopedic holdings that have arrived since the launch of our campus renewal project. We are grateful to Noel and Harriette Levine for their exemplary generosity and for their unparalleled support for the strength of our program in the field of photography.”

The Levines first embarked on the creation of what became one of the world’s most significant photography collections in private hands nearly four decades ago. A Rare Gift pays tribute to their foresight, as they were among the few early collectors to recognize the promise of photography as a major art form. The Levines have been leading patrons of the Israel Museum’s Photography Department for more than twenty years, and in 2008, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel, they announced the gift of their entire collection to the Museum. Never before on view in its entirety outside the couple’s New York home, this extraordinary collection inaugurates the Robert and Rena (Fisch) Lewin Gallery and Mr. and Mrs. Henry R. Kravis Gallery in the upper level of the Museum’s reconfigured Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing. 

The Levine Collection embraces the medium of photography as a whole, focusing broadly across periods, styles, and schools, from the 1840s through the present day. The collection includes notable examples of vintage 19th-century photography, among them:

• Iconic calotypes by the British practitioners David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson;
• Early landscape photography by American masters, among them William H. Jackson and Carleton E. Watkins;
• Works by important French masters such as Gustave Le Gray and Nadar; and
• Signature examples of Pictorialism by Julia Margaret Cameron and Hans Watzek.

The collection also boasts an exemplary representation of classic modern and contemporary photography, including:

• Early modernist works by artists such as Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Sheeler, and Paul Strand; and
• Key images by contemporary photographers, among them David Hockney, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cindy Sherman.

 


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