Sondra Gilman and her husband Celso Gonzalez-Falla own what is, arguably, one of the world’s finest photography collections. The couple’s Upper East Side townhouse contains vintage and contemporary photography. Visitors to the Princeton University Art Museum can savor major work gathered by the couple over the past 40 plus years in an exhibition that opened on Saturday, June 29.
Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography features more than 70 iconic images from the past 100 years of photography, including works by Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rineke Dijkstra, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, André Kertész, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Misrach, Vik Muniz, Man Ray, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Garry Winogrand, Francesca Woodman, and others.
Known as a smart curator with a keen eye, Ms. Gilman was the subject of a series of portraits by Andy Warhol in the 1970s. She is a patron and collector of Warhol and other Pop artists like Rauschenberg and Johns and an important figure at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she is a trustee. The photo gallery there is named for her, as well as the curatorship for photography.
In a recent interview, Ms. Gilman spoke about what prompted her to start collecting photography at a time when the medium was rarely considered a fine art. In the mid-1970s, she purchased three Eugène Atget prints after seeing the work of the French documentary photographer at the Museum of Modern Art. “I had an epiphany …. I ended up buying the three Atget [images] for $250 each and everybody thought I was insane. This was in the mid-70s. They had no value. I mean you couldn’t give away a photograph at that time.”
The exhibition at Princeton University is divided into seven sections and explores key themes and subjects, including landscape, portraiture, childhood, constructed photography, abstraction, the object, and urban scenes. It embodies the collectors’ emotional and aesthetic response to many of the medium’s most important images.
Seminal works such as Man Ray’s 1933 “Portrait of Meret Oppenheim,” Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1954 “Rue Mouffetard,” and a classic typological grid from the period 1965 to 1973 by Bernd and Hilla Becher, share space with Sally Mann’s 1987 “Jesse at Five,” a 1993 image from Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series “Seascapes” and a 2004 large-format photograph of urban renewal in China by Edward Burtynsky.
Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville in collaboration with the Princeton University Art Museum, where it continues through September 15.
Admission is free. An exhibition catalogue, published by MOCA Jacksonville, features selected images as well as entries by curators Ben Thompson and Paul Karabinis and an interview with the collectors. For more information, call (609) 258-3767 or visit: www.artmuseum.princeton.edu.