A Moment in Time: A Legacy of Photographs features 117 works by important international photographers dating from the invention of the medium in the 1830s through the mid-twentieth century, including William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron , Timothy O’Sullivan, Paul Strand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Helen Levitt and Walker Evans.
The history and evolution of this photography exhibition is notable. The original collection was created in the late 1960s, when the first corporate collections of fine art photography in the United States emerged. At this time, the corporate environment was changing from formal settings to workspaces allowing freedom of movement and interaction with customers, and the art world was redefining itself and its relationship to photography as a fine art. At this historic juncture for the photographic arts and business worlds, a pivotal collection in the history of photography was born.
Beaumont and Nancy Newhall were a husband and wife team of pioneering collectors and historians who became the first curators of the photography department at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the 1940s. In 1967, they were commissioned by the president of the National Exchange Bank of Chicago, a legacy bank of Bank of America, to establish a corporate art collection focused solely on photography. Nancy Newhall was the primary curator for the Exchange Bank collection, and continued through 1972. She was a trailblazer in the field of photography curation and the exhibition introduces her achievements to a new audience. This selection of photographs reflects her unique vision.
Because of the bank’s location in Chicago, the city’s photographs comprised an important facet of the collection. The city was home to a talented group of photographers influenced by the New Bauhaus school founded by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (later reopened as the Institute of Design). Aaron Siskind, Art Siegel and Harry Callahan all taught at the school, and Art Sinsabaugh was a student. All are represented in the exhibition.
In the years that followed, the Exchange Bank – and its groundbreaking collection, which continued to expand – were acquired several times, finally becoming part of Bank of America in 2008. The legacy of the original Newhall collection, marking a historic partnership between the art and business worlds and a landmark in photography, resonates to this day.