Photography-Art in Focus: Photogenic at NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Art

Photography-Art in Focus: The Photogenic at NOMA, the New Orleans Museum of Art

New Orleans. Photogenic is an exhibition taking place at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) from March 10, 2023 to September 10, 2023. It represents a pinnacle in the world of photographic art, offering the public an impressive variety of photographs from different eras and styles. This exhibition is the result of a carefully curated selection of contemporary works and previously committed donations assembled by passionate collectors James and Cherye Pierce. Their longstanding devotion to photography and significant contribution to the Museum's collection deserve special recognition. For nearly five decades, the Pierces have continuously nurtured their passion for collecting photographs and have become true supporters of the photographic arts. The exhibition showcases the amazing breadths and depths of their collection. In this exhibition, visitors will experience a fascinating journey through different styles, eras, and genres of photography. From classic black-and-white photographs to contemporary digital works, the exhibition presents the diverse possibilities and developments of this captivating medium. The current exhibition undoubtedly represents a fascinating interplay of light and creativity, presenting the viewer with an impressive collection of artworks. These works open up a radiant light on the essence of photography, illuminating its many facets in an exciting and inspiring way. But what exactly does the term "photogenic" mean today? In contemporary usage, it is often reduced to the simple ability to appear aesthetically pleasing in a photograph. But a closer look reveals that the roots of this term, namely the terms "foto" (light) and "genic" (generated by), lead much deeper into the origins of photography itself. In this exhibition, we experience a journey through the development and transformation of the term over time. It becomes clear that photogenic is not just about the appearance of a person or object in a photograph, but rather about an image's ability to capture light and tell a story. Photography as a medium has evolved over the decades from mere documentation to a form of artistic expression that uses the play of light and shadow to shape emotions and narratives. The terms "foto" and "genic" remind us of the basic elements of photography: the light that forms the basis for every shot, and the generating force that creates the image. This exhibition subtly shows how these two elements have merged throughout the history of photography and how they continue to shape the essence of this medium today. In "fotogen" we thus see not only the connection between light and image, but also the connection between photography's past and present. This exhibition encourages us to explore and appreciate the photogenic concept in all its depth, while demonstrating the evolutionary journey of photography as an art form that is always in flux. In addition to the technical evolution of photography, it also highlights the impressive artistic range of this medium. This exhibition illustrates how photography is not only a mirror of the world, but also a creative medium that offers a wide range of artistic expression. In three separate rooms, the collection demonstrates its impressive ability to tell diverse photography stories. Visitors are immersed in a world of light and shadow where creative expression comes alive in each work. The exhibition honors the art of photography and its passionate collectors, inviting visitors to explore the medium in all its fascinating facets. In the contemporary art world, this exhibition undoubtedly shines like a bright light.


James and Cherye Pierces, the Donors of the Collection to NOMA

The outstanding importance of James and Cherye Pierce as collectors and supporters of photography is clearly evident in this exhibition. Their contribution extends not only to the careful assemblage of an extraordinary collection, but also to their instrumental role in enriching and strengthening the photography department of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). Photogenic, therefore, is not solely a tribute to the art of photography, but also a tribute to the passionate collectors who help to keep this unique artistic medium alive and thriving.

Over nearly half a century, James and Cherye Pierce have assembled photographs from all periods of history with meticulous care, serious interest, and enthusiastic devotion. Together they have built one of the most magnificent private photography collections in the country, comprising more than a thousand works. The Pierces have long supported the New Orleans Museum of Art in a variety of ways. Over the years, they have donated significant works of art that have helped enrich the collection, provided funding for publications and exhibitions, and Cherye Pierce has served as a national trustee of the museum since 2004.

The Pierces' decision to donate the bulk of their collection to the Museum in 2020 marks a milestone in the history of arts advocacy. During the course of this year, they have donated over 260 works to the Museum, and over 400 more have been pledged to the Museum for the future.This landmark gift significantly strengthens NOMA's photography collection by adding a wide range of photographs, from classic works by renowned photographers to outstanding contemporary works discovered by the Pierces themselves.Their generosity and their commitment have made NOMA an outstanding center for photographic art and will undoubtedly continue to foster an appreciation and understanding of photography in generations to come.


Photographic artists at NOMA.

The exhibition offers an impressive range of images created by a diverse group of well-known and renowned photographic artists.Their different approaches and ways of working give the exhibition a remarkable complexity and depth.

Among them: W. Eugene Smith, Julie Cockburn, Laura Gilpin, Thomas Waiter, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dan Tague, Wendell MacRae, Lois Conner and Thomas Kellner.

Thomas Kellner

Thomas Kellner was born in Bonn in 1966, he is a renowned photographic artist and curator and he works in Siegen. Kellner has been a member of the German Photographic Society (DGPh) since 2003 and has shown his work in solo exhibitions worldwide since 2002, including Germany, Australia, Russia, China, France, Poland, Denmark, Brazil, and the United States.

His work is represented in major collections and is characterized by a distinctive style and unique perspective. The photographic artist, continuously transforms the perception of the subject of the image in his works. From analog compositions from 1997 to 2021 to pinhole camera projects and architectural photography, his versatility is impressive. Combining influences from Cubism and Deconstructivism, his art opens up new perspectives and has been described by experts as a "visual analytical synthesis." His works cleverly play with our perception, showing parts and the whole at the same time, inviting us to look at photography from different perspectives.

The works of Thomas Kellner in the Exhibition at NOMA

Kellner presents a selection of his works: Golden Gate, Monica Towers, Wrigley Building and the impressive "Flat Iron Building" from 2003, a C-print measuring 26.8x83.8cm. His photographs fit seamlessly into the overall artwork of "Photogenic" and underline his artistic position. Thomas Kellner uses an SLR camera and 35mm film rolls of 36 frames each. After developing the film, he cuts them into strips, assembles them into a large negative, and creates the contact sheet.In the process, he integrates the visible information into his photographs. Before beginning a project, he sketches the object to be photographed into sections and notes camera settings. During the photography process, hours can pass between images. Kellner now uses up to 60 rolls of film for a project, resulting in stunning montages, as his work Flat Iron shows.

Exploring Art's Timeless Tapestry: The New Orleans Museum of Art

In the heart of the effervescent city of New Orleans, a cultural gem stands as a testament to artistic legacy and creativity - the New Orleans Museum of Art, affectionately known as NOMA. Nestled within the embrace of City Park, this venerable institution holds the distinction of being the city's oldest fine arts museum, dating back to its inception in 1911 under the moniker "Delgado Museum of Art."

A Journey Through History and Vision

The genesis of NOMA's existence is rooted in the visionary spirit of Isaac Delgado, a local patron of the arts who orchestrated its initial funding through a philanthropic grant. Collaborating with Benjamin Morgan Harrod, the former chief engineer of New Orleans, the museum's architectural design came to life as a harmonious symphony of creativity. At the age of 71, Isaac Delgado, a prominent sugar broker, shared his fervent wish to establish an art sanctuary within New Orleans. His aspiration was to create the "Isaac Delgado Museum of Art," a haven for artistic treasures, both donated and on loan, coupled with spaces for exhibitions by the Art Association of New Orleans. The City Park Board embraced this vision, setting aside a circular enclave that would later be christened Lelong Avenue, the site of the future museum. On the 11th of December, 1911, the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art swung open its doors, even though its namesake could not attend due to health issues. Tragically, Isaac Delgado passed away on January 4, 1912, shortly after the museum's unveiling. Nonetheless, his legacy endures within the embrace of City Park, a timeless testament to his foresight.

Cultivating Excellence through the Ages

In the early 1970s, the Edward Wisner Foundation provided crucial support for the establishment of the Wisner Education Wing, a three-level addition that extended NOMA's reach to the left side of its edifice. The year 1993 witnessed a pivotal moment in the museum's history - a $23 million expansion and renovation endeavor that propelled NOMA into the upper echelons of the nation's premier fine art institutions. This growth, paired with strategic art acquisitions, firmly established NOMA as a prominent cultural beacon, celebrated for its commitment to presenting an array of distinctive and rare exhibitions. Amid the sprawling grounds of NOMA, one discovers the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, an 11.5-acre landscaped oasis tucked behind the main building. This exclusive enclave, accessed through gated entrances, harbors a mesmerizing collection of over 90 contemporary sculptures. These artworks seamlessly integrate with the natural beauty of the surroundings - a harmonious blend of live oaks, pines, magnolias, camellias, serene lagoons, inviting bridges, and an enchanting walking trail.

Beyond Art: A Holistic Experience

Going beyond traditional museum offerings, NOMA embraces a holistic approach to artistic engagement. The NOMA Museum Shop, an artistic emporium, beckons visitors to explore unique treasures. For those seeking intellectual and visual enrichment, an auditorium hosts film screenings, artist dialogues, panels, and presentations. And for culinary connoisseurs, Café NOMA, curated under the watchful eye of Ralph Brennan, promises a tasteful fusion of art and cuisine. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, as City Park grappled with its aftermath, NOMA emerged as a resilient bastion of culture, largely unscathed due to its elevated position. Although the basement experienced flooding, the invaluable permanent collection remained largely untouched by the storm's fury.

A Timeless Collection Unveiled

Venturing within NOMA's halls opens the door to an astonishing array of more than 40,000 objects, spanning an awe-inspiring 5,000 years of artistic evolution. From the illustrious Italian Renaissance to the boundary-pushing modern era, NOMA's collection beckons art enthusiasts into a realm of wonder. Among its treasures, the furniture collection shines, showcasing remarkable exemplars of 18th and 19th-century American craftsmanship, alongside select 18th-century French pieces. Of note are The Rosemonde E. and Emile Kuntz Rooms, a testament to America's fine and decorative arts heritage in New Orleans. These rooms, conceived by Felix H. Kuntz and brought to life as a memorial, offer glimpses into opulent 19th-century interiors.

A Kaleidoscope of Creativity

The museum's renown thrives on its comprehensive collection of European and American masterpieces. The works of Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, and a constellation of other luminaries adorn its walls. The intricate tapestry of French art is a centerpiece, featuring vital works crafted by French Impressionist Edgar Degas during his sojourn in New Orleans between 1871 and 1872. The scope expands to encompass local Louisiana artists and their American counterparts, showcasing the vibrant creative pulse of the region. Notably, NOMA is a custodian of art photography, boasting over 12,000 works that span the medium's inception to the present day. Its eclectic holdings extend further to glass, ceramics, portrait miniatures, Native American art, Central American treasures, and a treasure trove of diverse global folk arts.

A Canvas of Collaborations

NOMA's artistic narrative is interwoven with partnerships, particularly with neighboring institutions like The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana State Museum. These collaborations give rise to dynamic special exhibitions that explore diverse themes, from ancient treasures to modern explorations. Celebrations of cultural festivals and poignant commemorations, including those related to Hurricane Katrina, enrich the museum's tapestry. NOMA's outreach extends far beyond its walls, with guided group tours, educational workshops, and engagements with schools and community spaces via its NOMA+ mobile museum initiative. Festivals, film screenings, music programs, lectures, and wellness activities complete the vibrant mosaic of offerings. In every corner of NOMA, the echoes of art's timeless journey resound, inviting all to become part of its ever-evolving narrative.

New Orleans

New Orleans, with a population of 383,997 in 2020, is the largest city in the state of Louisiana, USA. This city functions as a major industrial center and has an important port along the mighty Mississippi River. Besides its economic activities, New Orleans is also famous for its unique Creole cuisine and its well-preserved historic district, the French Quarter. Here you will find numerous buildings built in the Spanish and French colonial styles, which reflect the city's history in a fascinating way. In addition, New Orleans is known worldwide as the "Cradle of Jazz." The city owes this designation to its crucial role in the creation and development of the jazz genre. Numerous legendary musicians and bands formed here, making jazz one of the most influential musical movements of the 20th century. The music scene of New Orleans is still vital and attracts music lovers from all over the world. Overall, New Orleans is not only a major economic center, but also a city rich in cultural heritage. Its unique blend of culinary delights, historic architecture and musical heritage makes it a fascinating destination for travelers and culture lovers.

Art and Culture in New Orleans

Characterized by a rich blend of cultural influences and historical references, the New Orleans art scene is a fascinating kaleidoscope of creativity. In this city known as "The Big Easy," one finds not only the sounds of jazz, but also a vibrant and diverse art scene that manifests itself in a variety of media and forms of expression. A notable characteristic of the New Orleans art scene is its resilience and ability to rise from challenging times. Particularly after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, artists helped revitalize the city and used their creativity as a means of healing and renewal. The French Quarter, with its historic Spanish and French colonial style buildings, often serves as a source of inspiration for many artists in the city. The quaint alleys, saturated with the charm of bygone eras, provide a rich source of inspiration. The architecture itself is often captured in the works of local artists, and the art scene celebrates the unique beauty of this historic district. In addition, the cultural diversity of New Orleans is also reflected in the arts. The city has a long history of immigration and mixing of different cultures, from the French and Spanish colonial periods to the African, Caribbean and Creole presence. These diverse influences are evident in the work of artists, whether in painting, sculpture, photography or other forms of creative expression. The New Orleans art scene is vibrant, diverse and inspiring. It not only reflects the city's rich cultural history, but also helps to preserve and develop the identity and spirit of New Orleans. Visitors to this city will undoubtedly be delighted by the creative energy and artistic richness they can experience.