THE EXHIBIT, "diane arbus: in the beginning"--as part of the inaugural season at The Met Breuer--features more than 100 photographs that together redefine one of the most influential and provocative artists of the 20th century. This landmark exhibition highlights never-before-seen early work of Arbus (1923-71), focusing on the period in which she developed the idiosyncratic style and approach for which she has been recognized, praised, criticized, and copied the world over.
"It is a rare privilege to present an exhibition this revelatory, on an artist of Arbus' stature. More than two-thirds of these works have never before been exhibited or published," says Thomas P. Campbell, director and chief executive officer of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "We sincerely thank The Estate of Diane Arbus for entrusting us to show an unknown aspect of this remarkable artist's legacy with the camera."
Adds Jeff Rosenheim, curator in charge of the Department of Photographs: "Arbus' early photographs are wonderfully rich in achievement and perhaps as quietly riveting and ultimately controversial as the iconic images for which she is so widely known. She brings us face-to-face with what she had first glimpsed at the age of 16--'the divineness in ordinary things'--and, through her photographs, we begin to see it, too."
The exhibit focuses on a crucial period of the artist's genesis, showing Arbus as she developed her style and honed her practice. Arbus was fascinated by photography even before she received a camera in 1941 at the age of 18 as a present from her husband, Allan, and made photographs intermittently for the next 15 years while working with him as a stylist in their fashion photography business, but in 1956 she numbered a roll of 35mm film #1, as if to claim to herself that this moment would be her definitive beginning. Through the course of the next seven years (the period in which she primarily used a 35mm camera), an evolution took place--from pictures of individuals that sprang out of fortuitous chance encounters to portraits in which the chosen subjects became engaged participants, with as much stake in the outcome as the photographer.
This greatly distinguishes Arbus' practice from that of her peers, from Walker Evans and Helen Levitt to Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, who believed that the only legitimate record was one in which they, themselves, appear to play little or no role. In almost complete opposition, Arbus sought the...