The holdings of the Getty Center’s collections are legendarily vast; their photography collection alone contains nearly 150,000 objects, the majority of which have never yet been exhibited at the museum. Their current survey show, Unseen: 35 Years of Collecting Photography, celebrates the 1984 founding of the photo department, and aims to make a dent in that exhibition record.
With works from the 1850’s to the last decade, by artists from every corner of the world, and employing the full range of technological evolutions in the medium, the show takes a broad view of the institution’s holdings, and, most intriguingly, avoids the blockbuster images in favor of a selection of never-before-exhibited holdings. While there is no shortage of marquee names from photography history, even in those cases, the works themselves are lesser-known, providing a more nuanced look at those artist’s work and more than a few creative surprises.
Additionally, they’ve eschewed rigidly academic didactics in favor of an interdepartmental curatorial team’s more intuitive selections, augmenting this plurality of viewpoints with more personal notes from the curator’s than museum audiences typically receive. The result is a personable, accessible, and thorough loosely thematic cross-section which offers audiences multiple entry points into the collection as a whole and the museum’s ethos of eclectic connoisseurship.
Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Dr., Brentwood; exhibition on view through March 8. getty.edu/art/exhibitions/unseen/index.html.