Getty Photography

 J Paul Getty, Masterpieces, Photography

Here’s a 1999 publication that is really worth looking through – I borrowed a copy from the library. It is a gem. The production of the photographs in the catalogue are sumptuous – so do not settled for any online version here or elsewhere. You have to see the book – or even better see the originals. But that’s my point – see my comments after this sample.


Right  now in Australia, there is a vast collection of great photographs – Australian, Asian and international. These photographs are held by our main public art galleries.

Australia has an extraordinary collection of photographs from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries.

When I look at this selection from The Getty, I am aware that this country holds the equivalent and much more.

But my chances of seeing such an array of works in an Australia public gallery in my lifetime is very limited – if not impossible.

At any one time very little of these extensive collections are on exhibition. Yes – we get special exhibitions, we get special ones such as the photography festival now in Melbourne, and we get pockets of photography as in the National Gallery right now.

But when you consider the huge public investment we have had in photographic collections, one would expect that there would be constantly changing major exhibitions of the permanent photography collections on display in most of our major public art galleries.

This does not happen. Why not?

It is well known that there is a dedicated public who love to attend photographic exhibitions. Then why over recent years are we seeing less photography in our public galleries and why are they reducing – shutting down the permanent photography exhibition spaces?

It is mainly because the gallery directors change and they have their pet collection areas and this sees other collections reduced from the exhibition programs.

Photography is one of the several medium areas that have suffered with recent changes to directors across several of Australia’s major collecting galleries.

Large amounts of public money has been spent on these collections.

Why are exhibitions of these great collections subject to the whims of new directors?

there is more to say on this – watch this space.

Meanwhile – here’s a link to a page with links to view the Getty publication on their photography – click here.



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