Columbus Museum of Art receives major gift of fashion photography

A prominent collection of photography by some of the most acclaimed fashion photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries is being gifted to the Columbus Museum of Art. The 23 works represent a range of iconic fashion images by Diane Arbus, Louis Faurer, Horst P. Horst, Frank Horvat, George Hoyningen-Huene, George Hurrell, Cathleen Naundorf, Irving Penn, Mark Shaw, Maurice Tabard and Joyce Tenneson. The collection is being donated to CMA by philanthropist Sally Ross Soter of Palm Beach, Florida, who along with her parents, Richard and Elizabeth Ross, has provided transformative and visionary support of the museum’s photography program for more than 50 years.

“Photography is the quintessential 20th-century medium, integrally linked to Modernism,” Nannette Maciejunes, CMA executive director and CEO, said. “It is through the commitment of generations of the Ross family that the museum’s acclaimed Modernist paintings and works on paper are now complemented by an exceptional photography program.”

Columbus Museum of Art photography collection was established in 1965 with 17 works purchased with funds from the Ross family. Since that time, CMA’s diverse photography holdings have grown significantly through ongoing gifts from the Ross and Soter families. Their contribution to the 2001 purchase of the Photo League Collection, a landmark acquisition of 170 vintage documentary photographs, simultaneously created the cornerstone of the CMA photography collection and established the largest collection of Photo League work in an American museum.

In 1994 the museum’s photography study center was renamed the Richard M. Ross Study Center for Photography and was inaugurated as a public gallery space for ongoing exhibitions and educational programming. In 2009 Mrs. Soter established CMA’s first endowed curatorship, the William and Sarah Ross Soter Curator of Photography, allowing the museum to expand its ambitions in the medium. Today, CMA’s active and growing photography collection numbers more than 3,200 works.

“The museum and photography have always been important parts of my life,” Mrs. Soter said. “I first volunteered at the Columbus Museum of Art at the age of 13. This gift holds deep family resonances, reminding me of both my father’s photography and my mother’s fashion sensibility. Falling in love with and purchasing Horst’s 1936 photograph ‘Alix Satin Dress’ inspired me to build a fashion photography collection.”

Among the celebrated and captivating photographs in the collection are Horst P. Horst’s “Mainbocher Corset” (1939) and “Iman, Valentino” (1982); “Givenchy Hat” (circa 1958) by Frank Horvat; “Mae West In Her Bedroom, Santa Monica, CA” (1965) by Diane Arbus; and “Vionnet Dress with Fan” (1974) by Irving Penn.

In honor of Mrs. Soter’s 80th birthday, her daughter, Sarah Kay, and her family are magnifying the impact of the gift by funding a multiyear celebration beginning in spring 2022 to showcase CMA’s photography program. The series of exhibitions, public programs and initiatives will include an exhibition of Diane Arbus: A Box of Ten Photographs, the museum debut of the work of pioneering 1960s and 70s photographer Kali and the publication of a generously illustrated book of photography highlights from CMA’s collection.

About Columbus Museum of Art

CMA is where creativity and the daily life of our community intersect and thrive, as we champion new and different ways of thinking and doing. We celebrate the creative process and provide opportunities for people to cultivate and discover the value of creativity in their own lives.

CMA’s collection includes outstanding late 19th- and early 20th-century American and European modern works of art. We house the world’s largest collections of works by beloved local artists Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Elijah Pierce and George Bellows; and acclaimed collections such as The Photo League and the Philip and Suzanne Schiller Collection of American Social Commentary Art. A commitment to contemporary art, folk art, glass and photography continues the Museum’s dedication to showcasing art of our time.

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