Eskenazi Museum of Art acquires Marks and DePrez Photography Collection
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Eskenazi Museum of Art acquires Marks and DePrez Photography Collection
Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908–2004). Active Nanking. Refugees Leaving the City after the Government Had Fled, 1949. Gelatin silver print, image: 9 ¼ x 13 ½ in. Gift of Lee Marks and John C. DePrez Jr., Shelbyville, Indiana, Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University, 2022.269.

BLOOMINGTON, IN.- The Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University has received a significant donation of the photography collection of Amelia (Lee) Marks and John C. DePrez Jr., which features 116 works by 80 artists. Ranging in date from 1856 to 2017, the works represent a broad range of subjects by artists that include Berenice Abbott, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. Highlights of the gift include Robert Capa’s image The Falling Solider (1936), one of the most famous war photographs, which captures the devastation of the Spanish Civil War. A Civil War era image by Timothy O’Sullivan is the first such image by the photographer to enter the museum’s collection. Berenice Abbott’s Broadway to the Battery (1938) is a dynamic bird’s-eye view of southern Manhattan by an important woman artist. With particular strengths in the work of photojournalists and contemporary photographers, the collection complements the museum’s current holdings of more than 22,000 prints, drawings, and photographs.

As Nanette Esseck Brewer, the Eskenazi Museum’s Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper, noted: “This collection represents the museum’s largest single donation of photography, outside of the museum’s archives of artists Henry Holmes Smith, Art Sinsabaugh, and Jeffrey A. Wolin, and offers a transformative opportunity to build on our historic strengths and to offer new perspectives. Given the material’s global reach and focus on the human condition, I envision the collection benefiting our students in photography and journalism, as well as history, environmental studies, and many other disciplines.”

After earning a BA in art history from Connecticut College and subsequently working at Marlborough Gallery in New York, Lee Marks established Lee Marks Fine Art in New York City in 1981. Now located outside Indianapolis in Shelbyville, IN, she is a founding member and past president of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. While maintaining a broad inventory of photography and working with many private collectors and museums, Marks has increasingly focused on representing a select group of contemporary photographers. She also has served as a consultant/curator on photography exhibitions and private collections (Gilman Paper Company Collection, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Howard Stein/JGS Collection, New York) and has co-authored a number of publications on the medium of photography.

John C. DePrez Jr. earned a BA in English literature from Trinity College, CT, and subsequently served as a reporter, editor, and executive at various news outlets, including United Press International and Reuters. He was Publisher of The Shelbyville News from 1988 to 1999 and is currently Editor of The Indiana Economic Digest. He has garnered several prestigious accolades for his work and service to the community, including the Distinguished Service Award from the Hoosier State Press Association and Citizen of the Year from the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce.

Marks and DePrez began collecting in 1981. Through a combination of Marks’s discerning eye as an art historian and dealer and DePrez’s expertise in photojournalism, they amassed an impressive collection that illustrates the breadth of photographic practice, from fine art to journalistic depictions of important events over the past century. This donation joins three other works by Edward Burtynsky, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Sebastião Salgado that Marks and DePrez have donated to the museum over the years.

“We decided to give the collection to the Eskenazi Museum because we were most interested in having these photographs used by students of photography and other related fields. John is a native Hoosier, and I have lived here for more than thirty years, so we wanted to give back to the place we’ve called home. The fact that the Eskenazi Museum is an especially fine university museum on the campus of a renowned university with an especially strong focus on the arts gave us the perfect impetus. The internationally known photography faculty at the university and the museum’s existing collection of photographs, housed in an extraordinary I. M. Pei building, were enticing. The fact that many well-known photographers in our collection are not represented in the Eskenazi Museum’s collection was a plus. Finally, the current plans for photography exhibitions and programs were icing on the cake. We want to be part of the Eskenazi Museum’s future,” said Lee Marks and John C. DePrez Jr.

The Marks-DePrez Collection will serve as an important teaching resource at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, which has long had an active program in the study, exhibition, and publication of its prints, drawings, and photographs collection. IU students, faculty, scholars, and the public can view works from the collection in the museum’s Martha and David Moore Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Study, which features high-quality zoom cameras and distance-learning technology. A future publication featuring works from the collection is also planned.

Of the gift, Wilma E. Kelley Director David A. Brenneman said, “The museum is very grateful to receive the Marks-DePrez collection, which will enhance our holdings in photography, especially in the area of contemporary art, and expand the scope of our teaching and study opportunities for IU students. Their gift also reinforces the Eskenazi Museum of Art as a regional leader in photographic studies and collections. I want to extend my sincere thanks to Lee and John for their foresight and generosity.”

The Marks-DePrez Collection highlights a “Year of Photography” at the Eskenazi Museum in which several important projects will be launched, including the exhibitions Direct Contact: Cameraless Photography Now (February 16–July 9, 2023) and Measuring Time: The Photographs of Jeffrey A. Wolin (September 7–December 17, 2023). Both projects feature fully illustrated exhibition catalogues.

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