Glenstone acquires celebrated photo trove from Pilara Foundation

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Glenstone acquires celebrated photo trove from Pilara Foundation
Francesca Woodman, Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976.

POTOMAC,MD.- Glenstone Museum announced today the acquisition of a celebrated collection of works from Andrew and Mary Pilara and the Pilara Foundation in San Francisco. Consisting of 112 photographs by 10 renowned artists–Diane Arbus, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Rineke Dijkstra, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Peter Hujar, Zanele Muholi, Paul Strand, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Francesca Woodman–this exciting acquisition diversifies and expands Glenstone’s collection, reflecting the museum’s foundational commitment to photography as an artistic medium.

Considered one of the most significant photography collections in North America, the Pilara Foundation Collection was assembled through expertise, passion, and deliberate pursuit over the past twenty years and is characterized by numerous masterpieces by photographers whose works mark the historical intersection of modern art and photography.

Having highlighted this collection for more than a decade at its acclaimed Pier 24 Photography site in San Francisco—one of the largest exhibition spaces in the world devoted to photography—the Pilara Foundation is now transforming its mission to focus on grant-making, pivoting its support toward organizations in the Bay Area devoted to healthcare, research, education, and the arts. This shift in mission has led the Foundation to choreograph the dispersal of the collection, including the sale of key museum-quality works to Glenstone.

“With the addition of these remarkable and rare works from the Pilara Foundation Collection, Glenstone is significantly widening the focus of its photography holdings, which to date have concentrated primarily on conceptual works,” said Emily Wei Rales, director and co-founder of Glenstone. “As we move to represent a greater range of major photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries, we are thrilled to be able to do so with these exceptional works. Our thanks go to Andrew and Mary Pilara and the Pilara Foundation for their decision to give these outstanding works a permanent home at Glenstone, keeping this core group of the collection accessible to the public.”

“It is an honor that a group of significant photographs from Pier 24 Photography will now be included in Glenstone's collection, with whom we share a number of important philosophies, including prioritizing free admission, community engagement, scholarship, and arts education. The quiet and contemplative environment fostered in Glenstone’s galleries, and their focus on presenting artists in depth, echoes our approach at Pier 24 Photography,” said Andrew Pilara, founder of the Pilara Foundation. “In 2025, The Pilara Foundation will close Pier 24 Photography, transitioning from an operating foundation to a granting foundation.”

A 2003 retrospective of the work of Diane Arbus, Revelations, organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, inspired the Pilara Foundation’s first photographic purchase, from Arbus’s affecting Untitled series. That original acquisition set the pattern for the collection’s growth, including the purchase of a key work in the Glenstone acquisition: an edition of Diane Arbus’s A box of ten photographs, 1970.

Arbus began working on this portfolio in late 1969 and by the time of her death in 1971 finished printing just eight boxes out of a projected edition of fifty. During her lifetime, she sold four of the eight, including one to Jasper Johns and two to Richard Avedon. Glenstone has acquired portfolio “1/50,” signed by Arbus and dedicated to Avedon, which has the distinction of including an eleventh image.

Another extraordinary work included in this acquisition is Hiroshi Sugimoto’s The Last Supper: Acts of God, 1999/2012. This five-panel silver gelatin print, which spans more than 24 feet, was created in 1999 from a life-size wax reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper and suffered damage in 2012 by the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. Sugimoto declared that the storm, as if by the hand of God, had completed his artwork through the ripples and colorations left behind. The work now addresses, on a monumental scale, the effects of climate change, the fragility of cultural artifacts, and the sublime power of nature’s intervention.

Glenstone’s acquisition of the works from the Pilara Foundation Collection was made with the guidance of Jeffrey Fraenkel of Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and Laura Paulson and Michael Walker of Gagosian Art Advisory, New York.

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