June 14, 2024
Art Gallery

Getty Research Institute acquires photography dealer Peter MacGill’s archive

The Getty Research Institute has acquired the archive of American gallerist, curator and historian Peter MacGill, whose career helped change the trajectory of fine art photography in the public imagination.

MacGill revolutionised the representation of fine art photographers, establishing Pace/MacGill Gallery in 1983 as a venue for Modern and contemporary photography. After turns at Light Gallery as its director and later the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, MacGill used his position at Pace/MacGill, in collaboration with Arne Glimcher of Pace Gallery and Richard Solomon of Pace Prints, to showcase household names, emerging photographers and forgotten visionaries, ultimately mounting over 500 exhibitions over the course of his tenure.

“I am deeply honoured and grateful that the Getty Research Institute is the home of my papers,” MacGill said in a statement. “My privilege in the field was to have worked with the artists, museums, and private collectors who walked through our doors and always ended up teaching us something interesting, if not profound. That the record of these activities will be made available to the public ensures that the gifts these artists and friends shared with us can reach a wider audience.”

Pace/MacGill represented many totemic figures of photography including Richard Avedon, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Paul Graham, Peter Hujar, Josef Koudelka, Richard Misrach, Irving Penn, Alfred Stieglitz and JoAnn Verburg. MacGill contributed to the canonisation of photography by assisting in the acquisition of distinguished collections at many leading museums and institutions, like the National Gallery of Art’s holdings of Frank’s work, the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection of images by Penn, the Art Institute of Chicago’s standout collection of Penn’s images, SFMoMA’s Charles Sheeler collection, the Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection of Duane Michals photos, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Paul Strand holdings and the collection of David Goldblatt photos at the Yale University Art Gallery and Beineke Library.

MacGill has also long worked closely with private collectors and helped them find permanent homes for their collections, including assisting in the Museum of Modern Art’s acquisition of Thomas Walther’s collection of early-20th-century European modernist photos, and helping to place Manfred Heiting’s collection with the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The dealer also supported the overhauling of several corporate photography collections, working with scholars and specialists to establish new standards for provenance, exhibition history and material analysis.

His archive includes records of daily interactions, call lists, client correspondence, press releases and clippings, and images documenting his experiences in the field. The archive will be catalogued over the course of several years, ultimately being made available by the Getty Research Institute for study.

Mary Miller, the director of the Getty Research Institute, added in a statement: “Covering nearly 50 years, the MacGill archive details the period when the medium of photography came to be recognised as a premier art form.”

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