Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lending Our Photo Collection

In the mid 1970’s Penelope and I collected vintage photographs.  When asked what period I collect, I usually answer works from between the wars, though there are many exceptions.  In those days we bought only as much as we could hang on the walls of our apartment and investment was the furthest thing from our minds.  After all when you buy photos for hundreds of dollars how could they possibly appreciate that much?

At the time we lived in a small one bedroom walk up so the collection is not that large, only about 50 prints.  Eventually we moved to a Park Avenue co-op and then briefly to what amounted to a railroad flat on the west side of Manhattan. There, we had a very long hallway connecting all the rooms.  Since there were no windows it was the perfect venue to show works on paper.

When we moved to the house back on the east side where we remained for over a decade, most of the space was used for the gallery’s art so the photography collection remained in a closet.  Today, we have a gallery and pied-a-terre in New York and our house in New Mexico is devoted to our Native American Collection.

So what to do with the collection?  Because of its appreciation in value our accountants recommended not selling and, in any case, we love it and don’t really want to part with  our photos.

I don’t believe in putting works of art in a crate long term.  Too much can happen to art when it is out of view.

We then had the following idea.  Remember, not long ago I wrote about the “Clouds” and “Earth Now” photo exhibitions at the New Mexico Museum of Art.  The quality and thought behind those exhibitions made us fans of the Museum’s photography curator, Kate Ware.  We, therefore, decided to ask whether the museum might be interested in a long-term loan.  It had the advantages that people could see and appreciate the collection and the museum would cover the insurance costs.

 After consultations between curator, director and registrar, concerning questions such as, how many linear inches will it take up in their limited humidity and temperature controlled storage facility, they agreed that it would fit well with the works the museum already owned.

But we still needed a contract.  These can get extremely complicated and demanding on both sides but in this case it was rather simple.  The main issues were how long the contract would be in effect, so that either side could opt out if they so wished; whether loans would be allowed to third parties and under what circumstances, as well as issues of exposure to light, i.e. how long a work can remain on view. 

As with all contracts the countersigned contract arrived at the last minute, hand delivered by the registrars who came to pick up the boxes of photos. 


  1. Where in the world do you find the time to research all this, wow!

  2. Experience Helps! (Delayed response due to Spam Blocker)