Steve Fitch, Star-Vu, Western Landmarks, North America, 1980 Acquisitions with the support of Baker McKenzie

The Rijksmuseum exhibits modern art and documentary photography

Over the past ten years, internationally recognised photographers like William Klein, László Moholy-Nagy, Steve Fitch, Helen Levitt and Saul Leiter were introduced into the Rijksmuseum collection thanks to Backer McKenzie. As a dedicated sponsor, the law firm enabled the museum to purchase over 100 20th century photographs. The acquisitions emphasised American photography, an area that was inadequately represented in the Rijksmuseum collection.

On the occasion of the 10-year collaboration with Baker McKenzie, the Rijksmuseum is exhibiting a selection of thirty impressive examples of modern art and documentary photography.

Lichttekening, Herbert Matter, 1943. Purchase with the support of Baker McKenzie

Lichttekening, Herbert Matter, 1943. Purchase with the support of Baker McKenzie

In search of the perfect photo

Star-Vu shows photography in all its diversity and exhibits historical as well as modern compositions. On display are an abstract black and white photo by László Moholy-Nagy (1885-1946), a graphic light drawing by Herbert Matter (1907-1984) and an elegant street scene by Saul Leiter (1923-2013). They all experimented with the medium’s artistic potential. With his unpolished fashion photo and his snapshot-like street scenes, William Klein (1928) refuted the traditional idea that a photograph should be technically perfect.

Sammy's Bar, Lisette Model, 1944. Purchase with the support of Baker McKenzie

Sammy’s Bar, Lisette Model, 1944. Purchase with the support of Baker McKenzie

Harsh reality

Documentary photography is also featured, with photos by Lewis Hine (1874-1940), Joel Meyerowitz (1938) and Helen Levitt (1913-2009), among others. The photos give an impression of society’s injustices and the harsh reality of daily life. Hine wanted to use his photos to combat child labour and Levitt documented life in the poor neighbourhoods of New York. Meyerowitz’s photos provide a commentary on American society that was shown to be more than just the American Dream.

Steve Fitch, Star-Vu, Western Landmarks, North America, 1980 Acquisitions with the support of Baker McKenzie

Steve Fitch, Star-Vu, Western Landmarks, North America, 1980 Acquisitions with the support of Baker McKenzie

Coloured lenses

The quest for an ideal reflection of American society is also expressed in the colour photos by Steve Fitch (1949). He suddenly viewed the world through different – coloured – lenses. In his photos, he sought the typical American expressions of light sculpture, such as the illuminated façade of the Star-Vu drive-in theatre. He photographed something that had never before been depicted.

The Queen of Clubs, William Klein, 1928. Purchase with the support of Baker McKenzie

The Queen of Clubs, William Klein, 1928. Purchase with the support of Baker McKenzie

Modern art and documentary photography

The Rijksmuseum photography collection has expanded into a leading international collection – with 130,000 19th century photos and 20,000 works from the 20th century. The photos are often unique works, of which only one or a handful of original vintage prints still exist.

Star-Vu. Ten years of photo acquisitions thanks to Baker McKenzie can be seen from 17 February to 21 May 2017 in the Photo Gallery of the Rijksmuseum

Vincent Moleveld