Justine Kurland (American, b. 1969); Gibraltar, 2000; satin laminated c-printn in wood frame. Collection of Phyllis Tuchman. Courtesy of the Artist. (TL.2007.74.19) x1200

Critical Encounters: Collecting Contemporary Photography

August 4, 2007 - December 16, 2007

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) presents Critical Encounters: Collecting Contemporary Photography, now on view through December 16, 2007. This exhibition features 48 photographs, both from the museum’s permanent collection and from New York based art critic Phyllis Tuchman. Ms. Tuchman will speak at WCMA on Tuesday, October 23 at 4:30 pm on how she amassed such a broad collection of contemporary photography on a budget. Ms. Tuchman has discovered through the years that “when you’re putting together a collection, everything comes with a story.” Her presentation promises to be rich with personal anecdotes. This is a free event and all are invited to attend.

Critical Encounters: Collecting Contemporary Photography assembles some of the most influential photographers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, demonstrating the breadth of Ms. Tuchman’s eye for contemporary photography and how a small private collection can be complementary to a museum’s collection. A selection of works in the exhibition are intended as future gifts to the museum in honor of Deborah Rothschild, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at WCMA, who is retiring on October 1.

Ms. Tuchman’s collection includes photography by Richard Billingham, who was short-listed for the Turner Prize in 2001; Wolfgang Tillmans, a German photographer known for his investigation of the abstract found in an ordinary day; Cindy Sherman, one of the most famous contemporary photographers today; and Justine Kurland, a young member of what Tuchman describes as the Yale School. Also included is Annie Leibovitz, whose current show, Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life is currently on an international tour. Gregory Crewdson is represented in this exhibition following WCMA’s 2006-2007 exhibition Drawing on Hopper: Gregory Crewdson/Edward Hopper, which ended in April. Additionally, this exhibition features renowned camp photographer Yasumasa Morimura, as well as historically important photographers such as Eugene Atget and Hans Namuth.

This exhibition melds with WCMA’s mission to provide a teaching facility for the students of Williams College. By integrating the museum’s permanent collection with these recent gifts, WCMA is able to show how Tuchman’s promised gifts add depth and resonance to its present holdings. It also demonstrates how living with art adds texture to one’s daily domestic experiences. Ms. Tuchman asserts “besides luck and confidence, you need to be at the right place at the right time. You must trust your heart. It’s like falling in love.”

Phyllis Tuchman’s prolific career includes numerous contributions to journals such as Art in America, Art News, Art Journal and Smithsonian, as well as exhibition catalogues Dan Flavin (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 2004), Minimalism (Chicago 1989), Mark di Suvero (Storm King Art Center, 1985), and most recently Larry Poons (New York, 2007). Additionally she wrote George Segal (Abbeville Press, 1983), a comprehensive book on the artist, making her one of the leading experts on the sculptor’s work. Having curated two important shows “Six in Bronze” in 1984 and “BIG little SCULPTURE” in 1988, Tuchman is an important contributor to the Williams College Museum of Art. In addition to this, she lectured for several years in the Art History Department at Williams College. She received the National Endowment for the Arts Critics Grant and was a Visiting National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at Princeton University. Currently, Tuchman lives in New York City where she is completing her dissertation, The Rise of Minimalism: Andre, Flavin, Judd, LeWitt, Morris, at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Dr. Deborah Rothschild’s most recent project, Making it New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy is currently on view through November 11, 2007. Her exhibition will travel to the Yale University Art Gallery (February 26-May 4, 2008) and the Dallas Museum of Art (June 8-September 14, 2008).


The Williams College Museum of Art will celebrate the opening of all of its fall exhibitions with a Season Premiere Party, Tuesday, September 25, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Additionally, WCMA will host “A Critic Collects: An Informal Conversation with Phyllis Tuchman” on Tuesday, October 23 at 4:30 pm. Both events are free and open to the public.