In 1845, the Städel Museum was the first art museum in the world to exhibit photographs. Linking back to this historic tradition, the Städel now presents the development of art photography from its beginnings to the 1960s. The catalogue comprises the major tendencies of European art photography. Prints of the pioneers are shown alongside pictures by photographers who were practically forgotten. The acquisition of the unique collections of Uta and Wilfried Wiegand and of Annette and Rudolf Kicken, which were partly gifted and party acquired, significantly expanded the photography collection of the museum. This first comprehensive survey of Städel’s collection of historic photographs is an invitation to discover the diversity of photography.
The show augments the joint presentation of photography, painting and sculpture practiced at the Städel Museum since its reopening in 2011 and also to be continued during and after “Lichtbilder”. The aim of this exhibition mode is to convey the decisive role played by photography in art-historical pictorial tradition since the medium’s very beginnings. The presentation is being accompanied by a catalogue which – like the exhibition architecture – foregrounds the specific “palette” of photography as a medium conducted in black and white. The subtle tones of grey are mirrored not only in the works’ reproductions, but also in the color design of the individual catalogue sections. When the visitor enters the exhibition space, he is surrounded by an architecture that is grey to the core, while at the same time making clear that no one shade of grey is like another. In the words of curator Felicity Grobien: “The exhibition reveals how multi-colored the prints are, for in them – contrary to what we expect from black-and-white photography – we discover a vast range of subtle color nuances that emphasize the prints’ distinctiveness.”