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Photography for the Public

The Bank of America Collection

by Tamera Lenz Muente


This summer, the Taft Museum of Art is pleased to present the first of two photography exhibitions from the Bank of America Collection. Modern Women/Modern Vision: Photography from the Bank of America Collection opens on June 3. One year later, in summer 2024, the Taft will open Moment in Time: A Legacy of Photographs/Works from the Bank of America Collection. Both exhibitions will showcase images created by some of the most influential photographers in history.

The Bank of America Collection, which has come from many institutions that are now part of Bank of America, includes paintings, prints, sculptures, works on paper, and photography dating from the mid-19th century to the present day. The collection encompasses various stylistic traditions—American Impressionism to abstraction, Pop Art to conceptual art. Modern Women/Modern Vision and Moment in Time draw from the collection’s remarkable photography holdings.

Modern Women/Modern Vision presents approximately 100 photographs made between 1905 and 2015 by artists from Asia, Europe, and North America. Diverse in style, tone, and subject, the images range from spontaneous to composed, detached to empathetic, monumental to intimate. The exhibition celebrates the bold and dynamic ways women have contributed to the development and evolution of photography.

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, born 1942), Fiesta de las velas (Festival of the Candles), Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico (detail), 1992, 1986 negative; printed about 1992, gelatin silver print. Bank of America Collection. Courtesy of the artist

Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, born 1942), Fiesta de las velas (Festival of the Candles), Juchitán, Oaxaca, Mexico (detail), 1992, 1986 negative; printed about 1992, gelatin silver print. Bank of America Collection. Courtesy of the artist

A Pioneering Partnership

The works in Moment in Time were originally assembled by pioneering photography curator Nancy Newhall (American, 1908–1974). In 1967, Samuel William Sax, president of Exchange National Bank of Chicago (which later became part of Bank of America), consulted Beaumont Newhall, then curator at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), about creating a collection of photography. Beaumont suggested his wife, Nancy, who in 1940 had helped to establish the photography department at MOMA and took over as acting curator of photography there during Beaumont’s service during World War II. The Newhalls—who honeymooned in Europe to acquire photographs for MOMA—were at the forefront of photography collecting and scholarship: even by the late 1960s, few other museums had photography departments.

Nancy Newhall championed the work of photographers who are now household names, including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. She also realized the influence of earlier photographers on modern art and acknowledged the significance of women in the field, collecting their work as well. The Exchange Bank of Chicago’s hiring of an experienced, knowledgeable, and well-connected photography curator was unprecedented. The bank initially tasked Newhall with buying 100 prints. By the end of her seven-year tenure, she had assembled around 1,300.


Art in our Communities®

In her recommendations for the life of the collection she had assembled, Nancy Newhall wrote, “The Bank might, in time, originate shows of the very greatest interest and at the peak of wide excitement, thereby performing a public service.” Indeed, today the Bank of America generously shares its art collection with the wider community. Through its Art in our Communities® program, museums and nonprofit galleries can borrow exhibitions without paying rental fees, shipping, or insurance costs, and receive additional financial support for marketing. Since its inception in 2009, more than 170 museums worldwide have benefited from the program.

“We believe in the power of the arts to help economies thrive, to educate and enrich societies, and to create greater cultural understanding,” says Mark Ryan, Cincinnati Market President, Bank of America. “We are proud to deepen our commitment to the arts and continue our partnership with the Taft Museum of Art by presenting Modern Women and Moment in Time as part of our Art in our Communities® program. Cincinnati has a tremendous arts and culture landscape and we encourage everyone to visit and experience it.” The Taft is thrilled to present nearly 200 masterworks of photography from the Bank of America Collection over the next two years.

Explore the influential role of women photographers over the past century in Modern Women/Modern Vision, on view June 3–September 10, 2023.

Tamera Lenz Muente, Curator

About the author

Tamera Lenz Muente, Curator

Tamera Lenz Muente has been part of the curatorial team of the Taft Museum of Art since 2006.  She frequently serves as curator for exhibitions in the Fifth Third Gallery, the museum’s main temporary exhibition space, as well as the Taft’s Sinton Gallery, which features intimate exhibitions of both historical and contemporary scope. Most recently, Muente curated A Splendid Century: Cincinnati Art 1820–1920 for which she authored a catalog. The “More to the Story” labels in this show received national recognition from the American Alliance of Museum’s Excellence in Label Writing competition by providing audiences with a more diverse understanding of history.

Before completing her graduate degree and becoming a curator, Muente worked in the fields of public relations, fundraising, and administration in the arts and higher education. In addition to her current position at the Taft, Muente is a freelance writer and released an historical novel in 2014. She holds an M.A. in art history from the University of Cincinnati and a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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