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The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Acquires Major Collection of Photography Books and Related Materials in Other Media Assembled by Designer, Editor and Curator Manfred Heiting

Heiting’s scholarly collection maps the history of photographic book publishing from 1886 through the 20th century

Acquisition augments his photography holdings acquired by the MFAH in 2002 and 2004

HOUSTON—June 2013
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has acquired one of the finest photography-based book collections in private hands. The extensive collections and archives have been assembled over several decades by the California-based designer Manfred Heiting. The collections, comprised of some 25,000 photography books and ephemera created in dozens of countries from the dawn of photography through the late 20th century, is recognized as one of the most important photographic resources in the world. The acquisition will come to the MFAH through purchase and donation and will include an extensive image-based database with detailed information on an additional 10,000 titles—not in this collection, but researched over decades with the help of many international experts.

"The Heiting Book Collections and database will make the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Hirsch Library a destination for photography scholars throughout the world," said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “This step sets the Museum and Library in a distinguished, new class."

Jon Evans, director of the MFAH Hirsch Library expressed, "This collection will provide an unparalleled opportunity for scholars—not only in photography, but in other cultural and historical disciplines. It will enable a richer, deeper understanding of the significance of photography and the photographic reproduction as witnessed through the photographically illustrated book during vital periods of technological developments."

"For many photographers, having work presented in a book, rather than an exhibition, is the ultimate culmination and realization of their work. Books display photographs as the photographers intended, and serve as the context for single works in a collection," said Anne Wilkes Tucker, the Gus and Lyndall Wortham curator of photography at the MFAH.

Heiting's holdings—remarkable in condition, critical to the field of photography and impossible to replicate today—will enhance the breadth and quality of the MFAH Hirsch Library and photography collections and provide a valuable resource for the development of future MFAH exhibitions. Of the 25,000 books in the collection, many are considered works of art in themselves and will be featured objects in future exhibitions that attempt to reveal to audiences the parallel developments between photography and the published photographic image. To support this acquisition, and enhance public access to it, the Museum plans to designate a named space for the Heiting Book Collection.

In addition to the book collection, Heiting has contributed 200 ceramic objects from major Dutch and European artists of the 1960s to the 1980s. Heiting's collection focuses on a period of Dutch modernist and contemporary ceramics that is largely unknown to American audiences, enabling the MFAH to introduce this important aspect of ceramic history to America. Highlights include in-depth holdings of seminal artists, such as Jan van der Vaart, Jan de Rooden, Johnny Rolf, Johan van Loon and Geert Lap, as well as artists from England, Germany and Scandinavia, including Hans Coper, Karl Scheid and Richard and Bodil Manz.

An additional 170 important photographs—including a unique version of F. Holland Day's Pilate (1906); an ultra-large print of Heinrich Kühn's Die Wiese (1898); a signed copy of Grasshopper (1920) by Edward Steichen; and a unique tripdych by Joel-Peter Witkin with encaustic paint—will also be added to the existing Heiting Collection at the Museum.

The ceramic and book collection as well as the additional photographs will enter the MFAH collection in stages, to allow Heiting to continue his research and collecting activities during the coming years.

"Books have always been part of my professional life—I was trained as a typographer and started my career at a renowned printer in Germany—and photography is my passion. Over the last decade I came to admire the MFAH and its high collecting standards and care for photography and books. I am blessed and honored that my life’s work in photography of nearly 50 years has a home here. The combined presentation will allow future scholars to study the medium in all its rich parts, in particular, the comprehensive image-based database— ready for Internet use. The extensive ceramics collection complements my keen interest in art and craft and will enhance the Museum’s own holdings in this field," said Manfred Heiting.

"The Heiting Collection adds great strength to the Museum’s post-World War II ceramics collection and takes the Museum closer to its goal of representing a truly global look at this dynamic medium," said Cindi Strauss, curator of modern and contemporary decorative arts and design. "Manfred Heiting built his collection by working directly with the artists during the period and therefore had the opportunity to acquire seminal examples. The MFAH is thrilled to be the repository for these outstanding works."

Although Heiting started acquiring photography books while building his photography collection in the mid-1960s, he set out in earnest to develop the finest photographically illustrated book collection in the mid-1990s. The breadth of the collection is extensive, ranging across multiple contents with in-depth holdings from Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, the Netherlands, France, the Czech Republic and the United States. Highlights from the collections feature examples of many of the finest publications in the history of photographic publishing. These include: Louis Jaques Mandé Daguerre's Historique et Description des Procédés du Daguerréotype et du Diorama (1839); Roger Fenton's Ruined Abbeys and Castles of Great Britain (1862); John Thomson's Foochow and the River Min (1873); Eadweard Muybridge's The Horse in Motion (1882); Josef Maria Eder's Handbuch der Fotografie (1890); a complete run of Alfred Stieglitz's seminal journal Camera Work (1903–17); Edward Curtis' The North American Indian (1907–30); a complete run of "Broom," (1921–24); Alvin Langdon Coburn's New York (1910) and London (1914); Germaine Krull's Métal (1927); a rare Russian version of László Moholy-Nagy's Malerei, Fotografie, Film (1927); a complete run of Novyi Lef, designed by Alexander Rodchenko, (1927–28); a complete set of the masterfully designed Soviet propaganda periodical USSR in Construction (1930–49); a very rare album of Josef Sudek's Svaty Vit-Guy (1928); a unique special edition copy, inscribed to Dora Maar of George Hugnet's La Septième Face du Dé (1936); Ansel Adams' Taos Pueblo (1930); a unique printing proof of Man Ray: Photographs 1920–1934 (1933); El Lissitzsky's Industriaa Sotsializma (1935); the Japanese propaganda publication Nippon (1938); an in-depth collection of Karl Blossfeldt's books; a complete set of the rare Japanese propaganda periodical Front (1942–45); Alexey Brodovitch's Ballet (1945); Ed Ruscha's artists' books (1960–78); Domon Ken and Tōmatsu Shōmei's Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document (1961); Kawada Kikuji's Chizu (The Map) (1965); Hosoe Eikō's Kamaitachi (1969); and all published works by Ed van der Elsken.

These materials complement the MFAH's existing photographic book holdings, which are strongest post-1950. With the addition of the Heiting Book Collection, the Hirsch Library photography holdings will total more than 38,000 volumes. Heiting will continue to support future development of the collection and work with the Library to fill gaps in holdings of critical works.

About the MFAH
Founded in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States. Located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the MFAH comprises two gallery buildings, a sculpture garden, library, theater and two art schools, with two house museums, for American and European decorative arts, nearby. The encyclopedic collection of the MFAH numbers more than 64,000 works and embraces the art of antiquity to the present. The MFAH photography collection comprises more than 28,000 photographs including 4,000 from the Manfred Heiting Collections previously acquired.

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