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MFAH Photography Study Center has been named for Anne Wilkes Tucker, founding curator of photography


Photography Study Center

HOUSTON—February 1, 2021—The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, announced today the naming of the Anne Wilkes Tucker Photography Study Center, a gift of Joan and Stanford Alexander in honor of the Museum’s founding curator of photography. The renovated and expanded facility on the mezzanine of the Audrey Jones Beck Building offers artists, researchers, students, and the public access to the Museum’s renowned collection of some 35,000 photographs as well as its collection of prints and drawings.

“We are enormously grateful to Joan and Stanford Alexander, whose generosity in honor of curator emerita Anne Wilkes Tucker has allowed us to create an exceptionally spacious and well-appointed study room for the close examination of photographic works of art. I know of no other that can rival it,” said Gary Tinterow, Director, the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, MFAH.

Tucker, long dedicated to public education about photography, said, “Nothing could make me happier or be a greater honor than the naming of this beautiful study center, where I hope that generations of students, scholars, and members of the public will find the same magic and meaning in photographs that has engaged my interest and imagination for so long.”

Designed to serve multiple functions, the 3,500-square-foot public area of the Anne Wilkes Tucker Photography Study Center provides ample room for individual researchers; a 33-foot-long display wall for class viewings and exhibition planning; audio-visual equipment for small group lectures; and glass-fronted display and storage for the Manfred Heiting Book Collection of nearly 7,500 exceptional examples of photographically illustrated books. The facility, operating since 2000 as the Works on Paper Study Center, also now includes a dedicated office for fellows, interns, and volunteers working on projects related to the collections of photographs, prints, and drawings.

Although COVID-19 protocols currently limit public access, once pandemic restrictions are lifted, the Museum expects the study center to again serve more than 1,500 patrons a year, including high school, college, and graduate-level classes, providing the unparalleled opportunity for students to view masterpieces from across the history of photography without frames and at close hand.

Individual or group visits to view photographs, prints, or drawings in the MFAH collections must be scheduled in advance by emailing studycenter@mfah.org or calling 713.639.7751.

The Anne Wilkes Tucker Photography Study Center will also host recipients of the newly announced Cherryhurst House Fellowship, which will bring artists and writers together to explore the collection in support of their individual practices. For more information about this program, visit emuseum.mfah.org/groups/photography online.

The MFAH Photography Collection
The Museum’s photography collection comprises more than 35,000 items spanning the full history of the medium, from its invention to present day. While focused on fine-art photography, the collection acknowledges the wide embrace of the medium and the many roles it plays in modern culture, and it therefore includes exceptional examples of documentary, scientific, fashion, advertising, and vernacular photography, as well as works intended solely as art. Virtually every photographic process is represented, from daguerreotypes, albumen prints, and salt prints of the 19th century; to platinum and gum-bichromate prints at the turn of the 20th century; and gelatin silver prints and all manner of color photography in the modern era. Among the collection’s great strengths are American photography, with extensive holdings of civil-rights photography, Texas photography, the Photo League, and works by Diane Arbus and Robert Frank; avant-garde European and American photography between the two World Wars; photojournalism, including deep holdings of war photography; 19th-century European photography; and postwar Japanese photography. More than 4,000 photographers from around the world are represented, including important bodies of work from Argentina, Mexico, Russia, and the former Czechoslovakia. The entire photography collection may be explored at emuseum.mfah.org/groups/photography online.

The Manfred Heiting Book Collection
The Anne Wilkes Tucker Photography Study Center provides storage, display, and access to exceptional holdings of photographically illustrated books acquired in 2012 from collector Manfred Heiting, whose photography collection the Museum acquired in 2002 and 2004 in a transformative enrichment of the MFAH collection. The nearly 7,500 volumes in the Manfred Heiting Book Collection complement the Museum’s photography holdings, allowing researchers to examine, side-by-side, exhibition prints by noted photographers and the reproductions in book form, which was often the artists’ desired end goal and the means by which their work was widely disseminated and gained notoriety. Among the treasures of the book collection are John Thomson’s Foochow and the River Min (1873); Laure Albin-Guillot’s Micrographie décorative (1931); Ansel Adams’s Sierra Nevada (1938); Soviet-era Russian photo-books, noted for their Modernist design and typography was well as their innovative photographs, including El Lissitzky’s Industriya Sotzializma (Industry of Socialism) (1935); postwar Japanese books and periodicals including Provoke (1968–70), Kikuji Kawada’s The Map (1965), and books featuring the work of Daido Moriyama, Shomei Tomatsu, Domon Ken, and Eikoh Hosoe. Photography Study Center visitors can also consult rare books from the photography collection and the Museum’s Hirsch Library, including two recently acquired landmarks in publishing: William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature (1844–46), the first commercially published book illustrated with photographs; and a complete set of Camera Work (1903–17), Alfred Stieglitz’s sumptuously produced journal with fine photogravures by Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Clarence White, and other early-20th-century photographers.

Anne Wilkes Tucker
The Photography Study Center is named in honor of the Museum’s founding curator of photography, Anne Wilkes Tucker. Now curator emerita, Tucker joined the MFAH in 1976, when the Museum owned fewer than 200 photographs; by the time she retired in June 2015, Tucker had built a world-renowned photography collection of nearly 30,000 prints, encyclopedic in its scope. Curator of scores of exhibitions and author of many catalogues and articles on various aspects of photographic history, Tucker has been recognized with numerous awards and was named “America’s Best Curator” by Time magazine in 2001. In addition to building the Museum’s collection, Tucker has been instrumental in building and sustaining a strong photography community in Houston through her leadership of the MFAH photography subcommittee and the photography department’s patron group, Photo Forum, as well as her long service on the boards of FotoFest International and Houston Center for Photography, of which she was a founder.

Joan and Stanford Alexander
The Anne Wilkes Tucker Photography Study Center is a gift of Joan and Stanford Alexander, longtime supporters of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Joan Alexander was chair of the photography subcommittee for its first 10 years and remains a member to this day; Stanford Alexander, now chairman emeritus of Weingarten Realty Investors, initiated Target’s 30-year commitment to the MFAH photography department, building the Target Collection of American Photography, with more than 400 prime examples of the medium. “It is our desire to inspire hearts, minds, and spirits and enlarge the vision of all who come to our Museum, particularly during these challenging times,” Joan Alexander said.

In addition to their long support of the photography department and their generous capital campaign gift that made possible the renovation and naming of the Anne Wilkes Tucker Photography Study Center, the Alexanders have recently established an endowment to ensure the continuation of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Dissertation Award. Conceived by Tucker and now in its 13th cycle, the award provides grants each year to two PhD students whose doctoral dissertations concentrate on photography. “Joan and Stanford’s belief in the value of investing in young scholars at the start of their careers is truly inspiring, and the record of achievement by past recipients proves that their trust was well-placed,” said Malcolm Daniel, the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography. “It is wonderful to know that the Alexander Award grants will continue and grow long into the future. With the creation of the Anne Wilkes Tucker Photography Study Center and the establishment of this endowment, the Alexanders’ generosity benefits all who love photography.” 

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Established in 1900, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, is among the 10 largest art museums in the United States, with an encyclopedic collection of nearly 70,000 works dating from antiquity to the present. The Museum’s Susan and Fayez S. Sarofim main campus comprises the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, designed by Steven Holl Architects and opened in 2020; the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building, originally designed by William Ward Watkin, with extensions by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe completed in 1958 and 1974; the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986; the Glassell School of Art, designed by Steven Holl Architects and opened in 2018; and The Brown Foundation, Inc. Plaza, designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates and opened in 2018. Additional spaces include a repertory cinema, two libraries, public archives, and facilities for conservation and storage. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. mfah.org

Media Contact
Katie Jernigan, senior publicist
kjernigan@mfah.org | 713.639.7516