In New York: Dream States – Contemporary Photographs & Video at the MET

Artists often turn to dreams as a source of inspiration. It’s a retreat from reason or responsibility, and a space for exploring imagination and desire. Historically, dream imagery has been most closely associated with the Surrealists, however this exhibition presents thirty photographs loosely tied to the universal experience of dreaming, and you are invited to watch while they sleep.

Many of the works take the surrender of sleep as their subject matter. In photographs by Robert Frank, Danny Lyon and Nan Goldin, resting figures appear vulnerable to the voyeur, yet the inner workings of their minds remain a mystery. Images of bodies floating and falling condure the uncertain world of dreams, and landscapes are made strange through a variety of camera tricks.

Adam Fuss_300dpi
Adam Fuss (British, born 1961) From the Series “My Ghost” [Smoke] 1999 Gelatin silver print Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2000 (c) Adam Fuss


Dream States: Contemporary Photographs and Video presents photographs and video drawn from The Met collection.


The Surrealists used experimental techniques to bridge the gap between the camera’s objectivity and the internal glaze of the mind’s eye. Photographers have approached the world of sleep and dreams through deliberately open-ended imagery that succeeds through evocation over any description.


PG.191_Senami, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2011_HR
Paul Graham (British, born 1956) Senami, Christchurch, New Zealand 2011 Chromogenic print Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc, Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel and Hideyuki Osawa Gift, 2015 (c) Paul Graham, courtesy Pace and Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York


Shannon Bool_Vertigo (2)
Shannon Bool (Canadian, born 1972) Vertigo 2015 Gelatin silver print Gift of Shannon Bool and Daniel Faria Gallery, 2015 (c) Shannon Bool

Highlights include photographs by Paul Graham from his recent series Does Yellow Run Forever (2014), images from Sophie Calle‘s earliest body of work, The Sleepers (1979), where she invited friends and acquaintances to sleep in her own bed while she watched, and Anselm Kiefer‘s Brünnhilde Sleeps (1980), a hand-painted photograph featuring French actress Catherine Deneuve recast as a Wagnerian Valkyrie. Also featured are recently acquired works by Shannon Bool, Sarah Anne Johnson, Jim Shaw, and Fred Tomaselli.

Dream States: contemporary photographs and video will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until October 30, 2016. Find the exhibit at The Met Fifth Avenue, Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography, Gallery 851.

Nan Goldin (American, born Washington, D.C., 1953) French Chris on the Convertible, NYC 1979 Silver dye bleach print Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2001 (c) Nan Goldin Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery


Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer (German, born Donaueschingen, 1945) Brunnhilde Sleeps Brunhilde Schlaft 1980 Acrylic and gouache on photograph Denise and Andrew Saul Fund, 1995


Need to know:

  • Dream States: A Contemporary Photographs & Video is on show until October 30, 2016
  • Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall for Modern Photography, Gallery 851
  • Click here to explore the exhibit further.

Get Social:


Dream States: Contemporary Photographs and Video is organized by Mia Fineman, Associate Curator; and Beth Saunders, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Pictured at top: Sophie Calle (French, born Paris, 1953) Gloria K., first sleeper. Anne B., second sleeper. 1979 Gelatin silver prints Gift of the artist and Olivier Renaud-Clement, in memory of Gilles Dusein, 2000 © Sophie Calle

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