The Met Breuer: diane arbus – in the beginning, NYC

As part of its inaugural season The Met Breuer presents diane arbus: in the beginning, and it opens on 12 July. The exhibition features more than 100 photographs that will redefine one of the most influential and provocative artists of the 20th century.

The main highlight  will be never-before-seen early works by Diane Arbus (1923–71); the first seven years of her career, from 1956 to 1962 — the period in which she developed her distinctive work style and approach, which brought her recognition, praise and criticism all over the world. Thomas P. Campbell , Director and CEO of The Met said,

“It is a rare privilege to present an exhibition this revelatory, on an artist of Arbus’s stature. More than two-thirds of these works have never before been exhibited or published.”

Jeff Rosenheim, Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs, added, “Arbus’s early photographs are wonderfully rich in achievement and perhaps as quietly riveting and ultimately controversial as the iconic images for which she is so widely known. She brings us face-to-face with what she had first glimpsed at the age of 16—‘the divineness in ordinary things’—and through her photographs we begin to see it too.”


diane arbus: in the beginning

At the time of her death in 1971, her work was stored in boxes basement darkroom in Greenwich Village. These prints remained undiscovered and were not inventoried until a decade after her death.

As a young woman, Arbus was fascinated by photography even before she received a camera in 1941 at the age of 18 as a gift from her husband, Allan. She made photographs intermittently for the following 15 years while working with him as a stylist in their fashion photography business.

In 1956 Arbus numbered a roll of 35mm film #1, as if to claim to herself that this moment would be her definitive beginning.

Through the course of the next seven years (the period in which she primarily used a 35mm camera), an evolution took place—from pictures of individuals that sprang out of chance encounters to portraits in which the chosen subjects became engaged participants, with as much stake in the outcome as the photographer.

Arbus sought the poignancy of a direct personal encounter, a completely different approach from her peers at the time.

Her photographs of children and eccentrics, couples and circus performers, female impersonators and Fifth Avenue pedestrians are among the most intimate and surprising images of the era. 

“I do feel I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.” – diane arbus


Arbus’s creative life in photography after 1962 is well documented and already the stuff of legend and for the first time, people can properly examine its origins at The Met Breuer.

Exhibition Credits
diane arbus: in the beginning is curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs at The Met. The exhibition is made possible by the Alfred Stieglitz Society. Additional support is provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and the Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne.


About The Met Breuer
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern and contemporary art program is expanding to include a new series of exhibitions, performances, artist commissions, residencies, and educational initiatives in the building designed by Marcel Breuer on Madison Avenue and 75th Street. It opened to the public on March 18, 2016, And served to provides additional space for the exploration of the art of the 20th and 21st centuries through the global depth and historical reach of the Met’s unparalleled collection.

Watch the exhibition trailer:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 3.36.46 pm


Need to know:

  • July 12–November 27, 2016
  • Exhibition Location: The Met Breuer, 2nd floor

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Pictured at top: Diane Arbus in New York


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