The Brown Sisters, 1979
Gelatin silver print
Promised gift of Lucinda W. Bunnen for the Bunnen Collection
© Nicholas Nixon, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Thirty years ago, the High unveiled the establishment of the Bunnen Collection a major group of photographs put together on behalf of the Museum by Atlanta photographer and philanthropist Lucinda W. Bunnen. Working in collaboration with a small group of peers in the community, Bunnen had assembled a world class holding meant to establish the High as one of the nation's premiere collecting institutions for contemporary photography and to provide Atlanta with an inspirational resource.
Beginning with a purchase of 26 Clarence John Laughlin photographs, Bunnen's collecting focused on new work by living photographers of the day, highlighting internationally renowned figures alongside those celebrated regionally. The collection was first shown and published at the High in 1983 in a project titled Subjective Vision. Since that time, Bunnen has continued to support the growth of the High's photography collection in a significant way, adding hundreds of prints to the Collection, which now comprises more than 650 works. Her extraordinary gifts over the years yielded some of the Museum's rarest and most valuable photographs, including prints by Edward Weston, Sally Mann, Cindy Sherman, William Wegman, Chuck Close, Lucas Samaras, William Eggleston, and the work of Bunnen herself.
This exhibition presents a selection of significant works from the Bunnen Collection, showcasing the Museum's rich photography holdings and celebrating the incredible legacy of one of the South's most dedicated arts advocates.
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Lucinda W. Bunnen, an avid photographer, private collector, and philanthropist residing in Atlanta, was born and raised just north of New York City in Katonah, N.Y. The combination of her father descending from a Savannah, Ga., family, and her Aunt Dot having artist friends such as Alfred Stieglitz, foreshadowed her deep involvement in photography and Southern culture. In 1952, Lucinda married Bobby Bunnen after he graduated with a degree in oral surgery in Boston, and the two moved to Atlanta. The couple built a home in Buckhead where she still lives to this day.
After a trip to Peru in the latter half of the 1960s, Bunnen became enamored with the process of capturing and sharing her experiences through photography. Bunnen was involved with the first photography class offered at the Atlanta College of Art in 1970. Less than six months later, after officially deciding to pursue photography, she was invited by the then director of the High Museum of Art, Gudmund Vigtel, to be part of the exhibition "Georgia Artists Exhibit" the following year. This led to Richard Hill, an Atlanta photographer and gallerist, offering Bunnen the first exhibition of photographs in a commercial fine art gallery in Atlanta. In 1973, Bunnen and 13 others founded Nexus, the first photography gallery in Atlanta that showcased new work by emerging photographers.
Bunnen's body of work over the past 40 years has been characterized by an oscillation between experimental and documentary impulses. Bunnen's first book, Movers and Shakers, documented the leaders working to transform Atlanta into a cosmopolitan city in the 1970s. Since that time, her extensive travels, as well as the landscape around her home, provided a rich assortment of subjects for Bunnen's photographic projects.
Meeting Lee Witkin of the Witkin Gallery in New York in 1970 proved to be an influential moment in Bunnen's life. Not only did Witkin encourage her to collect photographs, he urged her to champion the medium at arts institutions. When she began collecting, the photography market was still in its infancy and photography departments were not widely represented at museums. Later in the 1970s, Bunnen set out to assemble a world-class holding of photographs for the High Museum in Atlanta and to provide the city's inhabitants with an inspirational resource. Bunnen and a small group of peer advisors focused on new work by living photographers, including internationally renowned artists and notable regional figures. Bunnen's gifts to the High over the years include prints by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Emmet Gowin, Clarence John Laughlin, Frederick Sommer and Cindy Sherman. Bunnen is a Life Member of the High Museum of Art's Board of Directors.