The Aldrich Museum is privileged to have the opportunity to present Future-Present: Contemporary Photographs of Children from the Reader’s Digest Collection. The works included in this exhibition represent only a part of the vintage, modern, and contemporary photographic images of children owned by Reader’s Digest.
The acquisitions of nearly three hundred such works since 1996 represents the company's most recent endeavor in expanding its renowned corporate art collection. The subject of children and childhood is of special interest to the Reader's Digest because it reflects many of the company's humanitarian ideals and concerns: it expresses a sense of hope, a belief in community, and — as the title Future-Present suggests — the importance of each generation to the next.
The collection was started in the early 1940s by Lila Acheson Wallace, who co-founded the Reader's Digest with her husband, DeWitt. Having grown to over 8,000 pieces during the ensuing years, the collection now includes works in a variety of media, ranging from paintings, drawings, and prints to photography and sculpture. Following Mrs. Wallace's vision, the Reader's Digest collecting policy continues to be twofold: to enhance the corporate working environment and to support the arts by acquiring works by established and emerging artists from the United States and abroad. The philosophy underlying the Reader's Digest Collection and the mission of The Aldrich Museum — to present important contemporary visual art — made a perfect match for our collaboration on Future-Present. This exhibition makes the first time that a significant portion of the Reader's Digest photography collection has been assembled for public view.
Future-Present focuses on seventy-three works produced since 1980 by some of the most significant photographers of the last two decades. It is interesting to note how many well-known photographers, especially those not recognized for their work with children, are represented in this exhibition. On reflection this seems natural given children's ubiquitous role in life. Young people have consistently been important subject matter for photographers since the medium's inception in the nineteenth century. Of the over seventeen billion snapshots taken in the United States each year, it is estimated that fifty percent portray young people. Future-Present makes a case for the view that photography has become the most important vehicle for the depiction of children and childhood in the modern world — an argument borne out by the complex range of ideas and emotions encountered in looking through the works in this exhibition.
Besides the collaboration of Reader's Digest and the Museum, this exhibition brought about a unique partnership between the Museum's curatorial and education departments. Early in the summer of 1998, Anne Higonnet, whose recent scholarship has focused on the depiction of children in art and popular culture, was approached to contribute an essay for this project. Anne not only responded enthusiastically, but also became intrigued with the Museum's Art Advocates program — an educational program that brings area high school students to the Museum to learn about writing on visual art from professionals in the field. At the first meeting the thoughts of Anne and The Aldrich's stage crystallized: for an exhibition about children and childhood, whose voices were more necessary than those young people themselves? The thought-provoking essay that follows is the result of an exciting collaboration between Anne and Art Advocates students. Another Museum education program, DesignWorks, contributed significantly to this project. The mission of DesignWorks is to involve students in practical problem solving in design through their involvement in the real-world design issues faced by the Museum. The DesignWorks students, working with graphic designer Lisa Feldman, are responsible for the handsome design of they brochure.
For this enthusiastic encouragement and support of the exhibition, we extend very special appreciation to Marianne Brunson Frisch, curator, and Jill DeVonyar-Zansky, associate curator, of the Corporate Art department of Reader's Digest. Without their vision, this vital collection would not have been assembled. Special thanks go to Lynda Carroll, the Museum's associate curator of education, for organizing the involvement of both Art Advocates and DesignWorks in this project. My gratitude also goes to Anne Higonnet, for her thoughtful and considered contribution to this exhibition.
Organized by Richard Klein; Marianne Brunson Frisch and Jill DeVonyar-Zansky (Corporate Art Department of Reader’s Digest) with the help of Lynda Carroll and Anne Higonnet
Artists: Dag Alveng, Larry Barnes, Tina Barney, Adam Bartos, Ellen Brooks, Steven Brock, Suzanne Camp Crosby, Keith Carter, Vincent Cianni, Marianne Courville, Bruce Cratsley, Gerald Cyrus, Paul D’Amato, Jed Devine, Wendy Ewald, Dennis Farber, Jed Fielding, Adam Fuss, Andrea Gentl, David Goldes, David Graham, Lauren Greenfield, Jan Groover, Charles Hagan, Henry Horenstein, Len Jenshel, Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel Meyerowitz, Howard Seth Miller, Andrea Modica, Abelardo Morell, Nicholas Nixon, Nina Prantis, Greta Pratt, Eugene Richards, Judith Ross, Sebastião Salgado, John Patrick Salisbury, Stephen Scheer, Gundula Schulze Eldowy, Gordon Smith, Mark Steinmetz, Joel Sternfeld, Jane Alden Stevens, Katherine Turczan, Nick Waplington, Carrie Mae Weems, Neil Winokur
Top image: Tina Barney, Marina's Room (1987)