Have you been to see the exhibition of Irving Penn portraits at the Morgan Library that we told you about last month? If not, don’t worry, a similar show will probably pop up soon on the West Coast. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has just acquired an important collection of Penn portraits, The New York Times reports today. No word on how much the museum paid for the photos, which are silver-gelatin and platinum prints.
With the negotiating help of his gallery, Pace/MacGill, Penn sold to the Getty a series he calls “The Small Trades,” which includes 252 full-length black-and-white portraits of blue-collar workers, including butchers, bakers, perhaps even candlestickmakers, and our favorite, an inscrutable deep sea diver he snapped in 1951 (look at his wonderful shoes!). The series began in 1950 as a project to photograph the workers of Paris and ultimately expanded to include subjects in London and New York, all of them photographed against a neutral background.
According to the NYT, the Getty has been working on acquiring the series for years but first had to sort out some copyright issues:
Weston Naef, the Getty’s senior photography curator, said that…the sticking point had been copyright ownership of the images. In many cases, he said, Mr. Penn and Conde Nast, which owns Vogue, share the copyrights to Mr. Penn’s images. And the Getty, which had long insisted that it be given copyright power over the trade series, along with the master set of the photographs, decided in the end to abandon the copyright demand.
We love a good intellectual property scuffle, but we’re even more excited about the fact that the Getty’s senior photography curator is named Weston!