Art Gallery of Ontario Acquires 522 Diane Arbus Photographs


Canada’s Art Gallery of Ontario has acquired 522 photographs by Diane Arbus. The acquisition is a major one—few museums around the world have as many works by Arbus in their collections.

Arbus’s works, which were recently the subject of a survey exhibition at the Met Breuer and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as well as a major biography, are recognizable for their lush compositions and strange subject matter. Largely unheard of over the course of her short career, Arbus turned her camera on society’s outsiders, bringing attention to subjects who had rarely interested photographers before her.

The 522-work acquisition was purchased through Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco with support from Phil Lind, Sandra Simpson, Jay Smith, Jozef Straus, and Robin and David Young. More than 200 of the works were printed by Arbus herself; the rest were done by Neil Selkirk, the only person Arbus’s estate has licensed to print her work.

Stephen Jost, the director and CEO of the AGO, said in a statement, “Diane Arbus is known for images that engage and entrance the viewer, revealing untold stories about her subjects but also making us think about ourselves. The expansion and development of our photography collection are a priority, and there is no better way to signal our intentions than with a transformational acquisition of this depth and breadth. We are incredibly grateful to our donors for their support, for a collection that is a gift to the AGO—and to the people of Ontario as well.”