“Vivian Maier: In Color” Opens at the Chicago History Museum – Inspiring

A photo from Vivian Maier: In Color

Vivian Maier’s works have a home at the Chicago History Museum.  The museum’s acquisition of nearly 1,800 Vivian Maier color slides, negatives and transparencies immediately set the wheels in motion that led to the opening of the Vivian Maier: In Color exhibition that opens to the public on May 8, 2021

The collection consists primarily of color slides and transparencies depicting people and scenes in Chicago from the 1950s-1970s. The museum worked closely with Chicago-based artist and art collector Jeff Goldstein and the Vivian Maier Estate to accept a donation of photographs and preserve them for public use. The acquisition gives the public access to many never-before-seen images, all of which are available on the museum’s image portal. The current exhibition highlights this important acquisition and images from the Museum’s collection and other loaned pieces of Maier’s work are on display at the Museum.

Try this to hear Vivian Maier, Photo B. Keer

“The Chicago History Museum is committed to sharing Chicago stories, and Vivian Maier’s work represents her private contributions to the documentation and representation of culture found within city life,” said Charles E. Bethea, Andrew W. Mellon Director of Collections and Curatorial Affairs. “Maier’s photography brings a glimpse of Chicago and its residents to life between the 1950s to the 1970s, allowing present day visitors the opportunity to reflect on the striking parallels it has to today’s society.”

I first learned about Vivian Maier and her photography when I saw the film, “Finding Vivian Maier”.  . 

Associate Editor of Chicago Splash Magazine Andrew DeCanniere — who interviewed John Maloof regarding his gallery, Miishkooki Art Space, (which has since closed) — explained that “John is the one who discovered Vivian Maier’s work, and he is the one who essentially introduced her and her work to the world, bringing it out into the light with his 2013 documentary Finding Vivian Maier, which went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.” The film and the story were so compelling that I could not wait for this exhibition to open. (Andrew’s article)

John Russick, senior vice president at the Chicago History Museum

I had several questions for John Russick, senior vice president at the Chicago History Museum. With kindness, patience and enthusiasm, Russick answered questions and explained the significance of this exhibition.

I wondered about the relationship of the film, Finding Vivian Maier to this exhibition and learned that, ” The connective tissue is Vivian herself. John Maloof who was the mastermind of the film contributed some things to the show but there is no actual connection.

Vivian Maier experiments with movies, Photo: B. Keer

Asked about how receiving the works of Vivian Maier impact the Chicago History Museum, Russick replied, “ We feel honored to make Chicagoans aware that the Chicago History Museum is for everyone and it is contemporary and not just about things that happened in the past.  The museum is about today as well as yesterday.”

To the question of how long it took to put this exhibition together, he replied that, “Jeffrey Goldstein donated Jan 2, 2020 and we moved it to the head of the line realizing that people are enthusiastic about it and would be knocking on our door. If we are going to be asked to share it in some way, what better way than public exhibition? It also gets people out of their COVID – 19 hibernation. What is nice about exhibitions like this is that people can wear their masks, social distance and enjoy the photos”  In addition, and remarkably, “this exhibition was largely curated during the museum closures amid the global Coronavirus pandemic. With our curator based in Toronto, Canada, and most of the museum staff working from home, most of the curatorial, exhibition design, marketing work and all other aspects happened virtually.”

It surprised me to learn that, “ People all over the world are aware of Vivian Maier.  That is the story.  People in Chicago have talents that are not always recognized.  Here we had a genius who lived and died in Chicago and created amazing art. This is the Chicago story and people all over the world now know about her. It is a great Chicago narrative.”  And there is a concurrent exhibition of Vivian Maier’s work in Paris, France.

John Russick invites Chicagoans and visitors to Chicago to “Come see the exhibit.  There is purposely no closing date to the exhibit so it will run pretty much as long as people are coming to see it.  CDC guidelines are followed and with no specific closing date, it should prevent crowding that would put visitors at risk.”

A Special Event

Saturday, May 15th, 1-2 pm. Virtual Exhibition Tour – Vivian Maier: In Color

Our newest exhibition, Vivian Maier: In Color, moves with photographer Vivian Maier around the greater Chicago area from the mid-1950s through the 1970s, looking at its people and places from different viewpoints. Organized by her various perspectives, the exhibition highlights the different relationships between the photographer and her subjects. Maier uses the element of color in her compositions to heighten these relationships and bring out the beauty and tensions in these encounters.

Join Vivian Maier: In Color guest curator Frances Dorenbaum as she leads you on this virtual gallery tour, followed by a Q&A.

  1. $5 general admission; FREE for members.
  2. This event runs approximately one hour. A Zoom link will be provided after registration.
  3. Speaker
  4. Frances Dorenbaum is a curator and art historian from Toronto who specializes in the history of photography. She holds a master of arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has collaborated on exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art in Evanston, Illinois, and the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, among others.

The well displayed photos include a wide range of themes and perspective.  In addition, the bilingual explanations of the photos are easy to read and understand, and they are well lit.

This is an experience to savor.  Come see for yourself.

All photos are courtesy of the Chicago History Museum unless otherwise noted

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