Photography collections

Photography collections

The photography collections consist of the Galleria Civica di Modena’s photography collection which preserves over 4,000 works by the biggest international photographers since the end of WW2, and the Fondazione di Modena photography collection, which includes over 1,300 works by Italian and international artists. Fondazione Modena Arti Visive also manages the Modena historical photograph collections, comprising 1,500,000 images belonging to private individuals and public institutions. 

Photography Collection, Galleria Civica di Modena Collection
The Photography Collection was established in 1991, when Modenese photographer Franco Fontana donated to the Galleria Civica of his city a first group of over 500 photographs from his private collection, resulting from swaps and purchases made during his long career with many of the most famous photographers and international gallery owners.Almost at the same time, on the back of its long tradition in the field of promoting photographic art, in 1993 the Galleria Civica launched “Modena per la Fotografia”, which for over ten years became a go-to event and opportunity for exchanges within the debate on photography.  Thanks to a farsighted buying policy, many of the authors present on those occasions, including some international names, gradually became part of the collection.In the meantime, Fontana continued to donate works over the years, bringing the total of what has become the Franco Fontana Fonds to over 1,600 photographs. All in all, thanks to the exhibitions and additions to the fonds, the collection now counts over 4,000 works: absolutely one of a kind in the field of public collecting in Italy.

The collection includes many of the artists who have made the history of modern photography (Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Eugène Atget, August Sander, Man Ray, Walker Evans, André Kertesz, Weegee, Robert Doisneau to William Klein, Minor White, Arthur Tress, Jerry Uelsmann and Ralph Eugene Meatyard).Numerous photographers in the collection specialized in reportages (Robert Capa, Edouard Boubat, Werner Bischof, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Mario de Biasi, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Uliano Lucas, Ferdinando Scianna, Leonard Freed, Josef Koudelka and Sebastiao Salgado) while others made a name for themselves in the field of fashion (Sarah Moon, Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Horst, Annie Leibovitz, Oliviero Toscani and Giovanni Gastel).A significant number of photographs are by some of the main figures who redefined Italian landscape photography (Mario Giacomelli, Luigi Ghirri, Franco Fontana, Gabriele Basilico, Mimmo Jodice, Vincenzo Castella and Olivo Barbieri), together with many other protagonists of contemporary photography (Lewis Baltz, Mario Cresci, Duane Michals, Joan Fontcuberta, Paolo Gioli, Martin Parr, Franco Vaccari, Ugo Mulas, Nan Goldin, Francesca Woodman, Nobuyoshi Araki, Thomas Ruff, Philip Lorca di Corcia and Elina Brotherus).

While they are just some examples, the level of the quoted artists gives an idea of the scope and importance of the collection. There is no doubt that it is an asset of the highest cultural and documentary value, which has continued to grow in recent years with acquisitions from some of the most interesting latest-generation artists.


Fondazione di modena photography collection
The Fondazione di Modena collections of Italian and international contemporary photography consist of 1,375 works by 219 authors, documenting the results of artistic research conducted in the field of images in recent years.The two collections started to take shape in 2007 thanks to acquisitions from both established and emerging authors.They contain photographic works, videos and art films, as well as various installations. The international collection, divided by geographical area, at present counts over 650 works by 135 artists and examines the Far East, Eastern and Northwestern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, India, South America and the USA.The artists in question include Hiroshi Sugimoto, Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Július Koller, David Goldblatt, Kimsooja, Milica Tomić, Dayanita Singh, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, Wolfgang Tillmans, Akram Zaatari, Artur Żmijewski and Gillian Wearing. The Italian section brings together some of the country’s most significant photographic experiences from the 1970s to date and includes almost 380 works by 20 artistsincluding Gabriele Basilico, Luigi Ghirri, Olivo Barbieri, Guido Guidi, Paola De Pietri, Walter Niedermayr, Franco Vaccari and Franco Fontana. In 2011, Fondazione di Modena began to acquire the works of the most commendable students from the Master's course on the Contemporary Image, selected every summer by a special commission on occasion of the end-of-year "Summer Show” exhibition.Since 2007, competitions and special projects have added a further 290 works by 51 young photographers to the collection. Hence, it has played a tangible role in promoting young talents.

Finally, on occasion of two projects “Lying in Between” (2016) and “Sequenza Sismica” (2017), the Fondazione Fotografia commissioned 12 photographers to create projects describing, respectively, the problem of migrants on the Greek islands and the devastation wrought by the earthquake in Emilia and central Italy. The resulting 140-plus photographs were donated by the authors, including Antonio Biasiucci, Francesco Radino and Olivier Richon, to the Fondazione di Modena.

The historical photograph archives
In addition to the collection of contemporary photography, FMAV has a huge collection of historical photographs which are an important research resource.  The Fondazione di Modena’s historical collection consists of five photographic fonds that date from 1863 to the 1950s. In total, they count over 114,000 images taken by Modenese photographers, in addition to an archive of over 10,000 negatives taken at the Venice Biennale, from 1948 to 1986, from the Cameraphoto archive.Furthermore, FMAV provides storage and protection for the historical photographs inherited from the former Fotomuseo Panini (active in Modena from 1997 to 2012 before becoming part of the Fondazione Fotografia), a collection of over 1,500,000 images that document photographic activities in the Modena area. Of these photographs, 130,000 are catalogued.Belonging to private individuals – like the Panini and Sorgato collection – and public institutions – like the Museo del Risorgimento, the Museo Civico, the province and the municipality of Modena – the shots housed in FMAV’s climate-controlled archives tell the history of the city from 1870 to 1990 through the work of Modenese photographers Orlandini, Sorgato, Bandieri, Botti and Pincelli and Giberti.The two most important collections managed by FMAV are those of Giuseppe Panini, born at the start of the 1980s from the Modenese businessman’s passion for collecting which led him to buy the archives of two of the most important photographic studios operating in Modena between the end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century:  Orlandini and Bandieri.The fonds consists of over 380,000 photographs, most of which are plates and negative films of the city of Modena and the surrounding area, studio portraits and documentation of some significant political, cultural and sporting events (with particularly significant documentation from the fascist era).The collection is accompanied by paper documents from the Orlandini studio, including private and business correspondence, cameras and period furniture.The collection also contains images taken by Emilian photographers between the 1860s and 1950 (including the oldest outdoor photograph of Modena from 1859 by Dioneo Tadolini).Furthermore, there is a collection of portraits of internationally famous nineteenth-century authors (around 2,000 cartes de visite of famous and ordinary people) and some examples of old photograph techniques such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, ferrotypes and salt prints.Most of the collection has been catalogued.

The other collection with a notable number of images – counting around one million photographs and hailing from the Botti and Pincelli photographic studio – was acquired by the municipality of Modena in 2010 and placed in the hands of FMAV.
Franco Botti and Luigi Pincelli opened a studio in 1947 and for 50 years immortalized all the city’s events on behalf of the newspapers and Modena’s municipal and provincial council.Only a small part of the fully inventoried archive has been catalogued. Other important archives are the Museo del Risorgimento photographic archive and the photographic archives of artists Giuseppe Graziosi and Eugenio Zampighi, all owned by the Musei Civici di Modena, as well as the Province of Modena photographic archive. These are entirely catalogued and housed in FMAV’s climate-controlled storage vaults.


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