Barbara Tannenbaum, Curator of Photography and Chair, Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Cleveland Museum of Art presents “$40,000 Per Square Inch: Has Success Spoiled Photography?”
In the 1970s, when photography was finally accepted as a fine art by museums, masterworks by Walker Evans could be bought for under $300. In 2023, a work by his contemporary Man Ray sold for over $12 million, or over $40,000 per square inch. What led to this recent steep inflation in value? How will it influence which photographs are collected and exhibited? Does the art market impact what artists produce and how the history of the medium is written? And, is there a correlation between financial value and historical significance?
Tannenbaum has organized over 125 exhibitions during her four-decade career as a curator and academic, including, most recently, “Refocusing Photography: China at the Millennium;” “Matt Eich and Tyler Mitchell: Sunshine, Shadow, and A Rainbow;” “Raja Deen Dayal: The King of Indian Photographers;” “Ilse Bing: Queen of the Leica;” “Beyond Truth: Photography after the Shutter;” and “Black in America: Louis Draper and Leonard Freed;” and “DIY: Photographers and Books,” which was the first museum show of print-on-demand photobooks.
She has curated solo shows of the work by numerous living artists including Aaron Rothman, Masumi Hayashi, Barbara Bosworth, Hank Willis Thomas, and Lois Conner. From 1985 through 2011, Tannenbaum was chief curator at the Akron Art Museum, where she grew the photography collection from 500 to 2,500 works and organized the first traveling solo museum exhibition of the work of Adam Fuss.
Tannenbaum has authored numerous publications including major books on TR Ericsson, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and the Akron Art Museum’s collection. She has lectured throughout the U.S. and in Canada, China, and Brazil, and relishes her regular participation in major photo review events including Fotofest, New York Photo Reviews, Photolucida, Filter, and Medium.