The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is creating the Herb Ritts Gallery for Photography, the first gallery in the museum’s history devoted specifically to photography. The Herb Ritts Foundation recently donated, along with 189 of Ritts’s photographs, $2.5 million to the museum’s “Building the New MFA” campaign, which is attempting to raise $500 million for its rebuilding project. The iconic photographer, who died of HIV-complicated pneumonia in 2002, previously donated 45 of his photos to the museum in 2000.
With the most recent gift, the museum now has one of every print that was featured in the 1996-1997 exhibit Herb Ritts: Work, the first full-scale retrospective of Ritts’s work — and one of the 10 most-attended exhibits in the museum’s history. The collection featured Ritts’s photos of Africa and the African people, fashion layouts, studies of the human form, and portraits of Dustin Hoffman, Nelson Mandela, William Burroughs and Madonna, among others.
With the addition of Ritts’s photos, the MFA collection now comprises more than 5,000 works from as far back as the 1840s. The collection started in 1924, when Alfred Stieglitz donated 27 of his photographs to the museum. In 1950, Georgia O’Keefe, Stieglitz’s widow, donated many more. The collection now includes the works of Ansel Adams, Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Josef Sudek and Yousuf Karsh. The museum has nearly 200 of Karsh’s photos, including black-and-white portraits of Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn and Ernest Hemingway.
“We are honored to name a photography gallery in honor of Herb Ritts,” said Malcolm Rogers, director of the museum, which opened its doors in 1876. “His unforgettable images evoke a world without boundaries of age, race, class or sexuality, and they reflect the values of a new generation.”