Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum has received a gift of 124 photographs from the renowned private collection of Bruce Berman. The collection, consisting primarily of color photographs from the late twentieth century, is centered on the theme of the American landscape and the built environment. At its height, Berman’s collection totaled over 2,500 prints, many of which were donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles) and featured in the inaugural exhibition of their photography galleries in 2007. He dispersed the remainder of his collection in 2016 to the Getty, de Young Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and Joslyn Art Museum.
Joslyn’s executive director and CEO Jack Becker noted the significance of the acquisition. “Bruce Berman’s generous gift adds great depth to the Museum’s collection of photography and twentieth-century art. Placing Joslyn in the company of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and de Young Museum is an acknowledgement of the strength of our holdings of American art, and our ongoing commitment to building Joslyn’s distinguished collection.”
Berman assembled work by both nationally recognized and regional photographers, creating an archive of images of highways, small towns, homes, and store fronts that define the quotidian landscape — what he has referred to as “visual preservation.” It is the view through the car window while out running errands, or passing through town on a road trip — photographs that feel familiar, yet made with a clear appreciation for the American vernacular. The photographs in this gift range from New York, West Virginia, and Florida through the south to the Pacific coast, including a concentration of prints of rural architecture of the Midwest by David Husom. The gift also includes prints by photographers from the mid-twentieth century, including Walker Evans, Russell Lee, and John Vachon — who photographed for the Farm Security Administration — and the Mexican artists Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Graciela Iturbide.
“In its celebration of the everyday landscape, Mr. Berman’s collection has its roots in the deepest traditions of American photography,” noted Toby Jurovics, Joslyn’s chief curator and Holland Curator of American Western Art. “These photographs remind us of the pleasures of the roadside vista, and the wit, elegance and even grace to be found in what might seem to be the most average of places. From documentary images by Russell Lee and John Vachon to the contemporary South of Mike Smith to David Husom’s inventory of Midwestern fairgrounds, the Berman Collection touches every corner of the American social landscape.”
Bruce Berman is the chairman and CEO of Village Roadshow Pictures. He is the executive producer of over ninety-five films, including Sully, Mad Max: Fury Road, American Sniper, Mystic River, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Matrix. An avid photographer in his teenage years, Berman became a photograph collector in 1989 and has donated nearly 1,800 photographs and art pieces to museums around the country. To this day, Berman continues to seek out intriguing and unique photographic works to share with the world.