Sam Wagstaff as Curator

September 17, 2016 — January 8, 2017

web SW and Tony Smith

Before Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. (1921–1987) began amassing his unprecedented private collection of photography in 1973, he had been a groundbreaking museum curator at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (1961–68) and at the Detroit Institute of Arts (1968–71). From Black, White and Grey, the first museum exhibition of Minimalist art; to publishing limited edition silkscreen portfolios of work by major contemporary artists in the 1960s; to advocating for Earth art that manipulates the natural landscape; Wagstaff was a trailblazer and an influential tastemaker in contemporary art.

This installation, drawn solely from the Wadsworth Atheneum’s permanent collection, explored the impact Wagstaff specifically had as a curator through his organization of innovative exhibitions, his acquisitions of cutting-edge art, and his friendship with and promotion of countless young artists culminating in the eventual formation of the museum’s groundbreaking MATRIX program in 1975.

Sam Wagstaff as Curator accompanied The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum, which was on view in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s special exhibitions galleries September 10–December 11, 2016.