Diane Arbus
In the Beginning

07.14— 10.09.2017
Opening: July 13rd, 7PM
Curator: Jeff L. Rosenheim
Gallery 5, Level 2

This is the first exhibition of work by Diane Arbus (New York, 1923-1971) to be held in Argentina, will open at MALBA. Curated by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), this exhibition of one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century brings together over one hundred photographs produced by the artist between 1956 and 1962, the period when she developed the themes central to her oeuvre and her singular vision, which attempted, as the artist herself put it, to register “divineness in ordinary things.” The exhibition is the first collaboration between The Met and any institution in Argentina.

Entitled “In the Beginning,” the show revolves around the first seven years of the artist’s work with her 35mm camera on the streets of New York during which “an evolution took place—from pictures of individuals that sprang out of fortuitous chance encounters to portraits in which the chosen subjects became engaged participants,” explains Rosenheim. “This longing to know, this curiosity about the hidden nature of what she was photographing, coupled with her belief in the power of the camera to make that visible, is, above all, what sets her apart,he adds.

The composition of street portraits like Woman in a mink stole and bow shoes, New York City 1956 and Man in hat, trunks, socks and shoes, Coney Island, N.Y 1960 reflects a new sort of intimacy, as do Jack Dracula in a Bar, New London, Connecticut 1961 and Stripper with bare breasts sitting in her dressing room, Atlantic City, New Jersey 1961. In those last two, focus is placed on the tie between the photographer and the model as chance or secondary details are cast aside. “Behind a circus tent or a stage, or inside a bedroom, Arbus’s role of curious outsider gradually gives way to that of privileged insider,” the curator explains.

Most of the photographs in the exhibition form part of The Metropolitan Museum’s Diane Arbus Archive—purchased from the artist’s heirs in 2007—and were, prior to the 2016 show at The Met, never before exhibited; that show was the result of a number of years of work on the archive. The layout of the MALBA and Met shows is the same. It consists of a chronological exploration of a sort of dimly lit woods in order to invite visitors to delve into the intimacy of Arbus’s art. The exhibition culminates with the portfolio A box of ten photographs—which belongs to the SFMoMA collection—a set that Arbus produced in 1970 and 1971 that includes legendary portraits in square format like her Identical Twins, New Jersey 1967 and Jewish giant at home with his parents, in the Bronx, N.Y. 1970.  

Urban Anthropology

Diane Arbus started taking photographs in the early forties and continued to do so erratically for over a decade. During those years, she worked as an art director for fashion photography shoots for which her husband, Allan Arbus, did the photographs. In 1956, she stopped working on commercial photography to delve into her art. Her two major points of reference in those years were European photographer Lisette Model with whom she studied for a number of months—Model was also her spiritual mentor—and August Sander, a German typological portraitist.

Earlier photographers from Paul Strand and Walker Evans to Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander had already ventured into the urban space of New York City. While each of them had a distinct way of working, Arbus stood out because she attempted to make a direct connection with her subjects rather than to go unnoticed.

For curator Jeff Rosenheim, “All of [those] photographers developed strategies to remain personally disengaged and largely detached from their subjects, convinced that as documentarians the only legitimate record was one in which they themselves appear to play little or no role. By contrast, Arbus was looking for the poignancy of a direct personal encounter. ‘For me the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture. And more complicated,’ she wrote.

Before taking her photographs, Arbus did exhaustive research, since many of the themes and characters that interested her were not easily stumbled upon in the street. Her method was, in many respects, like that of an urban anthropologist. In her notebooks, she would record all of the material she found in books, newspapers, and telephone books, as well as her own ideas and conversations with friends. She often listed possible themes or subjects for her photographs.

“From the start,” Rosenheim explains, “Arbus saw the street as a place full of secrets waiting to be fathomed. Even in her earliest studies of pedestrians, her subjects seem magically, if just momentarily, freed from the flux and turmoil of their surroundings. The isolation is at times the effect of selective focus, at times due to the photographer’s patience or persistence, at times merely happenstance. Regardless of origin, the result is a singular look of introspection. In reacting to Arbus and her camera, her subjects are revealed almost as if they were alone, catching a brief glimpse of themselves in a shop window or a mirror. The exchange on both sides of the camera—of seeing and being seen—raises existential questions in the subject, questions that ultimately transmit themselves to the viewer.”

During this early period, Arbus used a variety of 35 mm, reflex, and viewfinder cameras (her own and borrowed from others), including a Contax D, a Nikon S3, and a Nikon F. In 1962, she bought a wide-angle Rolleiflex—a 2 ¼-inch square-format binocular camera—which ushered in a change in her work.


In the framework of the exhibition, the catalogue published by The Met will be presented in Argentina. The book contains two essays, "In the beginning" by Jeff L. Rosenheim and "Notes from the archive" by Karan Rinaldo, as well as recent research into the Diane Arbus Archive and reproductions of a wide selection of photographs, negatives, diaries, notes, and correspondence. 

Introduction by the curator


Diane Arbus

B. Diane Nemerov, New York, 1923-1971

She was born into a Jewish family who owned a department store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. In 1941 at age eighteen, she married Allan Arbus and for a decade the couple worked together producing photographs for magazines: he operated the camera, she styled the images. Although she started making pictures for herself in the early 1940s, it was only in 1956, when she numbered a roll of film #1, that she began seriously pursuing the work for which she has come to be known.

Arbus’s first magazine story appeared in Esquire in 1960. During the next decade, while continuously working on her own personal projects, she published more than a hundred photographs in Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and other major American magazines. These included portraits and photographic essays, which were occasionally accompanied by her own writing.

In 1963 Arbus received the first of her two Guggenheim Fellowships and traveled across the United States photographing the people, places, and events she described as “the considerable ceremonies of our present.” These photographs became the focus of critical and popular attention in 1967 when they were featured with the work of Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand in the legendary “New Documents” exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Arbus committed suicide in July 1971, just months after releasing a portfolio of ten prints that was intended to be the first in a series of limited editions of her work. In 1972, she became the first photographer to be included in the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In the same year, The Museum of Modern Art hosted a major exhibition of her photographs that traveled throughout the United States and Canada. The monograph that served as the exhibition catalogue has never been out of print and remains one of the most important and widely distributed photographic books of all time. In the 45 years since Diane Arbus’s death, millions of people have been drawn to the many major international museum retrospectives that explore the controversial work of this photographer whose singular vision revolutionized the art she practiced.

Jeff L. Rosenheim

Curator in Charge of the Photographs Department, The Metropolitan Museum (New York). The author of ten books on Walker Evans, Rosenheim is the steward of the Walker Evans Archive, which the Metropolitan acquired in 1994. He is also the custodian of the Diane Arbus Archive. Rosenheim has a BA in American studies from Yale University, and an MFA in photography from Tulane University. He has lectured extensively, curated numerous exhibitions, such as Photography and the American Civil War (2013), and published essays on a wide range of artists including Carleton Watkins, Thomas Eakins, Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, William Eggleston, and Stephen Shore.


Images: Lady on a bus, N.Y.C. 1957 
and detail of The Backwards Man in his hotel room, N.Y.C. 1961. © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC.  
All rights reserved.

Related Activities

Alberto Goldenstein


Ciudad y fotografía
Conversaciones con Alberto Goldenstein

Alberto Goldenstein propone un recorrido testimonial y en primera persona partiendo de las fotografías de Arbus, hacia las imágenes de Lee Friedlander, Walker Evans o Robert Frank, las obras de los fotógrafos viajeros del siglo XIX o las imágenes de la ciudades del siglo XXI de Struth o Tillmans.

Lunes 7, 14, y 28 de agosto y 4 de septiembre a las 18:30. Biblioteca

Miércoles 20 y 27 de septiembre y 4 de octubre a las 19:00

Registro de sala Diane Arbus

Recorrido sonoro

Emergencia en cámara lenta

Mercedes Halfon –curadora y crítica especializada en dramaturgia– realizará un recorrido sonoro y performático por la exposición, poniendo en diálogo la escritura de Arbus con sus imágenes.

Por Mercedes Halfon
Miércoles 20 y 27 de septiembre y 4 de octubre a las 19:00

Jueves 13 de julio a las 18:00. Auditorio


Conferencia magistral

Diane Arbus: vida y obras

En esta conferencia magistral, Jeff L. Rosenheim, curador de la exposición Diane Arbus. En el principio y custodio del archivo Arbus, dará cuenta de la obra de la artista, repasando sus series en vinculación con los registros y la voz intensamente personal que Arbus asentó en sus diarios.

Por Jeff Rosenheim
Jueves 13 de julio a las 18:00. Auditorio

Por Jeff L. Rosenheim
Lunes 10 de julio de 10:00 a 13:00


Clase magistral

Comunidad Arbus

El curador Jeff L. Rosenheim rastreará las relaciones de Arbus con obras tradiciones tanto norteamericanas como europeas, que incluyen figuras como Lisette Model y August Sanders, entre otros.

Un examen de las interacciones de Diane Arbus con artistas europeos y americanos
Por Jeff L. Rosenheim
Lunes 10 de julio de 10:00 a 13:00


En el principio

Fragmento del ensayo incluido en el catálogo que acompaña a la exposición Diane Arbus. In the Beginning

Por Jeff L. Rosenheim

Vista de sala Diane Arbus

Visita guiada

Diane Arbus. En el principio

Un recorrido guiado por la primera exhibición en nuestro país de Diane Arbus (Nueva York, 1923-1971), una de las fotógrafas más influyentes del siglo XX.

Jueves, viernes y domingos a las 17:00

Sábados de agosto a las 24:00

Tod Browning Freaks


Freaks, de Tod Browning

Browning aprovechó el ambiente circense para proporcionar un contexto de normalidad para lo anormal: el circo es el único sitio donde sus freaks pueden vivir ajenos al prejuicio y a la segregación.

De Tod Browning
Sábados de agosto a las 24:00


Un sueño de 1959 

Documento extraído de una de las libretas de notas de Diane Arbus, alojadas en el Archivo Arbus de The Metropolitan Museum (Nueva York).

Por Diane Arbus

Jack Dracula en un bar, Nueva Londres, Connecticut 1961.


Diane Arbus:
evolución de un estilo

El progreso y el cambio no son nunca tan estables ni jerárquicos como podría hacernos creer una selección cronológica del tipo de la que se muestra en En el principio. Cualquier cosa que parezca surgir dentro de este cuerpo de obra, ya sea en forma gradual o repentina, resultará haber estado allí siempre, latente en lo que ya había antes. A lo largo de los siete años (1956-62)

Por Jeff L. Rosenheim

Diane Arbus. Hombre con sombrero, traje de baño, zoquetes y zapatos, Coney Island, Nueva York 1960 © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC.


Eva y Adán en el Edén

Una de las fotografías que me dio la idea de que podíamos hacer una exposición con las obras más tempranas de Diane Arbus fue esta obra del hombre en la playa con su traje de baño, medias y zapatos.

Por Jeff L. Rosenheim

Diane Arbus sala


Notas del Archivo
Diane Arbus

El Archivo Diane Arbus está alojado en el Departamento de Fotografías de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York, y contiene los negativos de la artista, incluyendo más de 6200 rollos de película blanco y negro y sus respectivas hojas de contacto y sobres anotados.

Por Karan Rinaldo

Lunes 18, 25 de septiembre, 2 y 9 de octubre de 18:30 a 20:00. Biblioteca

Diane Arbus. Elderly woman whispering to her dinner partner, Grand Opera Ball, N.Y.C. 1959. © The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC. Todos los derechos reservados.
The Etcetera


The Etcetera

The Etcetera es un proyecto que surge a partir de la muestra Diane Arbus. En el Principio. Su objetivo es generar una serie de intercambios textuales entre teóricos, artistas, escritores y críticos sobre la actualidad de varios de los temas que aparecen en la exposición de la fotógrafa norteamericana.

Reflexiones a partir de la obra de Diane Arbus