Adams’ ‘Masterworks’ as much history as art

There’s going to be a point when Ansel Adams’ photographs are more valuable as historical artifacts than they are as works of art, and that point might be now.

The photographs included in “Ansel Adams: Masterworks,” an exhibition currently up at the South Bend Museum of Art, are beautiful, but the collection speaks as much to Adams’ stature in America’s artistic and cultural history as it does to the aesthetic quality of the images in the show. They are wonderful photographs, to be sure, but they are also national treasures, and the exhibit is about their preservation.

The “Masterworks” collection is drawn from a set of images known as “The Museum Set,” a group of images that Adams himself gathered together before his death in 1984. Adams built the collection at the suggestion of Maggi Weston, owner of the Weston Gallery in Carmel, Calif., who in 1978 proposed that Adams choose a set that represented the best of his body of work and then make prints of the set that would be made available to museums around the country. read more

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