The Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts was the first American institution to buy works by Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin. So its unusual for it to display works not commonly considered to be art. Neverthless, their exhibition of newswire images, Kennedy to Kent State: Images of a Generation, opened last week and is drawing eager crowds.
These photographic prints, cropped and reproduced in newspaper reports, ceased to be used towards the end of the 20th century, when most picture libraries digitized their stock. Local arts patron David Davis began to collect the photos just as the commercial collections were being liquidated and has donated his entire collection to the museum.
In contrast to common fine art preferences - which tend to favour pristine prints over marked copies - Davis preferred the newswire images with stamps on their reverse, indicating the dates on which they had been used.
Davis, who came of age during the 1960s, is unabashed in his nostalgia. He told Art Daily, that he wanted "to present a kind of storyboard of the 1960s. From the time I entered my teen years until that of my college graduation, there were assassinations, an unpopular war, a trip to the moon and the rise of the protest movement and counterculture. It was a confusing, unsettling, exciting, and 'far out' time to grow up."
So, is an art museum the right place for Davis' collection? Well, these striking, evocative images might not be perfectly composed or exposed, yet they retain an intensity matched in only the finest art shows.
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