NEWS MFAH acquires Heiting Book Collec

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has acquired one of the finest photography-based book collections in private hands. The extensive collections and archives have been assembled over several decades by the California-based designer Manfred Heiting. The collections, comprised of some 25,000 photography books and ephemera created in dozens of countries from the dawn of photography through the late 20th century, is recognized as one of the most important photographic resources in the world. 

The acquisition will come to the MFAH through purchase and donation and will include an extensive image-based database with detailed information on an additional 10,000 titles— not in this collection, but researched over decades with the help of many international experts.

“The Heiting Book Collections and database will make the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Hirsch Library a destination for photography scholars throughout the world,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “This step sets the Museum and Library in a distinguished, new class.”

Jon Evans, director of the MFAH Hirsch Library expressed, “This collection will provide an unparalleled opportunity for scholars — not only in photography, but in other cultural and historical disciplines. It will enable a richer, deeper understanding of the significance of photography and the photographic reproduction as witnessed through the photographically illustrated book during vital periods of technological developments.”

Heiting’s holdings — remarkable in condition, critical to the field of photography and impossible to replicate today — will enhance the breadth and quality of the MFAH Hirsch Library and photography collections and provide a valuable resource for the development of future MFAH exhibitions. Of the 25,000 books in the collection, many are considered works of art in themselves and will be featured objects in future exhibitions that attempt to reveal to audiences the parallel developments between photography and the published photographic image. To support this acquisition, and enhance public access to it, the Museum plans to designate a named space for the Heiting Book Collection.

In addition to the book collection, Heiting has contributed 200 ceramic objects from major Dutch and European artists of the 1960s to the 1980s. Heiting’s collection focuses on a period of Dutch modernist and contemporary ceramics that is largely unknown to American audiences, enabling the MFAH to introduce this important aspect of ceramic history to America. Highlights include in-depth holdings of seminal artists, such as Jan van der Vaart, Jan de Rooden, Johnny Rolf, Johan van Loon and Geert Lap, as well as artists from England, Germany and Scandinavia, including Hans Coper, Karl Scheid and Richard and Bodil Manz.

The ceramic and book collection as well as the additional photographs will enter the MFAH collection in stages, to allow Heiting to continue his research and collecting activities during the coming years.


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