By Mary Abbe
Despite its name, the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography does not give away money, as most non-profit foundations do. It wants to raise $250,000 by the end of 2009 to launch new programs in the Twin Cities. FEP officials showed up Monday night (Sept. 28) to Powerpoint a soft sell to 65 Twin Cities photo enthusiasts in the party room of a chic riverfront loft building.
Founded by Edina native Todd Brandow, a former art dealer who now lives in Paris, and Twin Cities arts lawyer John Roth, the non-profit organization puts together exhibitions that it rents to museums and other venues around the world. It also has a for-profit publishing arm, FEP Editions, that issues handsome and pricey catalogues to accompany the shows.
Its biggest success to date is an Edward Steichen blockbuster that was the talk of Paris in 2007 when thousands crowded through the Jeu de Paume to see 400 vintage prints by the pioneering portraitist. An FEP show of Steichen’s fashion shots for Vogue and Vanity Fair, where he was chief photographer from 1923 - 1937, opened this week at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Earlier FEP organized a European tour of Edward Curtis’ photos of American Indians, drawn from the collection of Minneapolis photo impresssario Chris Cardozo, who owns a huge archive of Curtis’ negatives and prints.
Besides sending the Curtis shows to 17 museums in Europe, FEP gave Curtis exposure on “every continent but Antarctica,” Cardozo said Monday in a carefully staged spontaneous testimonial.
The night’s glamour came from the Steichen show’s European-based curators, William Ewing, director of the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland and Nathalie Herschdorfer, curator at the l’Elysée. Ewing knows the Twin Cities scene from the early 1980s when he worked with Martin Friedman, then director of Walker Art Center, on an exhibition of Scandinavian photography and curated a show of fashion photos by George Houningen-Huene that the Walker presented. Organizing the Steichen show cost “well over $1 million,” Ewing said.
Roth said that FEP had helped raised the international profile of the Twin Cities as a photography center. Now the organization “feels the need to establish our presence here and needs physical space to show exhibitions” in Minnesota, he said. It also has a 6,000 volume of scholarly books about photography that it needs to house, ideally in the Twin Cities. And it would like to sponsor such standard museum programs as talks by artists and curators, travel programs to shows abroad.
Brandow was a little vague about what the FEP will do with the $250,000 if it gets the money. He mentioned hopes of collaborations with other Twin Cities organizations — Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Weisman Art Museum were mentioned — and did a shout-out to wildlife maestro Jim Brandenburg, who was on hand, about a possible Japanese venture.
Hosted by Laura (photographer and FEP board member) and John Crosby and Gary and Nanci Smaby, the A-list crowd included Christian Peterson (Mpls Institute of Arts photo curator), Orin Rutchick (Minneapolis Photo Center founder), Harry Drake (St. Paul collector), Kate and Stuart Neilsen (artist), Evan Maurer (former MIA director and FEP board member) and Kellie Theiss (artist).