Bold exhibition featuring photography by legendary Diane Arbus opens at Shetland Museum and Archives

A new display of powerful and iconic photographs by Diane Arbus, one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, opened last Friday evening (18 August) at Shetland Museum and Archives in front of invited guests.

Diane Arbus is widely considered to be one of the great figures of American photography, pioneering a new photographic approach which bridged the gap between documentary photography and fine art. She began photographing in the 1940s, and her first published images appeared in Esquire magazine in 1960. Over the next ten years Arbus produced an extraordinary body of work in which she documented the lives, appearances and emotions of people, celebrating the extraordinary in the ordinary.



The selection of works on display are part of the ARTIST ROOMS collection, jointly owned by Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. ARTIST ROOMS presents modern and contemporary art to audiences across the UK with a national programme that is developed through local partnerships. Shetland Museum and Archives is the most northerly venue in the British Isles for this touring ARTIST ROOMS exhibition of her work.

Hazel Sutherland, chief executive of Shetland Amenity Trust, said: “This is a hugely exciting event for Shetland and a rare opportunity for people to see work from this extraordinary photographer in a local venue. The Gadderie is looking spectacular and we are honoured to be sharing a selection of this powerful and thought-provoking collection.

“This is an incredible achievement by all involved and testament to Shetland Amenity Trust’s commitment to bring internationally significant exhibitions to Shetland. We would like to thank ARTIST ROOMS, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland for their funding and for accepting Shetland Museum as a venue.”

Ceri Lewis, senior curator, ARTIST ROOMS at Tate and National Galleries of Scotland, said in her opening speech: “This is an exciting moment to see a return to Shetland for ARTIST ROOMS - having had an exhibition here in 2014 of the work of war photographer Sir Don McCullin.

“I am delighted that we have been able to continue our relationship with Shetland Amenity Trust by bringing an exhibition of another radical and influential photographer to Shetland: this time one of the great figures of American photography.

“ARTIST ROOMS is all about bringing great art to towns and cities all across the UK, free of charge. We do this through partnership – collaborating with local teams to create a new experience for audiences, so people – especially young people – have access to world class international art through their local museums and galleries.”

Ceri Lewis, senior curator, ARTIST ROOMS at Tate and National Galleries of Scotland

The exhibition spans the breadth of Arbus’s career and features 32 of her works. A highlight within the exhibition is the rare limited-edition portfolio of original prints, A box of ten photographs 1969-71. Arbus gave considerable thought to what this portfolio should be and how it should look, selecting a set of ten images comprising some of her most iconic portraits, including Xmas tree in a living room in Levittown 1962 and A Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, N.Y. 1970.

Her images of couples, children, carnival performers, nudists, middle-class families, drag artists, and celebrities stand as an allegory of post-war American society. Through her commitment ‘to photograph everybody’, Arbus was drawn to marginalised people and communities. She built up relationships of trust with her subjects to produce powerful portraits of astonishing intimacy.

A series of events and activities connected to the exhibition will be announced shortly.

The exhibition runs until 12 November 2023.

Related Posts

Shetland Museum and Archives launches series of ‘Thursday Lates’ heritage talks

Evenings celebrating Shetland’s rich culture and heritage will begin next month as Shetland Museum and Archives launches its ...

Read more

Be My Valentine

It’s that time of year, Valentine’s Day, the 14th of February. In the Shetland Archives Catalogue references to Valentines are ...

Read more

Shetland Museum celebrates Lerwick Up Helly Aa 2024

The Shetland Museum & Archives was full of activity last week as we celebrated Lerwick Up Helly Aa with a series of fiery events and ...

Read more

Shetland Amenity Trust’s heritage sites open for this year’s Up Helly Aa

The fiery season will soon be back and Shetland Amenity Trust is putting together a series of events as well as offering extended ...

Read more

Shetland's War Memorial - constructed by William Horne

Shetland’s War Memorial on Hillhead is now one hundred years old, and was rededicated with a ceremony on 6 January. The memorial ...

Read more

Christmas in Shetland - 1923

1923, like many of the years between the wars, was not a good one. The Shetland Times year end report spoke of a poor herring fishing, ...

Read more

Research project commissioned to encourage locals to grow more aets!

Shetland Amenity Trust has commissioned a research project with two local straw makers to understand more about the growing of ...

Read more

‘Logical Confusion’, a retrospective exhibition of Mike McDonnell opens at the Shetland Museum

An ambitious new exhibition dedicated to the artistry of well-known local artist Mike McDonnell opened this weekend at the Shetland ...

Read more

New poetry book - ‘Love in Human Herts’

‘Love in Human Herts’, a new publication celebrating Vagaland’s finest poetry has been launched today by the Shetland Amenity ...

Read more

Film celebrating the achievements of Johnnie Notions launched by Shetland Museum and Archives

A new film which brings to life the incredible story of 18th century inoculation pioneer and Shetland crofter Johnnie Notions has been ...

Read more

Keep a look out for Skeklers this Halloween

We had a great time at our recent Skeklers Hat workshop with local artist Eve Eunson in preparation for Halloween.

Read more

Pre-school Activity Mornings

Bring your little explorers to the Shetland Museum & Archives for our heritage-filled fun sessions, designed especially for under 5's ...

Read more

National Poetry Day

To celebrate National Poetry Day we asked assistant archivist (and poet) Mark Smith to uncover a hidden gem from the archives. This ...

Read more

October Holiday Workshops

Join us this October Holidays for heritage inspired workshops and some spooky Halloween fun! From witchcraft to skeklers and faas ...

Read more

Treasure Trove Comes to Shetland

Members of the public are invited to come along with their ‘treasures’ and meet experts from Scotland’s Treasure Trove Unit ...

Read more