Photo Finish

Although there aren't a lot of surprises (and no indication of a radical reassessment) in the reinstallation of the Museum of Modern Art's photography collection, there are plenty of familiar pleasures, and enough unfamiliar ones to keep viewers on their toes. It's encouraging to see that the 218 images on display in the third-floor photo galleries are backed up by photos in both the contemporary space (which includes not just the expected Jeff Wall, Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and Lorna Simpson but also Robert Adams, David Goldblatt, and An-My Le) and the painting and sculpture installation (where Man Ray, Dora Maar, Maurice Tabard, and Hans Bellmer share vitrines with Giacometti, Miró, and Meret Oppenheim's fur teacup). But the story of MOMA's photography collection is told most succinctly and persuasively in the galleries dedicated to the medium. Predictably, it begins with Atget—an especially subtle and sublime suite of landscapes from Saint-Cloud—and ends in a neighboring room with Gursky, Wall, and early Philip-Lorca diCorcia. In between, there are concentrated groupings of work by Robert Frank and Cindy Sherman, but the narrative—a kind of tweaked traditionalism—is supported by a wide range of international players and a series of elegant, savvy juxtapositions. Warhol's Double Elvis, hung midway through the installation, is the best indication that the photography department has come a long way since Steichen's day. But where does it go from here?

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