Harry Lunn (1933-1998), the art dealer, former CIA agent and archetypal bon vivant, is widely recognized as the founding father of the fine art photography market. Nearly three years after his death, and at a time when museum and gallery involvement in the field of photography have become widespread, Edwynn Houk Gallery is pleased to present an homage to this quintessential photography collector and lover. The exhibition will be a testimonial to Lunn’s vision and impact in establishing photography as a thriving component of the art market. Featured will be works drawn from Lunn’s personal collection including photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel-Peter Witkin, Ansel Adams, Andres Serrano, Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, McDermott & McGough, and masterworks of French nineteenth century photography. The show opens January 18, 2001 and closes March 10, 2001.
Harry Lunn was one of the first art experts to recognize the value of photography as fine art. A print dealer, Lunn fell in love with photography in 1970 when he chanced upon a print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico by Ansel Adams. Lunn immediately followed with a one-man Ansel Adams show. The exhibition was a huge success, both critically and financially, and established Adams’s value on the art market. Following this, Lunn switched his Washington gallery’s activities from drawings and lithographs to photography. At the time there was only one gallery in the United States entirely devoted to the medium, the Lee Witkin Gallery in Manhattan. In addition to his own gallery, Lunn was soon instrumental in the establishment and direction of numerous photography galleries both in the United States and Europe.
Born in Detroit, Lunn majored in economics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he was recruited by the CIA. While working for the Agency, he was stationed in Paris, a city which he would later make his second home. When his activities were revealed in 1967 by a magazine Lunn resigned from the Agency and opened his Washington gallery. He had been dealing privately before that, collecting etchings and lithographs in Paris and selling them to friends.
Lunn’s reputation is indelibly linked to the name of Robert Mapplethorpe. He was introduced to the controversial artist in the mid-seventies by Sam Wagstaff, the former curator of modern art at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Mapplethorpe’s mentor and lover. Lunn enthusiastically championed the work, organizing a retrospective in 1981 and publishing Mapplethorpe’s X, Y, and Z portfolios.
Other convention-defying artists supported by Lunn include Andres Serrano and Joel-Peter Witkin. Lunn also at various points in time acquired or obtained exclusive rights to the archives of Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus and Berenice Abbott.
Lunn was seminal in building several of the most significant and influential photography collections, both private and institutional. In the words of Maria Morris Hambourg, Curator of photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Harry was the original source. In one way or another, he influenced virtually everything that happened in the photography world during the last quarter of this century.”
Lunn died in France at 65.