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Three female acrobats in costumes
Fig. 1

Mary Ellen Mark, Three Acrobats, Vazquez Brothers Circus, Mexico City, Mexico, 1997 (printed 2005), gelatin silver print © Mary Ellen Mark. The Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Photography Collection

Ryerson Image Centre to showcase remarkable private photography collection of Toronto’s Tanenbaum family

Dec. 13, 2018

This winter, the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) presents more than 200 photographs from the extraordinary and eclectic collection of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum. The exhibition, True to the Eyes, highlights a range of humanistic photographs in many genres, from anonymous vernacular imagery to masterworks by notable photographers. The new exhibition season launches with a party, free and open to the public, on January 23rd, at 6 pm.

Howard and Carole Tanenbaum began collecting photographs in the mid-1970s, at a time when dealers and galleries committed to photography were just emerging. They were among the medium’s earliest dedicated adherents in the Canadian collecting scene, and the development of their collection paralleled the growth in the market for photography and the recognition of the medium within art history. “Because photography was considered a secondary medium for so long, it was quite challenging to find people who were interested,” says Carole Tanenbaum. “We would invite curators and collectors to the house to see our collection and, of course, we would travel and visit other professionals at museums outside of Canada.”

Today, the Tanenbaum collection is one of Canada’s great holdings of photography, remarkable for its broad scope and inclusiveness. True to the Eyes presents photographic works that span the history of the medium, displayed chronologically across two gallery spaces. Alongside iconic images by significant European and North-American masters such as Southworth & Hawes, William Notman, Ernest J. Bellocq, Brassaï, Lisette Model, Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark, Jim Goldberg, and Edward Burtynsky, are intimate objects, such as nineteenth-century cased daguerreotypes decorated with leather, papier mâché, and mother-of-pearl.

Through four decades of building their collection, the couple has acquired images revealing aspects of family, wealth and poverty, civil rights, nature and the land, and Canadian life. Genres include studio portraiture, commercial landscapes, family pictures, art photography, fashion imagery, and documentary work.

“For the Tanenbaums, collecting is more a social and creative act than a solitary pursuit,” says Paul Roth, Director of the RIC and co-curator of True to the Eyes. “They appreciate photographs for the pleasure they bring, but also as catalysts for understanding. This drive—to understand the lives of others through photography—is the animating force behind their collecting.”

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly-illustrated book published in partnership with Hirmer Verlag. 

Howard Tanenbaum is a lawyer, financier, and real estate developer. A former art dealer, Carole Tanenbaum is an expert in vintage costume jewelry and founder of the Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection. Together they direct the Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Family Charitable Foundation, which contributes to health-care initiatives, the Jewish community, education and the arts. Integrally involved in the conception and planning of the RIC, the Tanenbaums were a driving force behind Ryerson University’s 2005 acquisition of the Black Star Collection, a major holding of nearly 300,000 twentieth-century press photographs. Howard Tanenbaum is a member and Founding Chair of the Ryerson Image Centre Advisory Board. In 2014, the Tanenbaums made a generous gift to the RIC to ensure the continuation of the Kodak Lecture Series, an acclaimed and long-standing photography and image arts event program that brought seminal photographers, filmmakers, media artists, curators and photo historians to the Ryerson campus. It was renamed the Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Lecture Series. The RIC’s reception area was named the Howard Tanenbaum Welcome Centre in recognition of his long-standing support.

On view from January 23 to April 7, 2019, True to the Eyes: The Howard and Carole Tanenbaum Photography Collection is co-curated by Paul Roth (Director, RIC), Gaëlle Morel (Exhibitions Curator, RIC) and Charlene Heath (Archives Assistant, RIC). The exhibition is generously supported by media sponsors The Walrus and the Toronto Star. A full schedule of free public programming, including curator tours and talks, is available via ryersonimagecentre.ca/events.

Ryerson Image Centre
33 Gould Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

Free exhibition tours daily at 2:30 pm

Follow us @RICgallery

The Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) exists for the research, teaching and exhibition of photography and related media. We are an active partner within the academic fabric of Ryerson University, the cultural network of greater Toronto, and the national and international artistic community. We develop rigorous yet inclusive programs for students, faculty, artists, researchers and curators, as well as the general public. The RIC boasts three interrelated areas of activity. Our exhibition program addresses topics of social, cultural, aesthetic and historical concern from a variety of contemporary perspectives. Our Peter Higdon Research Centre conducts and facilitates inquiry into primary resource materials and offers workshops, lectures, symposia and publication programs. Finally, we maintain a collection of photography spanning the medium’s history, as well as several artist and journalism archives—including the renowned Black Star Collection of twentieth century photoreportage. For more information, visit www.ryersonimagecentre.ca 

Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 41,500 students, including 2,400 master's and PhD students, 3,200 faculty and staff, and nearly 170,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past five years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca 

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Media Contact: Kristen Dobbin, Ryerson Image Centre, kristendobbin@ryerson.ca / 416-979-5000 x7032 @RICgallery