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William Eggleston

Over the course of nearly six decades, William Eggleston has established a singular pictorial style that deftly combines vernacular subject matter with an innate and sophisticated understanding of color, form, and composition. His photographs transform the ordinary into distinctive, poetic images that eschew fixed meaning. His 1976 solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, curated by John Szarkowski, marked one of the first presentations of color photography at the museum. Although initially criticized for its unfamiliar approach, the show and its accompanying catalogue, William Eggleston's Guide, heralded an important moment in the medium's acceptance within the art-historical canon, and it solidified the artist's position as one of its foremost practitioners to this date. Eggleston's work continues to exert an influence on contemporary visual culture at large.

Eggleston was born in 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he continues to live today. Raised in Sumner, Mississippi, he attended Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee; Delta State College, Cleveland, Mississippi; and University of Mississippi, Oxford. In 2016, the artist joined David Zwirner. William Eggleston: The Democratic Forest, an exhibition of works drawn from the artist’s encyclopedic project, marked his first gallery solo show at the 537 West 20th Street location in New York. William Eggleston: 2 1/4 was on view in 2019 at David Zwirner, London. In 2020, a solo exhibition at the gallery's Hong Kong location marked the artist's debut solo presentation in Greater China. The two-person exhibition, William Eggleston and John McCracken: True Stories, was on view at David Zwirner, New York in 2021. Opening November 10, 2022, the solo presentation William Eggleston: The Outlands will be on view at the gallery's 19th street location in New York. 

Since the 1970s, Eggleston’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide, beginning with his groundbreaking 1976 show at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (traveled to Seattle Art Museum; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Fredrick Wright Art Galleries, University of California at Los Angeles; Reed College, Portland, Oregon; and University of Maryland Art Gallery, College Park). Subsequent important solo presentations were held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC in 1990; the Barbican Gallery, London in 1992 (traveled to Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark; Folkwang Museum, Essen; and Fotomuseum Winterthur); documenta IX, Kassel, Germany in 2002; Museum Ludwig, Cologne in 2003 (traveled to Museu Serralves, Porto; Nasjonalmuseet – Museet for samstidkunst, Oslo; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Albertina, Vienna; and Dallas Museum of Art). In 2008, a major career-spanning survey, William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Videos 1961-2008 was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and Haus der Kunst in Munich; it subsequently traveled to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

More recent exhibitions have included those held at Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2009 (traveled to Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden, both 2010); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2013; Tate Modern, London, 2013; National Portrait Gallery, London, 2016 (traveled to National Gallery of Victoria [NGV], Melbourne, 2017); and Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, 2017. In 2018, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, presented William Eggleston: Los Alamos, a solo exhibition featuring a landmark gift to the museum by Jade Lau of the artist's notable portfolio, Los Alamos. The selection comprises 75 dye transfer prints from color negatives taken on trips through the American South between 1965 and 1974.

Eggleston received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1975 and has been the recipient of numerous notable awards, including the University of Memphis Distinguished Achievement Award (1996); Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1998); International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement (2004); and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, République Française (Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic) (2016), among others. The Aperture Foundation honored Eggleston in October 2016. Work by the artist is held in major international museum collections.
 
Founded in 1992, the Eggleston Artistic Trust is dedicated to the representation and preservation of the work of William Eggleston and is directed by his sons Winston Eggleston and William Eggleston III. In 2019 the Eggleston Art Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and preservation of Eggleston's work, was founded in the artist’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. The Foundation houses the Eggleston Archive and serves as a resource for research about the artist, his art, and his subjects.

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A photograph by William Eggleston, titled "Untitled (Hot Sauce, Louisiana)," dated 1980

William Eggleston, Untitled (Hot Sauce, Louisiana), 1980

February 25–October 9, 2022

William Eggleston’s unique ability to conflate the epic and the everyday has made him one of the most impactful figures in late twentieth-century photography. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, William Eggleston first photographed his local environs in the 1950s in black and white, but became one of the first fine-art photographers to use color to record his observations in a more heightened and accurate way. Today, his strikingly vivid yet enigmatic images of parked cars, billboards, storefronts, diners, and other artifacts of the ordinary world are considered groundbreaking.

The photographs presented in this edition of the Gibbes Museum’s Charleston Collects exhibition series are selected from the Laura and Jay Crouse Collection and represent many of the pioneering artist’s most notable works. This exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue with an essay on the artist by Simon Constantine, a lecturer on the history of photography at Birkbeck, University of London, and a long-standing consultant lecturer for Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London.

A view of the book "William Eggleston: The Outlands," dated 2021.

View of William Eggleston: The Outlands, Steidl, 2021.

September 28, 2021

William Eggleston: The Outlands comprises three volumes of never-before-published photographs of the prolific and extraordinary artist William Eggleston. The works are drawn from the same source as those the artist made on color transparency film from 1969 to 1974, which formed the basis for John Szarkowski’s seminal exhibition of Eggleston’s work at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1976, and the accompanying book, William Eggleston’s Guide.

The result is revelatory. Starting at almost the exact point on the same street in suburban Memphis where Eggleston famously photographed the tricycle, one of his most famous works, the book follows a route through the back roads to old Mississippi where he was raised. What is disclosed is a sublime use of pure color hovering in semi-detachment from the forms he records. At the time, Eggleston was photographing a world that was already vanishing. Today, this final installment of his color work offers a view of a great American artist discovering the range of his visual language and an unforgettable document of the Deep South in transition.

August 24–November 28, 2021

American Photography presents an overview of the development of American photography between the 1930s and the 2000s. Displaying works by thirty-three artists, including William Eggleston and Diane Arbus, the exhibition introduces the essential currents that once revolutionized the canon of classic motifs and photographic practices. The effects of this have reached far beyond the country’s borders to the present day.

Prior to the 1960s, color photography was primarily associated with advertising and fashion. Pioneering artists such as William Eggleston were the first to experiment with color as a stylistic device, reinventing the medium of photography as a vehicle for serious artistic expression. Eggleston’s works in particular capture ordinary motifs from unorthodox perspectives, cleverly highlighting them through formally self-contained expanses of color.

The exhibition comprises examples from the Albertina’s rich photographic holdings. Since the foundation of its Department of Photography in 1999, the Albertina has succeeded in compiling one of the most prominent collections of American photography around the globe.

Press Release

October 26, 2019–January 19, 2020

Photography in Memphis is both a celebration of and a reckoning with the history of the city through the work of fifty-six photographers. Spanning 1849 to today, the images capture places you’ve been, the people you know or wish you knew, and the events you experienced or were sorry you missed. The exhibition includes artistic, documentary, and journalistic approaches to the medium. Organized thematically—portraiture, landscape, still life, daily life, and politics—many of the photographs straddle several subjects, which speaks to the fact that they often have a dual or complicated nature.

Commemorating the city’s bicentennial and acknowledging the depth of talent inspired by or nurtured in Memphis, the exhibition presents forty-one works from the museum’s permanent collection by twenty-six artists—including the internationally recognized William Eggleston, Ernest C. Withers, and William Christenberry—alongside sixty-two works by thirty artists who live in, have left, or visited Memphis. Their images captivate, mobilize, and humanize viewers while reminding us of what makes us the same, what divides us, or how both can be possible in a single photograph.

Acclaimed photography writer Sean O’Hagan joined gallery director James Green for a special conversation on the occasion of William Eggleston: 2¼.

A regular contributor to The Observer and The Guardian, O’Hagan has written extensively on Eggleston’s work. "William Eggleston is perhaps the most innovative American photographer of the past fifty years whose unique style has transformed the way we look at the world," O’Hagan writes in an in-depth profile of the artist; "Put simply, it would be difficult to imagine the world according to David Lynch or Gus Van Sant or Juergen Teller or Sofia Coppola without the world according to William Eggleston." O’Hagan will discuss meeting the artist in person and his experiences of engaging with Eggleston and his work over the years.

Tuesday, May 14, 6:30 PM
24 Grafton Street, London

A photograph of William Eggleston signing a book.
Image: William Eggleston signing books at David Zwirner, London, 2016. Photo by Justyna Fedec

On the occasion of the exhibition William Eggleston: 2¼ at David Zwirner in London, the artist was present at the gallery, where he signed books on the first floor.

Friday, April 12, 2–4 PM
24 Grafton Street, London

An untitled photo by William Eggleston, dated 1974

William Eggleston, Untitled, 1974

The Eggleston Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and studying the work of American photographer William Eggleston. Based in the artist’s hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, the foundation houses the Eggleston Archive and serves as a resource for research about the artist, his art and the subjects of the immense body of work he began producing in the late 1950s.

The foundation supports arts and cultural institutions by facilitating loans of artwork and providing other assistance for exhibitions, publications, and educational programs. Inspired by Eggleston’s commitment to photography as “a democratic way of looking around,” the foundation also works with a variety of partners to present arts programming that shows us how others see the world.

February 14–May 18, 2018

William Eggleston: Los Alamos at The Metropolitan Museum of Art featured a landmark gift to the museum by Jade Lau of the artist's notable portfolio, Los Alamos. The selection comprises 75 dye transfer prints from color negatives taken on trips through the American South between between 1965 and 1974.

This portfolio of works, which had never been shown in its entirety in New York, includes Eggleston's first color photograph; Untitled, Memphis, 1965 shows a young clerk pushing a train of shopping carts at a supermarket in Memphis, Tennessee.

Released in Fall 2017, Musik is William Eggleston’s debut album. Drawn from synthesizer recordings the artist has been making since the 1980s which have been newly digitized, the album’s thirteen tracks include improvised symphonic pieces and two covers.

Best known for his influential photography, Eggleston began playing the piano as a child in Sumner, Mississippi, long before he started taking photographs. As he explained to Rachel Felder in The New York Times, "People know my photographs because they’re published in books and shown in galleries and museums and so forth, and yet I don’t perform music in public, ever—only in front of good friends who really want to hear it and who really listen."

The compositions in Musik have been brought to light from a collection of recordings stored on more than sixty digital audiotapes, digital compact cassettes, and floppy disks by the producer Tom Lunt, who first learned about the artist’s music from the 2005 documentary William Eggleston in the Real World. Describing the music in The Observer, Sean O’Hagan writes, "The great washes of synthetic sound, sometimes seductively symphonic, sometimes ominous, certainly add a new resonance to the photographer’s most famous quotation about being ‘at war with the obvious.’"

"I think there’s absolutely a link between music in general and what I do in photography," Eggleston told The New York Times; "I don’t know what it really is, but it’s there."

William Eggleston has been added to The International Photography Hall of Fame in recognition of his pioneering work in color photography. The Hall of Fame is reserved for "photographers or photography industry visionaries who demonstrate the artistry, passion, and revolution of the past and present craft of photography."

An exhibition of works by the 2017 inductees to the Hall of Fame was on view through February 10, 2018.

Founded in 1965, The International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis is dedicated to notable contributors to the field of photography and to preserving historic photographs and cameras.

April 20–September 24

Works by William Eggleston were featured in Autophoto, a major group exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.

American car culture has often featured in his work, from shiny hoods and leather interiors to car washes and highways in what have become iconic images. His works in Autophoto were created between 1965 and 1974, just prior to the 1976 solo exhibition Color Photographs by William Eggleston at The Museum of Modern Art in New Yorkthe first major presentation of color photography at the museum.

Dedicated to photography's relationship to the automobile, Autophoto presented 500 works by 100 historic and contemporary artists—Juergen Teller, Lee Friedlander, Walker Evans, Catherine Opie, Andreas Gursky, Eve Arnold, Mary Ellen Mark—and was accompanied by a publication containing over 700 reproductions, critical essays, and artists' quotes.

Read more in the British Journal of Photography and The Guardian

FOAM Museum in Amsterdam presented Los Alamos (March 17–June 7), an exhibition of 75 photographs from the portfolio Eggleston compiled on trips through the American South between 1966 and 1974.

William Eggleston: Portraits (March 17–June 18) at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne followed its critically-acclaimed debut at the National Portrait Gallery in London, for which the museum produced an accompanying publication. The exhibition included 100 works from the 1960s to the present, making it the most comprehensive display to date of Eggleston's portrait photography. An in-depth profile of the artist was recently published in the Australian newspaper The Age.

William Eggleston: Portraits included 100 works from the 1960s to the present. The exhibition was the most comprehensive display of Eggleston's portrait photography ever. Following its debut at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the show traveled to the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia in March 2017.

The London exhibition received 5-star reviews in The Guardian, The Evening Standard, and Time Out London.

The London gallery hosted a book signing with William Eggleston to celebrate the exhibition and the publication of its accompanying catalogue by the museum. The book features a text and interview with the artist by Phillip Prodger and an appreciation by Sofia Coppola.

Watch Phillip Prodger, Curator and Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, lead a tour of the show.

(New York & London) David Zwirner is pleased to announce the gallery's exclusive worldwide representation of William Eggleston.

Over the course of nearly six decades, American artist William Eggleston has established a singular pictorial style that deftly combines vernacular subject matter with an innate and sophisticated understanding of color, form, and composition. Eggleston's vividly saturated photographs transform the ordinary into distinctive, poetic images that eschew fixed meaning. His 1976 solo exhibition William Eggleston's Guide, curated by John Szarkowski at The Museum of Modern Art, New York—the first presentation of color photography at the museum—heralded an important moment in the medium's acceptance within the art-historical canon and solidified Eggleston's position as one of its foremost practitioners, and throughout his prolific career, he has consistently developed his own uniquely recognizable and influential aesthetic.

As stated by David Zwirner, "We are honored to welcome William Eggleston to the gallery. One of the most important artists of our time, his painterly understanding of color and unmatched eye continue to exert an indisputable influence on visual culture."

In November 2016, the gallery will mount an exhibition of works drawn from Eggleston's project The Democratic Forest at the 537 West 20th Street location in New York. Likened to an epic journey or an ongoing narrative, these images, which were taken on Eggleston's travels during the 1980s, are loosely organized into thematic groupings that collectively expound on the photographer's assertion that no subject matter is more or less important. First published as a monograph featuring an introduction by Eudora Welty in 1989, The Democratic Forest was reissued in 2015 in an expanded 10-volume format by Steidl. This exhibition will present a selection of images from this significant body of work, many of which have never before been exhibited, and will be accompanied by a catalogue.

William Eggleston was born in 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he continues to live today. Raised in Sumner, Mississippi, he attended Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee; Delta State College, Cleveland, Mississippi; and University of Mississippi, Oxford.

Since the 1970s, Eggleston's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide, beginning with his above-mentioned 1976 show at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (traveled to Seattle Art Museum; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Fredrick Wright Art Galleries, University of California at Los Angeles; Reed College, Portland, Oregon; and University of Maryland Art Gallery, College Park). Subsequent important solo presentations were held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. in 1990; the Barbican Gallery, London in 1992 (traveled to Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark; Folkwang Museum, Essen; and Fotomuseum Winterthur); documenta IX, Kassel, Germany in 2002; Museum Ludwig, Cologne in 2003 (traveled to Museu Serralves, Porto; Nasjonalmuseet – Museet for samstidkunst, Oslo; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Albertina, Vienna; and Dallas Museum of Art). In 2008, a major career-spanning survey, William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Videos 1961-2008 was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and Haus der Kunst in Munich; it subsequently traveled to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

More recent exhibitions have included those held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London, both 2013; Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris, 2009 (traveled to Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden, both 2010). In July 2016, the National Portrait Gallery in London will host a comprehensive survey of Eggleston's portraits.

Eggleston received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1975 and has been the recipient of numerous notable awards, including the University of Memphis Distinguished Achievement Award (1996); Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (1998); International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement (2004); the Getty Images Lifetime Achievement Award (2004); and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, République Française (Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic) (2016), among others. The Aperture Foundation will honor Eggleston in October 2016. Work by the artist is held in major international museum collections.

Founded in 1992, the Eggleston Artistic Trust is dedicated to the representation and preservation of the work of William Eggleston and is directed by his sons Winston Eggleston and William Eggleston III.

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