Photographs and Memories

A Major Gift to The Ringling

The gift of works by prominent photographers, and of Asian scholars' rocks, comes from Stanton and Nancy Kaplan.

By Kay Kipling December 12, 2019

Manuel Alvarez Bravo's Caja de visiones (Box of visions). courtesy of Stan and Nancy Kaplan.

The announcement by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art that collectors Stanton B. and Nancy W. Kaplan have made a gift of a major photography collection, a scholars rock collection and the funding to endow a curatorial position in photography (in perpetuity) there, along with funding of the Photography and Media Arts Program of The Ringling, signals a continuing expansion of the museum’s dedication to photography, both of the past and the present.

According to Christopher Jones, who has now become the first Stanton B. and Nancy W. Kaplan Curator of Photography and Media Arts, “This adds attention and prestige, showing that donors and the museum are serious” about supporting and presenting the art of photography.

Stan Kaplan has been collecting photography, largely 20th-century black and white fine art photography, for years. “He has the eye of a connoisseur,” says Jones. “He’s always gotten the best print and the best examples of the artist’s work he could”—including such luminaries in the field as Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Manuel Alvarez Bravo (a well-known Mexican photographer whose works will be seen in an exhibition beginning Dec. 8 at the museum).

Manuel Alvarez Bravo's portrait of Frida Kahlo, ca. 1930. Courtesy of Stan and Nancy Kaplan.

The addition of more than 1,000 photographs to The Ringling collection means, Jones adds, that it’s really “staggering the kinds of exhibitions we can do.” While photography was the new medium of the 19th century, today the artists working with technologically derived art—digital, computer-generated or enhanced, etc.—continue to keep the field cutting-edge.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Parabola optica (Optical parable), 1931. Courtesy of Stan and Nancy Kaplan

Nancy Kaplan’s collection of Asian scholars’ rocks (also known as Gongshi) got its start when her husband brought her home one from an art and antique show. The naturally occurring or shaped rocks are appreciated by Chinese scholars; Kaplan’s gift will become part of The Ringling’s Asian art collection.

“Stan and I have enjoyed many years traveling and exploring creative arts,” she says. “We’ve met artists, photographers, collectors, museum curators, art gallery dealers and many art specialists. Recently, we began asking ourselves, ‘If we gained all this pleasure and joy from exploring art, then why not share this joy with others?’ The Ringling Museum just seemed to be the perfect marriage of our sharing goals and their expanding artistic programs. We are hoping that this shared joy will offer young minds the opportunity to imagine and create; to allow people to travel places and meet people they would not otherwise be able to; to experience historical perspective; to inspire creative expression for generations to come; but mostly to allow people the opportunity to experience the joy interacting with a piece of art.”

As far as photography by themselves goes, she adds, “Stan takes pretty good family and vacation photos. Beyond that, photographs we have collected are from those professionals who have the talent to capture the moment.”



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