Tate acquires Martin Parr's 12,000-strong photobook collection

“I have always wanted my photobook collection to go to a public institution in the UK and with the recent commitment to photography from Tate, this was a very easy decision to make. I’m also very happy that thanks to Maja and LUMA, the city of Arles will embrace the photobook phenomenon,” says Martin Parr.
Well-known as an avid photobook collector, co-author of the seminal three-volume anthology The Photobook: A History, and a respected photographer, the Magnum Photos member has given his entire collection to Tate. Built up over 25 years and including 12,000 photobooks, it is a world-class library which includes a broad geographical scope and many different approaches to photography, and includes self-published amateur work and mass-produced books alongside iconic publications by artists such as Hans Bellmer, Nobuyoshi Araki and Robert Frank.
The collection has been part-gifted by Martin Parr and acquired by Tate with the generous support of Maja Hoffmann’s LUMA Foundation. Further support has come from Art Fund, Tate Americas Foundation, Tate Members, and Tate’s acquisition committees focused on photography, Asia Pacific, Russia and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa.
Selected books will be included in displays and exhibitions at Tate’s galleries, and the entire collection will be catalogued and made available to the public through the reading room at Tate Britain. Tate will also work in partnership with the LUMA Foundation to showcase selections at LUMA Arles, the new cultural centre currently being developed in Arles, France. Loans from the collection will help support LUMA’s ‘Living Archive Programme’, a multidisciplinary public programme.
Parr has loaned books to Tate for many years, with exhibitions such as William Klein + Daido Moriyama in 2012, Conflict, Time, Photography in 2014 and Performing for the Camera in 2016 including publications from his collection. Currently two free displays at Tate Modern feature photobooks he owns – a selection of photobooks from the Iranian Revolution and the subsequent Iran-Iraq War in the Artist and Society display on level 2, and an Artist Rooms display about Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama in the Media Networks display on level 4.
However this acquisition makes Tate one of the world’s leading institutions in the representation of photobooks, and it is pitching the move as “a significant step forward in Tate’s ongoing commitment to photography”. Tate describes photography as playing an “ever more important role in contemporary artistic practices and international visual culture”, pointing out that photographs have become more fully integrated into exhibitions and displays across all of its galleries. In 2009, Tate appointed its first-ever curator of photography, Simon Baker, who is still at the gallery.
“Martin Parr’s extraordinary collection is undoubtedly one of the greatest of its kind anywhere in the world,” says Frances Morris, director, Tate Modern. “We are delighted to help bring it into public ownership and to make it accessible to national and international audiences. Thanks to the generosity of Martin and all those who supported this acquisition, we will be able to preserve this invaluable resource for generations to come and use it to tell new stories about photography, art history and photography’s role in recording the culture and politics of its time.”
The acquisition also highlights LUMA’s support of publishing and photography, which can also been seen in the LUMA Rencontres Dummy Book Award (created in partnership with Les Rencontres d’Arles) and the two annual Offprint events for independent publishers held at Tate Modern in London and the Beaux-Arts in Paris.
“I am delighted to enable Martin’s wish and allow his photobook collection to forever remain at Tate,” says Maja Hoffmann, president of the LUMA Foundation. “Ever since I visited Martin’s collection in 2011 in his home in Bristol, we have been working with Tate to find a way to make this joint venture work. I thank everyone who helped make it possible, and am looking forward to our projects together.
“The study and display of this very diverse body of work will also enrich LUMA Arles’ ‘Living Archive Programme’, which was recently launched through the acquisition and inaugural exhibition of the archives of legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz. Open to students, scholars, artists and visitors alike, the programme will enable everyone to discover and consult archival material in a shared space and in the manner intended by the artists themselves.”
“Martin Parr is a pivotal figure in the world of photography and a greatly admired artist, so our trustees are really thrilled to be helping Tate acquire this unique and exceptionally important collection of photobooks, assembled across so many years and of such diverse origins,” says Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund. “It’s a major acquisition which we think will help underpin Tate’s growing status as a centre for the study and enjoyment of world photography.”
www.martinparr.com www.tate.org.uk www.luma-arles.org www.artfund.org

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy