Ellen Kessler's PGH Photo Fair Collection

On March 20, 2019, the PGH Photo Fair held the second Speaker Series of 2019.  Evan Mirapaul moderated a panel between Nancy Lane, Joe Baio, and Ellen Kessler. Each speaker introduced their collections and personal philosophies around collecting. Kessler, who is based in Pittsburgh, went through a range of photographic works  that are included in her largely contemporary focused collection. These works were often purchased during travels, at galleries or fairs, but a significant portion of her collection was purchased here in Pittsburgh at the PGH Photo Fair and also from Pittsburgh gallery from Silver Eye.

Enjoy a few images of her pieces and get a sense for some of our past and returning galleries by clicking through the list below:

Aperture: Daniel Gordon—Lakes and Potatoes, 2016, Pigment Print (thumbnail image)

Deborah Bell Gallery: Marcia Resnick—Sea Changes #5, 1974, Vintage gelatin silver print, Hand painted.

Photo Fair Gallery: Ni Roy — In America, Print

Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery: Yojiro Imasaka—Blue Bayou 8, 2016, Toned gelatin silver print.

Foley Gallery: Martin Klimas—Exploding Vase


Ellen received a BA from Penn State University and an MA from the University of New Mexico with degrees in Communications.

During and after graduate school she worked briefly in television news as a reporter, and weekend sports anchor in Albuquerque, New Mexico before moving to Los Angeles where she worked in marketing and media.

She returned to Pittsburgh to become the Advertising and PR Director for Interstate Hotels Corp.

Ellen has been a volunteer and leader at several local organizations and has served on many local boards including Winchester Thurston School, The Children’s Institute, The Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh and the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh.

Today in addition to being the Chair of the Board of the Carnegie Museum of Art and a Trustee of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, she is also on the board of Steeltown Entertainment Project and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

Ellen is married to Jack Kessler an attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. They have two grown children and passionately enjoy collecting contemporary art and photography.

Cosmopolitan Hotel Lobby

As noted in the recent Turrell post, I spent a few days in Las Vegas in the beginning of March. In the lobby of the Cosmopolitan Hotel (where there are some GREAT restaurants, by the way), I saw this little repurposed cigarette machine. Now, instead of packs of smokes, it delivers little packs of art. Adorable! I didn't take the plunge and buy anything. I probably should have just to see it work. If this isn't too hipster/Bohemian chic, I'd love to see this in Pittsburgh somewhere. Maybe PGH Photo should install one at the fair with the work of local artists available inside. Or, even better, maybe the Carnegie should have one year round!! 

-Evan Mirapaul

Turrell in Las Vegas

Turrell in Las Vegas

I'm a huge James Turrell fan and Turrell fans should put Vegas on their "must see" list. There's a shopping mall connected to the Aria Hotel that contains three Turrells in the lobby. One is visible from the central atrium and the other two can be seen when one heads towards the tram station that takes you to other hotels. All very satisfying and unexpected to see among the brand-name shopping. 

Sic Transit (omnia biblio)

I’m sitting in a New York Metro station waiting for a train to take me back to Manhattan. I have two bags of books I’ve just bought at an art book fair. I’m a little woozy from having just spent hours wading through hundreds of books. It’s dizzying seeing so many books in one place.

 I start looking through my new purchases…

I think about the thousands upon thousands of pictures in these books. Who else has seen them? Who else will see them? Photobooks are such a democratic way to share pictures that I ponder the genealogy of the pictures in my shopping bags. Saving pictures is a thing a lot of people do. There are millions and millions and millions of ordinary pictures with their own history. These pictures are saved, thrown away, cherished, lost, lovingly put in albums, or forgotten in drawers. They are at once the core and the detritus of our lives. How people collect and reorganize these images is interesting to me.

My mind wanders…

I realize that, as usual, I’ve bought a few books based on the re-collection of vernacular photos. “Dark Days” by Melissa Catanese is a dream-like rethinking of photos she worked with in the vernacular collection of Peter J. Cohen. “Le Luxe” is Roe Ethridge’s recontextualization of his own inventory of images which are both vernacular and personal. This gets me thinking about other books in my library that navigate the remapping of other people’s images. Mariken Wessels’ amazing “Elisabeth – I Want To Eat” created from of a collection of anonymous photographs, letters and postcards belonging to a young woman, which the artist stumbled upon in a shop in the Hendrik Jacobszstraat in Amsterdam. Wessels brilliantly forges this archive into a spellbinding visual narrative. Petra Stavast, in her book “Libero”, stumbles on a family archive in an abandoned house in Calabria which she uses as a starting point to reconstruct the story behind the images. Using a combination of her own pictures and pictures from the archive, she beautifully unfolds a tale about family, impermanence, and memory.

The doors of the L train hiss open…

My mind snaps back to the present as I struggle to gather my things and rush to board the train in time. I just make it on but have a nagging thought that I have forgotten something. I turn around and see, as the doors close in front of my nose, my two bags of books sitting abandoned on the Metro bench. It’s ok, I think to myself, I’ll just get off at the next station, double back, and the books will be sitting right where I left them. Who would want a pile of photobooks? I think about the project of Joachim Schmid, “Bilder von der Strasse” in which, for two decades, he collected pictures he literally found in the street. It is a masterpiece made from litter. And this is only one of many found photo projects and books made by the indefatigable Mr. Schmid. Perhaps less well-known is Sandor Kardos’ “Horus Archive which is built from Kardos staggering (and mind bogglingly well-organized) collection of found and vernacular photos. Lost photos are the stock in trade for these guys. Maybe my books are not as safe as I think. At the next station, a train heading back to where I started is just pulling in.

I scramble across the platform, racing for the open door…

I’m so eager to get back to my books, the minutes slog by. I ponder: What happens to lost pictures? Michael Abrams interleaves them into his book, “Strange and Singular”, to be found like money on the sidewalk while you work your way through his collection of vernacular photos. “Nein, Onkel” presents snapshots from the German side of World War II culled from personal albums (I presume no longer in the possession of the person who took the picture) by the Archive of Modern Conflict. AMC has literally millions of these snapshots. These are collections of pictures that have merged and morphed into a different collection of pictures.

The train squeals and slows as we arrive at my original Metro stop…

My eyes scan the benches on the opposite platform for any sign of my orphaned bags of books. Nothing. Gone. Empty.

Joachim Schmid, Peter J. Cohen, Frank Maresca, Mariken Wessels, Petra Stavast, Roe Ethridge, Peter Piller, Rodger Kingston, Daniel Cowin, Thomas Walther, Robert Jackson, and countless others have built collections, archives, and projects around the everyday photo removed from its original context. Who knows, maybe my little collection of their collections will find their way into some new and unexpected place. Perhaps whoever found them will start their own collection. Thus passes all libraries (sic transit omnia biblio).

-Evan Mirapaul

News from the Front Pt 2

Our Co-Director Evan Mirapaul has put together a list of his recommendations for the Front Triennial in Cleveland.

Cleveland Museum of Art:
Unless you plan to get tickets for the Kusama show, I'm not sure there's so much at CMA to merit a separate trip. I loved the Luisa Lambri exhibit, but it's very small and esoteric. It's in front of a super installation by Marlon de Azambuja. Barbara Tannenbaum's Danny Lyon show is amazing though it's not technically part of Front. I didn't love the Kerry James Marshall work on paper or the Ruppersberg. 

Address: 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106
Hours: Friday 10AM–9PM, Saturday 10AM–5PM, Sunday 10AM–5PM, Monday Closed, Tuesday 10AM–5PM, Wednesday 10AM–9PM, Thursday 10AM–5PM

Cleveland MoCA:
There's meant to be a super Cyprien Gailliard video here. It was down for technical reasons when I went. Call and make sure it's running before you head over. 

Address: 11400 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106
Hours: Friday 11AM–9PM, Saturday 11AM–5PM, Sunday 11AM–5PM, Monday Closed, Tuesday 11AM–6PM, Wednesday 11AM–6PM, Thursday 11AM–6PM 

Cleveland Library:
The Yinka Shonibare piece is super. Well worth a visit. Dan Leers says to make sure to make use of the iPads on hand to look up the history of some of the names on the spines of the books. It's illuminating and shows new depth of this piece. If you're going to Akron, don't miss the SUPER Shonibare in the permanent collection there. 
Address: 325 Superior Ave. 
Hours: Mon–Sat: 10–6PM

Federal Reserve Bank is tough to see because it's open very few hours. I'm told the video installation is worth seeing but it wasn't open when I went on a weekend.

Hours: Monday – Thursday 9:30–2:30PM

The Arcade:

If you go downtown for the library, stop in across the street at the Arcade for a lovely small show of prints that illustrates a never-realized Cleveland mural project.

Address: 401 Euclid
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 11-5PM

Dawoud Bey:

This is an amazing work. Lauded by many as the best in show. I don't need to say more than you will read when you go. Well worth the drive. 

Address: 2600 Church 
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday: 11–5PM


Michael Rackowski's work, "A Color Removed" is as powerful as it gets. A must see in my book. Again, it's well explained when you go so I don't need to elaborate here. Check it out....

Address: 2900 Detroit Rd.
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 12–5PM, Thursday 12–8PM

Akron Art Museum:

Don't miss this just because you think Akron is out of the way. It's not. The AAM permanent collection has some stunners. As part of Front, in addition to the Byrne video, I loved the work of Jamal Cyrus and Katrín Sigurdardóttir. Just down the road from the AAM is the University of Akron Art Gallery, which is featuring 3 Pittsburgh artists in a show called "A House Not A Home". More info here: https://www.uakron.edu/art/galleries/edg/

News from the Front Pt 1

A wonderful show is in Akron in complement to the Front International Triennial now taking place in NE Ohio is happening at the University of Akron Art Gallery. It features 3 Pittsburgh artists: Vanessa German, Ed Panar, and Ryder Henry. It's well worth the drive.

Even MORE worth the drive is the whole Front Triennial. Check it out before it closes at the end of the month if you haven't been already. More in a future post, but if you plan to go, put Akron on the flight path. Not only is the UofAkron show worth a look, the NYTimes made a point of saying the Front show at the Akron Art Museum was among the best venues of the whole Triennial. 

-Evan Mirapaul

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