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Art Institute of Chicago Acquires Major Nan Goldin Work

The Art Institute of Chicago acquired a 43-minute, 720-image slide show by photographer Nan Goldin (b. 1953)—The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1981-86/87)—from the artist’s New York dealer Matthew Marks Gallery last month. Two separate departments of the Art Institute, contemporary art and photography, joined to finance the accession.

NEW YORK—The Art Institute of Chicago acquired a 43-minute, 720-image slide show by photographer Nan Goldin (b. 1953)—The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1981-86/87)—from the artist’s New York dealer Matthew Marks Gallery last month. Two separate departments of the Art Institute, contemporary art and photography, joined to finance the accession.

“The contemporary department and the photography department have a shared interest in Nan’s work and a shared need for more of her work in the museum’s collection,” Katherine Bussard, the Art Institute’s assistant curator of photography, told ARTnewsletter, adding that Goldin is “really a crossover artist”—given that her work appeals to collectors of photography as well as contemporary art. Neither the Art Institute nor the Matthew Marks Gallery would reveal the acquisition price of the slide show.

The Art Institute becomes the third major U.S. museum, after New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, to acquire The Ballad. It is planned as an edition of ten, although only seven of the edition have been produced so far (the Art Institute’s edition of The Ballad was created in 2006). Each of the ten is similar but not identical. Until making this acquisition, the museum owned only four still photographs by Goldin, which have been on display regularly in its Study Room.

The Art Institute acquired edition No. 7, while the Museum of Modern Art purchased No. 6 in 2004. The slide show is currently on view at the Art Institute as part of its current “So the Story Goes” exhibition of photography, which continues through Dec. 3.

Since most of Goldin’s slide-show installations are acquired initially by public institutions, there tends to be little secondary market activity for them. However, says Jeffrey Peabody, director of Matthew Marks Gallery, “certain key images” from The Ballad and The Other Side—a 1990-93 slide show and book focusing on transvestites—along with other projects, do come up for resale, with prices reaching $20,000/45,000 at the gallery.

At auction, Goldin’s prices have soared, reaching a top price of $284,500 at Christie’s in 2002 for a 149-image project, Thanksgiving, within its $250,000/350,000 estimate.

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