New lecture series honors the legacy of Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr.

Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas (Photo Credit: Andrea Blanch).

The Institute of Fine Arts is pleased to announce that Hank Willis Thomas will give the inaugural Sam Wagstaff Photography Lecture on Thursday, April 22, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. in conversation with New York-based artist Chris Berntsen.

This new lecture series honors the legacy of Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. (November 4, 1921 –January 14, 1987). Wagstaff attended the Institute of Fine Arts in the 1950s, studying Italian Renaissance Art under Richard Offner, and went on to become a notable American art curator, collector, and patron of the arts. Through his influential collecting, teaching, and curatorial work, Wagstaff promoted photography as a fine art medium. His groundbreaking collection was purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1984, constituting the cornerstone of its newly formed Department of Photographs. Sam Wagstaff’s devotion to the medium contributed to its rising status over the years.  The Institue of Fine Arts is delighted to celebrate his achievements by naming our annual photography lecture in his honor.

“The Sam Wagstaff Photography Lecture creates an important opportunity for the Institute community to discuss critical issues in the field of photography through the perspective of contemporary artists and historians” said Christine Poggi, Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director, Institute of Fine Arts. “It is with great pleasure that we present this new series in the name of one of the great scholars of the 20th century”

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.” His work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2018), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), and the Soros Equality Fellowship (2017). Heisa former member of the New York City Public Design Commission.

Chris Berntsen is a New York based artist who uses photography to explore themes related to queerness, identity, and intimacy. Chris’ work has been exhibited in MoMA PS1, Aperture Foundation, New York, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. He received his BFA from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and is an MFA candidate at Hunter College, New York. He has worked alongside artist Hank Willis Thomas for the past fourteen years.

Media inquiries should be directed to the NYU press officer listed with this release.

About the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU
Since 1932 the Institute of Fine Arts has been dedicated to graduate teaching and advanced research in the history of art, archaeology, and conservation. The Institute has a faculty unrivaled in the breadth and depth of its expertise and in the range of its visiting lecturers from top museums, research institutes, and conservation studios. The Institute has conferred more than 2700 degrees, and its alumni hold leadership roles as professors, curators, museum directors, archaeologists, conservators, critics, and institutional administrators throughout the U.S. and internationally.

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