“Portrait of Lotte Lenya” by Lotte Jacobi.

The Maine Museum of Photographic Arts presents the Steve and Judy Halpert Collection, curated by Jan Pieter van Voorst van Beest, April 21 to June 10.

This assortment of images is Maine focused and illustrates Steve Halpert’s career as native curator, academic and former owner of the arthouse theater, The Movies on Exchange Street. On display are works from the 1900s to present day. Additionally, there are artist books and some thoughtful works for sale.

“Laughing Couple” by Sean Alonzo Harris.

An opening reception was held April 21.

Jan Pieter van Voorst van Beest will speak with collector Steve Halpert during an art talk from 5 to 8 p.m. May 12.

Art collections, by their very nature, are a product of curation, guided by the interests, vision and aesthetics of the collector. Steve Halpert’s vision seems mostly guided by his interest in the human condition. We find elements of this in all the images that he chooses. It is present in the city photographs of Todd Webb, the street shots of Bernice Abbott and Eugene Atget, the photographs of Native Americans by Edward Curtis and the many portraits by Arnold Newman, Lotte Jacobi, George Daniel, and many others. Even in some of the photographs that at first sight start out with an abstract composition and where we don’t find people in the picture, such as the library shot by Abelardo Morrell, the funeral table setting by Denise Froehlich or the photograph by Tanja Hollander titled, “Where Noah was sleeping,” the human element is still very present. The photographs by Judy Glickman, Ed Richardson, Robert Pennington and Dan Dow are addressing humanity as well. 

The task of the curator, when assembling an exhibit of an art collection, is mostly to find and illustrate the narratives that runs through it, and tell the story of how or why they came to be acquired. Steve told me that he never started to collect photographs with the purpose of building a collection. The Steve and Judy Halpert collection happened very differently…Intuitively. Steve slowly accumulated works that he liked, and after a while it became clear to him that he indeed had a collection. The only reason a piece was added was because he liked it, and it seemed to fit his aesthetic sensibilities.  While viewing this exhibition and investigating the collection, we get to know about Steve Halpert’s taste, his interests, and see the gems that randomly and spontaneously caught his eye.  It is this organic path that gives the exhibition of this assemblage its strength. To curate this excellent collection has been very interesting and a great privilege.  

— Jan Pieter van Voorst van Beest

The Maine Museum of Photographic Arts is at 15 Middle St., A3, Portland. See www.mainemuseumofphotographicarts.org for more information.