Vivian Maier Set for First Major Exhibition in New York City

Vivian Maier
Vivan Maier self-portrait.

70 years after she roamed the streets of the Big Apple with her camera, Vivian Maier is finally getting a major exhibition in New York City.

Maier shot to fame posthumously after a stash of 150,000 photographs, mostly in negative form, was bought at auction in Chicago in 2007. Since then she has become a photography phenomenon with her images depicting mid-20th-century American life creating great buzz.

However little is known about Maier, a French-American born in New York in 1926. She did not reveal her enthusiasm for photography to the people closest to her, was extremely reclusive, and suffered from mental illness.

Maier will likely not have wanted the level of fame she achieved after her death however her story is now well-known and Fotografiska New York is hosting the photographer’s first major exhibit in the city.

Vivian Maier photography
Shot in New York. | Vivian Maier

“The discovery of Vivian Maier’s archive and her extraordinary work is one of those rare stories that captures the public’s imagination,” Sophie Wright, the director of Fotografiska New York, tells The Art Newspaper.

“We are thrilled to be premiering this beautiful exhibition in her hometown of New York—it’s a testament to her distinct perspective and talent, and an honor for the museum.”

Aside from her street photography, the exhibit will also show other artifacts Maier collected and created; such as the Super 8 films she recorded and her famous hat that features in many of her self-portraits.

Vivian Maier photography
New York, 1954.

The Maloof collection, named after the storage hunter John Maloof who bought her negatives and chronicled the discovery in the 2013 Oscar-nominated documentary Finding Vivian Maier, also feature the Rollei and Leica cameras that she used.

“Maier could foresee what was going to happen in the next fraction of a second. In this sense, she was ahead of [Henri] Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the decisive moment,” the exhibition’s creator Anne Morrin tells The Art Newspaper.

“For her, photography was a room of one’s own, to quote Virginia Woolf. It’s where she was free. Her language is free, too, because she was self-taught and subject to no conditions, or no submission to an editor, for example.”

The exhibition will run at Fotografiska New York from May 31 to September 2024.