NOMA Announces Extraordinary Gift of Photographs from Cherye and James Pierce

Long-Time Photography Collectors and NOMA Supporters Gift 260 Works to the Museum

Lois Conner (American, born 1951) Peking University, Beijing, China, 1991, Platinum print, Gift of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, 2020.57.24

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Distinguished collectors Cherye R. and James (Jim) F. Pierce have gifted more than 260 photographs by master art photographers, ranging from the nineteenth-century to the present, to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).

The Pierces’ gift to NOMA is representative of their wide-ranging collecting interests. It includes vintage prints by Ansel Adams, Ilse Bing, Brassaï, and Heinrich Kühn, contemporary masterworks by Laila Essaydi, Deborah Luster, William Eggleston, and platinum prints by Frederick Evans, Manuel Alvarez-Bravo (commissioned directly from the artist), and Lois Conner. Their gift also includes several iconic images such as The Falling Soldier by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare St. Lazare, and a rare large-format photogravure of Alfred Stieglitz’s Flatiron Building, inscribed to fellow photographer Paul Haviland.

Based in Honolulu, the Pierces have been passionate photography collectors for more than 40 years and have long supported NOMA in a number of ways including Mrs. Pierce’s service as a national trustee since 2004. After this initial gift, the Pierces have promised more than 300 additional photographs to the museum, establishing NOMA as the custodian of their collecting legacy and strengthening considerably the museum’s photography collection.

“Cherye and Jim were pioneers in the collecting of photography” said Susan Taylor, Montine McDaniel Freeman Director. “Their prescient decision to collect and their dedication to the medium will have a profound impact on the museum’s ability to share a fuller history of photography with our public. We are grateful for their generosity and their commitment to sharing this gift with our audiences.”

The Pierces have been supportive of NOMA’s photography program for decades, donating individual works of art, beginning with a Carleton Watkins mammoth-plate photograph in 1999, and underwriting exhibitions and publications. They have served as trustees and supporters of the Honolulu Museum of Art where a large selection of their collection, In Celebration of Light: Photographs from the Collection of Cherye R. and James F. Pierce, was first exhibited in 2002, followed by a presentation at NOMA in 2004. The exhibition catalog featured an introductory essay by NOMA Director Emeritus E. John Bullard, who initiated NOMA’s long and fruitful relationship with the Pierces and shared their love for photography.

Jim, originally from Gonzalez, FL, met Cherye, a native New Orleanian, when he was with Tulane University Medical School and Chief of Neurology at the VA Hospital in New Orleans. The two married in 1973 and six years later purchased their first photographs in New Orleans—three Ansel Adams works from A Gallery for Fine Photography. From there, they built a collection of more than 1,000 works that includes well-known icons of photography as well as works by unsung masters of the medium.

“This collection could only be assembled through the confluence of knowledge of photography’s history and connoisseurship, both of which Jim and Cherye fully embody,” said Russell Lord, Curator of Photographs. “The works they have gifted to NOMA will inspire present and future generations of photography admirers the same way that they first moved Jim and Cherye.”

“Our passion for collecting photography has connected us to a community of artists, institutions, and others around the world,” said Cherye and Jim. “We are so pleased to make this gift to the New Orleans Museum of Art where it will help make new connections for wide and diverse audiences through exhibitions, education, and publications.”




About NOMA and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden 

The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910 by Isaac Delgado, houses more than 40,000 works of art encompassing 5,000 years of history. Works from the permanent collection, along with continuously changing special exhibitions, are on view in the museum’s 46 galleries Thursday through Sunday, 10 AM to 6 PM. The adjoining Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features work by more than 90 sculptures, including works from several 20th and 21st-century master sculptors. NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, 9:30 AM to 5 PM. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden are fully accessible to handicapped visitors and wheelchairs are available from the front desk. Museum admission is free on Wednesdays for Louisiana residents, courtesy of The Helis Foundation. Children 12 and under receive free admission. Teenagers (ages 13-19) receive free admission courtesy of The Helis Foundation.

The Department of Photographs cares for and interprets a collection of over 15,000 works, ranging from the 1840s to the present and including examples made on all seven continents. It has grown substantially recently with the additions of the Dr. Russell Albright Collection (a contemporary photography collection of over 350 works), and the promised bequest of Tina Freeman (1,300 works spanning the history of photography). The Department is supported annually by the A. Charlotte Mann and Joshua Mann Pailet Endowment, and the Del and Ginger Hall Fund.

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For additional information and hi-res images, contact Margaux Krane: 504.658.4106 |


Gallery of lo-res images