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How badly does Atlanta's High Museum of Art hope that it might someday be the last resting place of the photography collection of Elton John? Badly enough to court him by letting 380 of his pictures fill the entire museum, as well as its downtown annex, this fall. But who can blame the museum's trustees? Sir Elton, as he is now officially privileged to be called, keeps one of his several homes and most of his more than 2,000 pictures in Atlanta. And in the 10 or so years since he started buying photographs seriously, Sir Elton--it's fun just to see those words, no?--has assembled a credible collection of 20th century photographs. It's the kind that could give any medium-size museum, the High, for instance, a nice-size addition to its department of photography, with everything from Abbott (Berenice) to Ziolowski (Joe).
O.K., Ziolowski's not famous, but this is an enthusiast's assemblage of favorite pics, not a scholar's fastidious survey of photo history. Rock stars all started as fans. The Atlanta show, which opens Nov. 4, represents one star returning to his roots by becoming an art fan. His collection is heavier on musician portraits (Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sting and Elton, Elton, Elton) and fashion shots--big surprise--than on street photography or social commentary. But that's the charm of a chapbook: it's not an encyclopedia.
A celebrity of another era, the Countess de Castiglione, will be feted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. "La Divine Comtesse," opening Sept. 18, is a show of more than 90 pictures of the 19th century Italian beauty, a mistress of Napoleon III, who commissioned the photographer Pierre Louis Pierson to re-create great moments of her public life. Sir Elton would understand.
THE MAN OF MANY PARTS EDWARD STEICHEN
He started as a wistful pictorialist, making shadowy nocturnes that look like damp watercolors. He became a dedicated modernist, producing angular portraits of angular personalities like Greta Garbo and Amelia Earhart (pictured). He culminated as the grayest sort of gray eminence, head of the photography department of New York City's Museum of Modern Art, whose sentimental "Family of Man" exhibit in 1955 was the original museum blockbuster, but also the show that more dry-eyed photographers loved to hate. If Edward Steichen had a very mixed career, and he did, at every stage of it he made some great pictures all the same. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City surveys the whole thing starting Oct. 4.