Hundreds of photographs — works of fine art as well as images documenting significant news events — have been given to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum by Isaac “Ike” Lagnado, a member of the Class of 1971. The most recent gifts, received by the College in 2011 and 2012, are the latest in a series of donations Lagnado has made to the College and to museums around the country.
“I give artworks to institutions ranging from the Met and the Smithsonian, to smaller specialized entities,” says Lagnado, president of Tactical Retail Solutions, Inc, a consulting and market research firm in New York City and a collector of photographic prints by master photographers.
“Bowdoin’s singular mission as a teaching institution, integrating artworks into the curriculum, as well as making them available to the public has always been very compelling.”
Lagnado’s generosity, stretching back 25 years, has provided the Museum of Art with more than 500 photographs, as well as prints, drawings and other items.
“Ike Lagnado’s generous gift enables the Museum to teach the history of photography much more broadly than before,” says Joachim Homann, the Museum’s curator.
“Among his donations are remarkable works of fine arts photography, such as the portfolio by Sugimoto, that resonates with our existing collection in exciting ways. Also included are excellent examples of photojournalism that in the context of an academic art museum raise important questions about the documentary character of photography.
“I can’t wait to share this rich new resource with faculty and students at Bowdoin. We will use it as a catalyst for new forms of object based inquiry in a wide variety of academic departments.”
Lagnado’s contributions to the Arctic Museum comprise nearly 200 Arctic- and Antarctic-related photographs, many of them press prints used by newspapers, documenting important expeditions and initiatives that took place in the 1920s and 1930s.
“My longstanding interest in photographs led me to discover wonderful photographic documents of the Arctic expeditions,” Lagnado says.
“I was delighted that Susan [Kaplan, director of the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center] found the photographs a useful adjunct to the Peary’s mission.”
Three series of images focus specifically on expeditions by Donald MacMillan, and there are two photographs of Robert Peary and the hut in which he lived at Cape Sabine, Ellesmere Island.
“Many of the photographs are particularly interesting because they document routine activities that take place on expeditions but that are rarely covered in official publications, such as fetching fresh water when camped on an ice island, reading instruments in subzero temperatures, tending dog teams and building igloos to protect airplanes and instruments,” says Kaplan.
“The collection contains a treasure trove of information helpful in the study of the impact of Polar exploration on American popular culture. Researchers will be able to study the press photos and captions to better understand what the public learned about expeditions at a time when the print media was an important source of information about expeditions.”
Kaplan says Lagnado’s donation broadens the Arctic Museum’s collection with the addition of the 1937 Russian North Pole Air Base expedition and some of Richard Byrd’s Antarctic endeavors, and enhances the depth to the Museum’s extensive, Greenland, Labrador, and Baffin Island holdings.
The photographs, in diverse formats and taken with a variety of cameras, further strengthen the value of the museum’s collection for people interested in the history of Arctic photography.
Lagnado says he took only one art course during his time at Bowdoin — Professor Philip C. Beam’s Survey of Asian Art — but credits the College, and the Museum of Art in particular, for imbuing him with an appreciation for the visual arts.
Lagnado has been a member of the Fellows Committee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York; a member of the William Society at the Metropolitan Museum and a donor to the Smithsonian and the Brooklyn Museum. His personal art collection has been highlighted in Forbes magazine.