Modern Times

November 1 2014 to January 11 2015
Philips Wing

Running from 1 November 2014 – 11 January 2015, 'Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century' will be the Rijksmuseum’s first ever photography exhibition to showcase the outstanding collection of 20,000 20th-century works that it has amassed since deciding in 1994 to extend its photographic holdings beyond the 19th century.

Buy your tickets now

Buy a ticket

In a display of more than 400 images, the exhibition will trace photography’s key developments during the 20th century, including the introduction of colour, the growth of documentary and news photography, and photography as a pure art form. A wide-ranging overview, it will also explore photography’s role in fashion and advertising and will feature some amateur works.

foto2 Zissou taking off with his homemade glider, Jacques Henri Lartigue, 1910

Rare photographs by Brassaï, Ed van der Elsken, John Gutmann, Lewis Hine, William Klein, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Joel Meyerowitz, László Moholy-Nagy, Eadweard Muybridge, Man Ray and W. Eugene Smith will be displayed as part of the exhibition Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century. This major photographic survey will inaugurate the Rijksmuseum’s newly renovated Philips Wing, the final stage in the museum’s recent acclaimed transformation.

Responsible for both the exhibition and its accompanying catalogue are Mattie Boom and Hans Rooseboom, Curators of Photography at the Rijksmuseum.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is the Netherlands national museum dedicated to arts and history. The Museum’s Philips Wing, newly renovated by Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz, will open its doors for the first time on 1 November 2014 with the launch of Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century, the inaugural exhibition, which will occupy all nine of the Wing’s new exhibition rooms.

From Muybridge to Sassen

Modern Times ranges over the whole of the 20th century, and also spans the decades on either side. The earliest images are Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies, including a galloping horse from 1887, and George Hendrik Breitner’s early photographs. The exhibition’s most recent works were shot in Suriname in 2013 by the exciting Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen. Among the rarest masterpieces are photographs by John Gutmann (Olympic diver), László Moholy-Nagy (Pont Transbordeur), Man Ray’s Peggy Guggenheim, Lartigue’s early photographs of home-made aeroplanes and Joel Meyerowitz’s Moon Launch.


Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century is the Rijksmuseum’s first major presentation to the public of the 20th-century photography collection that it has amassed over the past two decades. During that time the collection has earned international acclaim, both for its range and depth. It is especially remarkable for its large number of original vintage prints, which are often extremely rare. In many cases, the Rijksmuseum holds the only original print known to exist of an image, or that is, at the very most, one of just a few.

Development of the 20th-century photographic collection

The Rijksmuseum has assembled an international collection of 20,000 20th-century photographs since it began updating its collection of 19th-century photography in 1994. The Rijksmuseum’s total photography collection comprises more than 130,000 photos. The exhibition Modern Times is the sequel to the large-scale retrospective exhibition in 1996: A New Art. Photography in the 19th Century.

Exhibition catalogue

foto1 Olympic High Diving Champion Marjorie Gestring, San Francisco 1936, John Gutmann, 1936The exhibition catalogue Modern Times. Photography in the 20th Century, sketches the spectacular and rampant growth of photography in the twentieth century, based on over 300 highlights from the Rijksmuseum’s photography collection. The book presents an overview of twentieth century photography in all its facets, from pure documentary to autonomous art.

It will be available in the Rijksshop, through the webshop and in bookstores.

Baker & McKenzie

Since 2007, the international law firm Baker & McKenzie has been a dedicated sponsor of the Rijksmuseum. The firm’s contribution has enabled the Rijksmuseum to purchase more than 90 major photographic works over the years in a collection including work by László Moholy-Nagy, Bill Brandt, Robert Capa and Helen Levitt. Thanks to Baker & McKenzie Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum has been able to substantially expand, conserve and present to the general public its collection of 20th-century photography.


The last 10 years the Rijksmuseum has been able to accumulate its collection of 20th-century photography thanks to the support of Baker & McKenzie, the Rijksmuseum Fund (Familie W. Cordia, Paul Huf Fonds, Johan Huizinga Fonds, Fonds 1975 en Stefanie Georgina Alexa Nühn Fonds), the BankGiro Lottery, the Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt) and Titus Cirkel.

On show in this exhibition