Philanthropic Organizations Pay $30 M. for ‘Ebony’ and ‘Jet’ Photo Archive, Plan Donation to Getty, Smithsonian -ARTnews – Google Alerts

“The Black Image Corporation” at the Martin Gropius Bau museum in Berlin.


The Chicago-based company Johnson Publishing, which filed for bankruptcy in April, has sold its archive of images from Ebony and Jet magazines to a consortium of philanthropic organizations, which paid $30 million in a private auction.

Those organizations are the Ford Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who will donate the archive to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, and other cultural institutions.

The archive comprises over four million prints and negatives of African American culture, from figures like Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Billie Holiday, and others, to scenes of everyday life. The sale is subject to court approval. WBEZ journalist Carrie Shepherd first reported the news of the deal, citing court documents.

James Cuno, the president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, told ARTnews in an interview that the acquisition of the archive by the organizations “ensures that it will be made available to broadest possible public.” When the sale was announced, some feared that a private collector or media corporation might acquire the holdings and limit access.

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, led efforts to bring together the foundations last week, and told the New York Times that “the concern was that it should be brought into the public domain.”

Cuno said that it was Walker’s “personal commitment that was so inspiring” as he “worked his magic to bring us all together.”

Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and secretary of the Smithsonian, said in a statement, “Ebony and Jet magazine helped shape our nation’s history, allowing Americans—of all…

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