Check out some of the most enticing reasons below why you should venture to the Arlington Museum of Art NOW thru August 21 to see mysterious, breathtaking and honest works of the mysterious Vivian Maier, whose work was discovered very shortly after her death at 83.
- Her work was discovered in a chest sold in an auction house for $400 in 2007
John Maloof of the Maloof Collection was working on a book and looking for vintage photos of the city of Chicago. Lo and behold, he purchased a chest full of photographs for around $400 and the rest was history.
Vivian was so secretive of her work and protective of her privacy during her lifetime that she had never published her photos. She did, however, leave hundreds of thousands of negatives of her life in Chicago and New York, in addition to travel photos from Los Angeles, Manila, Bangkok, Beijing, Egypt, Italy and many other international cities that are still being developed as we speak.
- She was a nanny by trade – and was very private
Over the course of her life, she was a nanny for close to 50 years. This was a dramatic improvement over her original job working in a sweat shop! However, she was quickly over it and set her sights on a job that would let her go out and see the world - by being a nanny.
Watching her documentary, Finding Vivian Maier (it was co-written, narrated and co-directed by Maloof AND it’s on Netflix!), many of the kids she watched were interviewed to give the audience and up-close-and-personal look at the still mysterious Maier. One of her former children said she required a heavy-duty lock on her room. Other kids said she always had her camera, so they were willing and animate models. Some said they knew her for 10 years yet knew less than a handful of things about the person who had been in their life so long.
- She had no heirs or family to hold power over her work
There has been a huge controversy over Vivian’s work in the art world. The scope and magnitude of her 150,000+ repertoire was ultimately purchased by John Maloof, after he realized he had found a treasure trove. Some of the negatives found in that box are on display currently at the Arlington Museum of Art.
During her lifetime, she had no living relatives and no heirs. She had no love life, no husbands, no children. She didn’t keep contact with her family. Maier died relatively penniless in Chicago with no friends or relatives. What survived were her storage units of boxes, documenting her lucrative yet lonely life in the shadows.
While the excitement of the discovery of her work was still gaining momentum, Maloof found what he thought was her closest-living relative in France, where she had lived for a while when she was a girl. He was paid off so that Maloof could be the chief over Maier’s work, but not so fast – a lawyer by the name of David C. Deal had the gumption to seek another heir (which was also in France) and filed a suit in June 2014. As of today, all parties have reached an agreement and have created an estate in Vivian Maier’s name that has come up with a special structure to “continue to bring Ms. Maier’s extraordinary photography to light while preserving her legacy.”
- She had strong selfie game
All facetiousness aside, it’s cool to see how selfies were taken in the 1940s and 50s and how they fit into the era. Her secret self-portraits taken with her handy dandy Rolleiflex camera represent some of the most timeless eras in mid-20th century and serves as a subconscious tribute to the Dorian Gray-esque need to never age and fade, to capture one’s self and surroundings in a lively moment in time.
My favorite section was the section of romantic couples. Her detail to life’s tender moments captured in pure candidness doesn’t need context to provoke an emotion and connection from her audience. I think, however private Vivian was, she had to have known someone was going to find her work and know what to do with it. For us, we’re happy someone did.
*Want to win a pair of tickets to see the exhibit for yourself? Check our Facebook for contests in the upcoming weeks. Mention you read the blog and we’ll give you two entries in our random drawings!*