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Vivian Maier, reclusive nanny turned photographer, gets biggest ever show in Paris next year

Unseen works and Super 8 films reveal new aspects of her practice

Vivian Maier, New York public library (around 1954/2012) © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy of Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, NY

The largest exhibition ever dedicated to the late photographer Vivian Maier, the secretive nanny who photographed people in the streets of Chicago, is due to open next year at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris (15 September 2021-7 January 2022). The show will include previously unseen works such as Super 8 films along with audio recordings which “throw new light on her practice”, according to a statement.

The show is organised by the French government cultural body, Réunion des musées nationaux-Grand Palais (Rmn-GP), and a private company, diChroma photography, which is based in Madrid. DiChroma photography has organised several exhibitions on Maier’s work including Vivian Maier: Street Photographer at the Scuderie del Castello Visconteo in Pavia, Italy, last year along with other shows dedicated to photographers such as Robert Doisneau and Margaret Watkins.

Anne Morin, the exhibition's curator and the director of diChroma, tells The Art Newspaper that “the exhibition brings together more than 260 photographs, unseen vintage works and films along with works from Maier’s own collection which tell us a lot about the way she worked. Most of this material has never been seen before and comes from various international lenders.” Areas covered in the show include self-portraits, street scenes and childhood.

“Although the work is eclectic, we will also see how it is homogeneous, dense, and logical in its evolution, sitting at the crossroads of US visual culture and street photography. Her work also looks to French humanist photography,” Morin adds.

The show in Paris has the blessing of the Vivian Maier estate which is lending many of the archive works and films. Maier died in spring 2009 without known heirs in a remote Chicago nursing home, after slipping on ice and hitting her head.

She spent her childhood in France and her adult life in Chicago, taking more than 120,000 photographs but never wanted the images to be seen.

The exhibition is also organised in collaboration with the leading New York-based photography dealer Howard Greenberg who last year brought more than 100 prints of Maier’s work to Photo London, the annual photography fair held in London’s Somerset House. Other exhibition partners include the John Maloof collection in Chicago.