The Collection of John M. Hall
John M. Hall was an architectural photographer for publications including New York Times Magazine, Elle Decor and Architectural Digest; he saw his work as "telling the story" of what architects built and his process was to "go from the overall to the the details," with a keen eye for the subtleties of line, form, light and shadow. Hall lived with art and design that reflected his refined sensibilities: simple, livable furniture by Eames, Knoll and Aalto, the clean lines and smooth surfaces of 1930s streamlined moderne lamps, china and glassware and minimalist works on paper by Robert Mangold and Richard Serra. Tucked into a small Manhattan apartment, Hall's collection shows the ease with which iconic 20th century designs were meant to be lived with.
Hall grew up in North Carolina and studied architecture at North Carolina State University; he was also a ballet dancer and moved to New York in the mid-1970s to study at the American Ballet Theater School. In 1977, Hall relocated to Paris and worked as a model. It was during this time that he developed an interest in black and white photography.
Thank God I missed post-modernism. I guess I'm just a classicist at heart.
—John M. Hall
His structural, classical style was informed by photographers such as André Kertész and Walker Evans. Hall returned to New York in 1981 and began his career as an architectural photographer, with a particular interest in private gardens, Greek Revival and Biedermeier. He approached capturing these spaces as making "something that is more than just a document, [but] something that is visually exciting."
The same is true of Hall's personal collection, with its attention to and exuberance for designs that are "clean and clear and simple as possible," while also still captivating. After Hall's passing in 2019, significant contributions from his collection were gifted to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery and his alma mater's Gregg Museum of Art and Design; the present selection of works celebrates Hall's sophisticated and gracious eye for design.
I'm not a design historian. I'm attracted to objects because I find them interesting and, yes, beautiful. And that's where this 20th-century sensibility started for me. There's just something so right about it.
John M. Hall
An Interview with John M. Hall
An interview with Hall from the 1980s shows him on location photographing a home and sharing his philosophies on design, architecture and photography.