Why do we choose certain images to live with, study, reflect on, and appreciate? What inspires the masters, or tickles their fancies?

When Richard Avedon died on October 1st, 2004, he left an extraordinary collection of photographs that spans two centuries and reflects an eye attuned equally to masterworks and mug shots. Few had seen the private collection with which he surrounded himself in his apartment on East 75th Street. These photographs, assembled over five decades, are the subject of the exhibition "Eye of the Beholder: Photographs from the Collection of Richard Avedon", at Fraenkel Gallery, 49 Geary St., San Francisco, from 5 October to 25 November 2006.

Avedon knew a good photograph when he saw one. Though he was far more interested in making pictures than collecting them, he lived surrounded by photographs of every kind, from the exalted to the unknown. “Neurotic women” (his words) were among his particular interests, though his curiosity was vigorous and his pursuits could not be predicted. The photographs in Avedon’s collection were acquired primarily by purchase, in some cases by gift. Several bear inscriptions of respect or affection from other artists, notably Jacques-Henri Lartigue and Henri Cartier-Bresson, photographers with whom he forged significant friendships.

Avedon was the first of only three people to purchase Diane Arbus’s landmark portfolio A Box of Ten Photographs, a gesture that signaled so much to the artist that she re-titled his portfolio to include an eleventh print.

Organized with Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Eye of the Beholder is presented in cooperation with The Richard Avedon Foundation, New York, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.