The Vision & Art Project’s Tenth Anniversary Benefit Exhibition, ‘What Was Once Familiar’ at The National Arts Club




erge Hollerbach, Hanging Out, date unknown. Tempera on paper, 38½ x 26½ inches. Contributed by Drew Saunders / Newman & Saunders Galleries.

In celebration of The Vision & Art Project’s 10th anniversary, a special benefit exhibition will be held at the National Arts Club in New York. What Was Once Familiar: The Vision & Art Project’s Tenth Anniversary Benefit Exhibition will be on view from March 20 until April 26, 2024, with a cocktail reception to be held on Thursday April 4, 6-8pm.

This exhibition brings together 52 works by artists who have experienced macular degeneration, a common disease of the retina that results in central vision loss. The artists included are: Lennart Anderson (1928–2015), Robert Birmelin (1933–), Serge Hollerbach (1923–2021), Dahlov Ipcar (1917–2017), Robert Andrew Parker (1927–2023), Phillip Perkis (1935–), Tim Prentice (1930–), Thomas Sgouros (1927–2012), Hedda Sterne (1910–2011), William Thon (1906–2000) and Erika Marie York (1990–). Spanning from 1965–2021, these works range in genre, including figurative, abstract, still life, portraiture, and landscape. Various media are represented, including oil, watercolor, charcoal, photography, mixed media, and sculpture. Viewed together, the collection explores the breadth of the work undertaken by artists who experience vision loss. The curation encourages the consideration of art created pre- and post-macular degeneration, revealing the myriad ways that the artists’ practices transform over time. For example, they altered their approaches, varying their techniques and the media they employed. The exhibition maps how artists’ changing visions shape their experiences of the world, and how this translates into the evolution of their visual expressions.

What Was Once Familiar—and the Vision & Art Project more broadly—focuses on the under-discussed issue of vision loss in artists. Macular degeneration is very common—around three in ten people over the age of 65 will experience the condition. However, the focus of this exhibition is not only on the works created by artists once they are affected by vision loss. Instead, the Vision & Art Project brings together art made throughout the careers of these artists, emphasizing the evolution of their practice over time. Its aim is to combine art history, research, education, and advocacy.

Co-curator A’Dora Phillips, Director of the Vision and Art Project, remarks “We’re thrilled to be partnering with many of the artists, gallerists, and estates we’ve worked with over the past ten years, many of whom have contributed their work to this exhibition. The art here attests to the remarkable capacity artists have to adapt to vision loss. Drawing attention to this has been one of the key aims of The Vision and Art Project. This exhibition is also a celebration of its success in educating the public and encouraging artists at what can be a difficult time in their careers.”

Most of the works in the exhibition, along with an additional 16 that will not be on view, will be sold through an online viewing room. Proceeds from the sales go towards supporting AMDF and artists with vision loss who have contributed work to the show.

The exhibition is further accompanied by an 80-page color catalog, featuring a preface by A’Dora Phillips, an introduction by Alice Mattison—an author who has written about her own vision loss—and 69 reproductions. It will be available for purchase at the National Arts Club during the exhibition, as well as through the online viewing room.

What Was Once Familiar, The Vision & Art Project’s Tenth Anniversary Benefit Exhibition will be one view from March 20 to April 26, 2024 at The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South, NYC. A Cocktail Reception will be held on Thursday, April 4th from 6-8pm.

About The Vision and Art Project
Since 2013, the Vision & Art Project, an initiative of The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), has given greater visibility to the overlooked influence of macular degeneration on historical and contemporary artists. Its mission is to raise awareness about the prevalence of macular degeneration among artists—and, by extension, in the population at large. It seeks to help ensure the legacy of individual artists at what can be a challenging time in their lives, sheds light on a hidden side of art history, and inspires a deeper respect for our profound capacity as humans to adapt and change.

About The American Macular Degeneration Foundation
The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) is a nonprofit organization committed to the prevention, treatment, and cure of macular degeneration. Their mission is to offer support and hope to the individuals affected by macular degeneration, as well as educating the public, raising funds, and supporting scientific research into the disease. Founder and President Chip Goehring started AMDF following his own diagnosis of macular degeneration, and his personal interest in the experience of artists with this disease led to his decision to support this exhibition. AMDF sponsors and provides grants to a number of initiatives related to macular degeneration. For instance, AMDF recently sponsored the BBC film, Eye of the Storm, about the Scottish artist James Morrison and his effort to paint with vision loss, to make it available to American audiences on PBS stations across the United States beginning February 2024.