Upcoming Exhibitions

  • Christopher Payne, "Asylum Buffalo Ward," photograph. Courtesy of the Artist.

    Christopher Payne Asylum

    Exhibition Dates: September 13 - October 8, 2022

    The Fine Arts Gallery of the ZMA is pleased to present a selection of photographs from Christopher Payne’s haunting series, Asylum. From 2002 to 2008, Payne visited seventy institutions in thirty states, photographing palatial exteriors designed by famous architects and crumbling interiors that appeared as if the occupants had just left. Additionally, he also documented how these hospitals functioned as self-contained cities, where almost everything of necessity was produced on site: food, water, power, and even clothing and shoes. Many of these places have since been demolished. The photographs from this powerful series serve as the final, official record of these sites. Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals was published by MIT Press in 2009 and includes an essay by Oliver Sacks.  

     Payne states, “We tend to think of mental hospitals as “snake pits”—places of nightmarish squalor and abuse—and this is how they have been portrayed in books and film. Few Americans, however, realize these institutions were once monuments of civic pride, built with noble intentions by leading architects and physicians, who envisioned the asylums as places of refuge, therapy, and healing. For more than half the nation's history, vast mental hospitals were a prominent feature of the American landscape. From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, more than 250 institutions for the insane were built throughout the United States; by 1948 they housed over half a million patients. But over the next thirty years, with the introduction of psychotropic drugs and policy shifts toward community-based care, patient populations declined dramatically, leaving many of these massive buildings neglected and abandoned.”  

    • Christopher Payne specializes in architectural and industrial photography. Trained as an architect, he is fascinated by design, assembly, and the built form. His first book, New York’s Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway, offers rare views of the behemoth machines hidden behind modest facades in New York City. Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, which includes an essay by Oliver Sacks, is a journey through America’s abandoned state mental institutions. North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City, explores an uninhabited island of ruins in the East River, providing a glimpse into a city’s future without people. 

      Payne’s recent work has veered away from the documentation of the obsolete towards a celebration of American craftsmanship. Making Steinway: An American Workplace, is a tour through the Steinway & Sons piano factory in Astoria, Queens, where skilled workers create some of the finest musical instruments in the world. Payne captures moments of the choreographies of production, and inspects the parts and pieces of the instruments that will never be visible outside of the factory, telling a story of intricacy, precision, and care he fears is becoming all too rare in the modern workplace. 

      His next book about American manufacturing will be published by Abrams in 2023.  


    • Fall 2022 Capstone I

      Exhibition Dates: October 12 - October 22, 2022

      Reception: Wednesday, October 12, 2022, 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm


      • Fall 2022 Capstone II

        Exhibition Dates: October 25 - November 5, 2022

        Reception: Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm

        • Fall 2022 Capstone III

          Exhibition Dates: November 16 - December 3, 2022

          Reception: Wednesday, November 16, 2022, 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm