Main Space

Limelight Gallery and Coffeehouse, 1954-61 (Feb 8 - March 18, 2007)

From 1954 until 1961, the Limelight operated on Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village. The cafe was a popular meeting place for off-Broadway theater-goers, writers, photographers, and Beatniks.

Founded by Helen Gee, who was born and raised in Harlem, the Limelight had a small photography gallery at the back -- the only commercially gallery devoted exclusively to photography in the United States at that time. The gallery presented solo exhibitions of work by Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Rudolph Burckhardt, Imogen Cunningham, Gordon Parks, Jack Smith, Minor White, and many others.

Most of the photographs were sold for between $25 and $60 each, meaning that nearly all the income came from the cafe. Helen Gee lost money running the Limelight and eventually sold it for a loss. The new owners continued the cafe for a short whilte but immediately closed the gallery.

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In 1959, the Limelight presented an historical survey of photographs from the George Eastman House, one of the great photography collections in the world. Because the George Eastman House did not want to lend original photographs, the exhibition consisted primarily of copies.



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