In March 2020, James Danziger launched an exhibition of famed photographer Tod Papageorge’s Acropolis photographs at his Danziger Gallery on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The gallerist was excited to mount the show not only because he’s a fan of Papageorge — an influential figure in photography who served as director of Yale’s graduate photography program for more than 30 years — but also because it was to be the first exhibition after bringing Papageorge into the Danziger fold from another gallery.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the show to shutter a week later.

“It was grim and disappointing,” Danziger tells The Hollywood Reporter of the abrupt closure that left only the gallery’s website as host of the black-and-white images, shot in the summers of 1983 and ’84 and featuring tourists as they explore the ancient citadel above the city of Athens. Shortly thereafter, he received an email from an assistant requesting one of the images for her boss. The interest led to a sale of a Papageorge photograph, Danziger’s favorite from the show. Little did he know at the time that the unnamed buyer was acclaimed auteur Noah Baumbach.

“I was absolutely delighted because I’m a big fan of his films,” Danziger recalls of the reveal. He was also pleased to see Papageorge’s work going to such an inspiring artist, as was Papageorge. But then came an inspired idea. “There’s such a connection between Noah’s aesthetic and Tod’s aesthetic that I thought there might be an opportunity to see if he would curate the show when we relaunched it in Los Angeles,” says Danziger.

Through a partnership with longtime friend and fellow gallerist Peter Fetterman, Danziger planned to bring Papageorge’s Acropolis images to Bergamot Station, where they have a joint space at the Santa Monica art hub. “I put in the request and it was immediately accepted,” he says of securing Baumbach for the show, which opens April 8 and continues through May 27, during which time it will share a gallery with a colorful cherry blossom series, Sakura, by Tokyo-based photographer Risaku Suzuki.

Turns out Baumbach’s curation was just as seamless. He selected 16 images that, per Danziger, “all have drama or incident” and reveal much about the scene surrounding the Acropolis with its camera-toting tourists dressed in everything from sandals and jean shorts to wide-brimmed hats and sundresses. Baumbach even released a statement about the collection.

“Tod’s beautiful sunburnt photos are an incredible document of a time and a place but also a hilarious and incisive commentary on how we are all tourists at some point in our lives,” says the Marriage Story filmmaker. “These people become both invaders of the Acropolis and also a subject all their own.”

Tod Papageorges Acropolis
Tod Papageorges Acropolis

A version of this story first appeared in the April 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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