GRCC displays exhibit of works by alumnus and world-renowned artist Peter Fink

Grand Rapids Community College is sharing a generous gift it received with West Michigan: a collection of photographs by world-renowned artist and alumnus Peter Fink.

Mort and Peg Finkelstein, archivists for the Finkelstein family, are allowing the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation to keep the collection with a permanent bequest in the future.

“It is with great honor and pride that we are able to loan, from our personal family collection, many of these works by Peter Fink,” Mort Finkelstein says. “This photography collection was all originally sent to our parents by Peter during his many years of travel throughout the world.”

Public viewing

The public can view the photos — which have been exhibited in more than 60 institutions in the United States, Israel, Cuba, France, and England — in GRCC’s Paul Collins Art Gallery. The gallery, which is on the fourth floor of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall at 143 Bostwick Ave. NE, is open 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; admission is free.

“We’re so proud not only to accept this wonderful gift but to be able to share it with our community, starting with this exhibition,” says Dr. Kathryn K. Mullins, GRCC vice president for Advancement and executive director of the GRCC Foundation. 

“GRCC, our students, and our community continue to benefit from the generosity of the Finkelstein family. Current and future students can learn about Peter Fink, his roots here at GRCC, and be inspired to follow their own dreams,” Mullins says.  

Artist’s career path

Fink, who attended what was then Grand Rapids Junior College from 1926 to 1929, started his career as a designer for V’Soske, a local rug manufacturer. His promotional efforts made the V’Soske name synonymous with the finest hand-crafted rugs produced in the United States during the 1930s and ’40s. In 1942, Fink arranged the first exhibition of contemporary rugs and tapestries in the United States, held in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 

He later went to the couture firm of Lucien Lelong, where he was a package designer and a decorator for its French and American salons. He eventually became the art decorator for Lanvin Parfums.

He traveled the world during the 1950s through the ‘70s — always with his camera. His photos captured life and street scenes in post-war Japan, France, Portugal, northern Africa, and the Middle East.

Books and exhibitions

Fink, who died in 1984, published three books of his photographs: The New York I Love in 1964, The San Francisco I Love in 1970, and New York Nocturnes: 85 After Dark Photographs in 1982.

His work was the subject of 51 one-man exhibitions worldwide; the last time his collection could be viewed in West Michigan was at the Grand Rapids Art Museum in 1990.

“I am lucky enough to have lived among beautiful things, people, and places all my life,” Fink said in 1969. “I never needed to possess them, nor could I afford to. But I wanted to translate what I beheld. Thus, the camera became my viewer, my recorder, my mind’s eye.”

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.