Edward Burtynsky's "Oxford Tire Pile # 1, Westley, California," 1999, part of gift to BMA by Nancy and Tom O'Neil.

Edward Burtynsky's "Oxford Tire Pile # 1, Westley, California," 1999, part of gift to BMA by Nancy and Tom O'Neil. (Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, New York /Nicholas Metivier Gallery, Toronto)

The Baltimore Museum of Art has received its most significant gift of contemporary photography in more than 25 years.

Baltimore collectors Tom and Nancy O'Neil have given the institution two dozen color and black-and-white works by 19 important artists of our time, including Dawoud Bey, celebrated for his portrait photography, and Edward Burtynsky, whose photos document humanity's impact on the environment.

Among others represented in the collection are Rodney Graham, Naoya Hatakeyama, Richard Misrach
and James Welling. The duo Anderson & Low (Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low), whose portraits of athletes have achieved particular notice, are represented in the gift by a diptych of a cadet/athlete at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Some items from the gift will begin to go on view in the BMA's newly renovated Contemporary Wing in May. 

The O'Neil contribution was made in support of the BMA's "In a New Light" campaign, which started in 2008 to raise funds (for endowment, capital support, etc.) and gifts of art. The museum marks its centennial this year.

The museum's curator of contemporary art Kristen Hileman praised the O'Neils' "passion, connoisseur's eye, and thoughtfulness," and said that their gift has "expanded the BMA's contemporary photography collection in a way that we could not otherwise have imagined possible."

The BMA's collection of more than 4,000 photographic works received its last major gift in 1988 -- 700-plus works from Baltimore collector George M. Dalsheimer.