The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) said Monday that it had acquired its first Eric Francis photograph, “Sacred Union.”

"Sacred Union" by Eric Francis was donated to the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection last month. Click image to enlarge.

“Sacred Union” by Eric Francis was purchased from Mr. Francis and donated to the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection last month. Click image to enlarge.

British ski mogul Butley Waterfield III purchased the piece from Mr. Francis in early 2009 for $3.1 million, and donated it to the museum’s permanent collection last week. A spokesman for Mr. Waterfield had no comment. But the spokesman’s spokesman said, “You’re not going to hang up anything like this in England, not even at the Tate Modern, so everyone figured it would be better off in New York.”

“We don’t really understand it,” said MOMA’s photography curator, Wilma Bernstein. “However, our committee decided that it seems to be making an important comment. This is precisely the criteria we are looking for in our permanent photography collection.”

“We think it’s a reference to Hitchcock,” said Anna Sofai, a professor of photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Photographer Gregory Crewdson, who graduated one year ahead of Mr. Francis from John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, described the photo as where “Hieronymus Bosch meets Betty Dodson.”

“He is definitely making a statement about society. Many people feel this way, but they don’t have the words for it. I hope they hang this thing somewhere that people can actually see it.

“But he should really print it with us,” Crewdson added. “We could get it bigger than 600 pixels wide.”

“It seems more postmodern than modern,” said Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos & Psyche. “But it also reflects the profound cultural tension associated with the Saturn-Uranus opposition.”

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