|Director||Liza Kirwin (Interim Director)|
|Public transit access||Gallery Place – Chinatown|
The Archives of American Art is the largest collection of primary resources documenting the history of the visual arts in the United States. More than 20 million items of original materialare housed in the Archives' research centers in Washington, D.C. and New York City.
As a research center within the Smithsonian Institution, the Archives houses materials related to a variety of American visual art and artists. All regions of the country and numerous eras and art movements are represented. Among the significant artists represented in its collection are Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Marcel Breuer, Rockwell Kent, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, John Trumbull, and Alexander Calder. In addition to the papers of artists, the Archives collects documentary material from art galleries, art dealers, and art collectors. It also houses a collection of over 2,000 art-related oral history interviews, and publishes a bi-yearly publication, the Archives of American Art Journal , which showcases collections within the Archives.
The Archives of American Art was founded in Detroit in 1954 by then Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, E.P. Richardson, and art collector Lawrence A. Fleischman. The first archivist was Arline Custer, the librarian of the Detroit Institute of Arts Research Library.Concerned about the lack of material relating to American art, Richardson and Fleischman organized the Archives of American Art with the support of scholars and businessmen. Their intention was to collect materials related to American artists, art dealers, institutions and writers, and to allow scholars and writers to access the holdings. In 1970 the Archives became part of the Smithsonian Institution, moving its processing center and storage facility from Detroit to the Old Patent Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Currently the collection and offices are located at the Victor Building, on 9th Street NW, only a few blocks away from the Old Patent Office Building. [ page needed ] Every year the Archives honors individual contributions to the American art community with the Archives of American Art Medal and art historians with the Lawrence A. Fleischman Award for Scholarly Excellence in the Field of American Art History. These awards are presented at the Archives' annual benefit and have been rewarded to Mark di Suvero, Chuck Close, John Wilmerding and others.
In 2011, the Archives of American Art became the first Smithsonian business unit to work directly with Wikipedia through the Wikipedia Galleries, Libraries, and Museums project, starting by appointing the first Smithsonian Wikipedian in Residence, Sarah Stierch.
Upon the founding of the Archives, all collections, whether loaned or donated to the Archives, were duplicated on microfilm, allowing the Archives to offer easy access to its collections nationwide and to establish archival databases in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Detroit, and at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco.Today's affiliates consist of the DeYoung, Boston Public Library, the Amon Carter Museum and The Huntington Library. The Archives also offers microfilm for interlibrary loan at no charge. Microfilm is no longer being produced at the Archives as it has been superseded by digitization. With funding from the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Program, the Archives has fully digitized numerous collections, which are accessible on their website. In April, 2011, the Archives received a second Terra grant of $3 million to fund another five years of digitization and technological developments, which began in 2005 with a $3.6 million grant from Terra.
The Archives relies heavily on grants and private donations to fund the archival processing and care of collections. In 2009 the Archives received a $213,315 grant from the Leon Levy Foundation to process the André Emmerich Gallery records and a $100,000 gift from the Kress Foundation to complete the digitization of the Jacques Seligmann & Company records. In 2009 the Archives acquired 88 collections totaling 717 linear feet.
The Archives holds a unique collection of material from notable artists, dealers, critics and collectors. While papers and documents make up a large portion of the Archives, more unique objects have been acquired over the years. These include a bird nest and a Kewpie doll from the collection of artist Joseph Cornell; painter George Luks' death mask; and a cast iron model car that belonged to Franz Kline.The earliest letter in the collection was written by John Smibert in 1743, in which Smibert describes to his dealer his theories about the future of art in America.
The Archives maintain over 50 paper collections of African American artists. Subjects covered in these personal papers include the expatriate experience, racism within the arts, and the Federal Art Project. The collection includes the sketchbooks of Palmer Hayden, Horace Pippin's illustrated journal of his military service during World War I, and photographs of Alma Thomas. Other notable collections represent Charles Alston, Hughie Lee-Smith, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden and Henry Ossawa Tanner.
Over 100 individuals and organizations are represented in the Archives' Latin American art collection. Topics range from Mexican muralism to Surrealism, New Deal art patronage and the Chicano Movement. Notable collections include the diary of Carlos Lopez, the sketchbooks of Emilio Sanchez, source material for Mel Ramos and research materials from Esther McCoy relating to Mexican architecture. They also maintain oral histories starting in 1964.
In 1989–1996, with additions in 2007 and 2017, Boris Mirski's family donated the records of the Boris Mirski Gallery (1944-1979) to the Archives. Mirski's Gallery showed avant-garde art, including work in the New York and international modern art styles as well as non-western art. But it was best known for being a major birthing ground for American Figurative Expressionism as a whole, and Boston Expressionism, in particular, especially for mid-century Jewish American artists.Several key figures in Boston Expressionism, linked to Mirski, have also given oral history interviews to the Archives, including Hyman Bloom, David Aronson, Jack Levine, Marianna Pineda, Arthur Polonsky and Karl Zerbe.
In 2007, gallery owner Leo Castelli's family donated his papers to the Archives. It took three years to organize the collection of more than 400 linear feet. The collection consists of the sales of every artwork sold by the gallery during Castelli's lifetime, published reviews of the gallery's exhibits, photographs, and correspondence with the many artists he represented, which included, among others, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, and Andy Warhol.
Painter, author and illustrator Rockwell Kent donated his collection in 1969. It contained over 60,000 letters, notes, sketches, manuscripts, photographs and business records covering 70 years. One month later his house burned to the ground and Kent was quoted as stating that he had wished he had donated the entire house to the Archives.
In 1958, the Archives of American Art started an oral history program with base support from the Ford Foundation and continued with support from New York State Council on the Arts, Pew Charitable Trust, the Mark Rothko Foundation, and the Pasadena Art Alliance. Today the Archives houses nearly 2,000 oral history interviews relating to American art.The program continues today with funding from the Terra Foundation of American Art, the Brown Foundation of Houston, the Widgeon Point Charitable Foundation, the Art Dealers Association of America. Donor Nanette L. Laitman funded The Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America enabling over 150 interviews with American craft artists.
In 2009, the Archives received two major grants to further their oral history program: a $75,000 grant from the A G Foundation which established the Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts Project destined to fund oral history interviews with important women within the American art community),and a $250,000 grant from Save America's Treasures to assist with the digitization of approximately 4,000 recordings and the preservation of 6,000 hours of sound.
The Archives mounts rotating exhibitions of its collections at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in Washington, D.C. Exhibitions have included Of the Moment: A Video Sampler from the Archives of American Art, and Hard Times, 1929-1939, which examined the Great Depression's impact on American artists.In 2012, the Archives celebrated the centennial birth of Jackson Pollock with an exhibition of Pollock's archives and artwork.
The Archives of American Art is one of nine research centers of the Smithsonian Institution. It is managed by a director, nominated by a board of trustees. Governance includes an executive committee, a council, and emeriti members.
To illuminate scholarship of the history of art in America through collecting, preserving, and making available for study the documentation of this country's rich artistic legacy.
The Federal Art Project (1935–1943) was a New Deal program to fund the visual arts in the United States. Under national director Holger Cahill, it was one of five Federal Project Number One projects sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the largest of the New Deal art projects. It was created not as a cultural activity, but as a relief measure to employ artists and artisans to create murals, easel paintings, sculpture, graphic art, posters, photography, theatre scenic design, and arts and crafts. The WPA Federal Art Project established more than 100 community art centers throughout the country, researched and documented American design, commissioned a significant body of public art without restriction to content or subject matter, and sustained some 10,000 artists and craft workers during the Great Depression.
The Freer Gallery of Art is an art museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. focusing on Asian art. The Freer and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery together form the Smithsonian's national museums of Asian art in the United States. The Freer and Sackler galleries house the largest Asian art research library in the country and contain art from East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Islamic world, the ancient Near East, and ancient Egypt, as well as a significant collection of American art.
Charles Sheeler was an American painter and commercial photographer. He is recognized as one of the founders of American modernism, developing a "quasi-photographic" style of painting known as Precisionism and becoming one of the master photographers of the 20th century.
Betty Parsons was an American artist, art dealer, and collector known for her early promotion of Abstract Expressionism. She is regarded as one of the most influential and dynamic figures of the American avant-garde.
Purvis Young was an American artist from the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Young's work, often a blend of collage and painting, utilizes found objects and the experience of African Americans in the south. Young gained recognition as a cult contemporary artist, with a collectors' following that included Jane Fonda, Damon Wayans, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and others. In 2006 a feature documentary titled Purvis of Overtown was produced about his life and work. His work is found in the collections of the American Folk Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and others. In 2018, he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.
Gifford Beal was an American artist noted for his work as a painter, watercolorist, printmaker and muralist.
The National Anthropological Archives is a collection of historical and contemporary documents maintained by the Smithsonian Institution, which document the history of anthropology and the world's peoples and cultures. It is located in the Smithsonian's Museum Support Center in Suitland, Maryland, and is part of the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History.
Margaret Frances "Peggy" Bacon was an American artist, best known for her satirical caricatures.
William Schaus was an American entomologist who became known for his major contribution to the knowledge and description of new species of the Neotropical Lepidoptera.
Tom Joyce is a sculptor and MacArthur Fellow known for his work in forged steel and cast iron. Using skills and technology acquired through early training as a blacksmith, Joyce addresses the environmental, political, and social implications of using iron in his work. Exhibited internationally since the 1980s, his work is included in 30-plus public collections in the U.S. and abroad. Joyce works from studios in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and since 2012, in Brussels, Belgium, producing sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, and videos that reference themes of iron in the human body, iron in industry, and iron in nature.
Antonio "Tony" Prieto (1912–1967) was a ceramic artist and art professor at Mills College in Oakland, California. He was instrumental in developing an important ceramics collection for the Mills College Art Museum. He was born in Yaldepenas, Spain on August 23, 1912, and died in Oakland on March 11, 1967.
Paul J. Smith was an arts administrator, curator, and artist based in New York. Smith was professionally involved with the art, craft, and design fields since the early 1950s and was closely associated with the twentieth-century studio craft movement in the United States. He joined the staff of the American Craftsmen's Council in 1957, and in 1963 was appointed Director of the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, a position he held for the next 24 years. In September 1987, he assumed the title of Director Emeritus and continued to work as an independent curator and consultant for museums, arts organizations, and collectors.
Beth Lipman is a contemporary artist working in glass. She is best known for her glass still-life compositions which reference the work of 16th- and 17th-century European painters.
Eric Ian Spoutz is an American art dealer, art historian and museum curator. In 2003, he founded the Eric I. Spoutz Gallery in the Fisher Building in Detroit, Michigan, subsequently opening Gallery 928 at the Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village in Cape Coral, Florida in addition to galleries in Palm Beach, Florida and Los Angeles, California.
Bernard Chaet was an American artist; Chaet is known for his colorful, dynamic modernist paintings and masterful draftsmanship, his association with the Boston Expressionists, and his 40-year career as a Professor of Painting at Yale University. His works also include watercolors and prints. In 1994, he was named a National Academician by the National Academy of Design.
The Boris Mirski Gallery(1944-1979) was a Boston art gallery owned by Boris Chaim Mirski (1898-1974). The Gallery was known for exhibiting key figures in Boston Expressionism, New York and international modern art styles and non-western art. For years, the gallery dominated with figurative and African American work. As an art dealer, Mirski was known for supporting young, emerging artists, including many Jewish-Americans, as well as artists of color, women artists and immigrants. As a result of Mirski's avant-garde approach to art and diversified approach to dealing art, the gallery was at the center of Boston's burgeoning modern mid-century art scene, as well as instrumental in the birth and development of Boston Expressionism, the most significant branch of American Figurative Expressionism.
Melvin Joel Zabarsky (1932–2019) was an American figurative painter who created representational work in the narrative tradition. Known for a bright, bold palette, his work often explores political, historical and cultural themes to surreal and realist effect. In a six-decade career marked by several distinct phases, Zabarsky's imaginative use of color, formal experimentation and commitment to narrative organization in both traditional and avant garde styles are hallmarks of his work. In an interview with the British philosophers Donald and Monica Skilling, he said, "I'm discovering history, or a narrative, within a painting, as I go along."
Raquel Rabinovich is an Argentinian-American artist. She is known for her monochromatic paintings and drawings as well as for her large-scale glass sculpture environments and site-specific installations along the shores of the Hudson River. She is included in the Oral History Program of the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art. Her work is included in numerous museum collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Nanette L. Laitman was an art collector and a philanthropist. She has been involved with the board of the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) and its precursors in New York City for over 25 years. She became a member of the board in 1994 and board president in 2000. She was one of the main benefactors supporting MAD's relocation to 2 Columbus Circle in 2002. Laitman has also funded the Nanette Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.
Lloyd Eldred Herman is an arts administrator, curator and museum planner who is an acknowledged expert on contemporary craft. He is best known for being the founding Director of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C..
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