Nicholas Wilder Gallery records, 1944-1984, (bulk 1968-1979)

A Finding Aid to the Nicholas Wilder Gallery Records, 1944-1984, bulk 1968-1979, in the Archives of American Art, by Jayna M. Hanson

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Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Getty Foundation

Table of Contents:



Historical Information

In April 1965, Nicholas Wilder (1937-1989) founded his contemporary art gallery at 814 North La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. His interest in art started at Amherst College where he worked for the art department as a slide technician. While in graduate school at Stanford University, he worked at the Lanyon Gallery in Palo Alto, California. An initial offer of financial backing to open a gallery inspired a move to Los Angeles. Although that offer fell through, Wilder remained determined. In late 1964, Wilder sold shares of his future gallery to friends in order to secure funds. He bought the shares back shortly after opening.

The Nicholas Wilder Gallery's first show featured Edward Avedisian. The gallery expanded and featured artists from New York and California, including: Joe Goode, John McCracken, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, Cy Twombly, Ed Moses, Ken Price, Agnes Martin, John Altoon, Sam Francis, Billy Al Bengston, and Hans Hofmann. The gallery helped start the careers of American artists such as Robert Graham, Tom Holland, Ron Davis, and Bruce Nauman. In 1970, the gallery moved to 8225 ½ Santa Monica Boulevard. Through its fourteen years of operation, the gallery held a new show every month. Wilder's openings represented a large source of pride and he ensured that every opening reception included a stocked bar for his clients.

Initially, the gallery succeeded through Wilder's talents and passion for art. At its peak, the Nicholas Wilder Gallery sold two million dollars worth of art per year. However, in the mid-1970s a change in attitude within the art world affected sales. According to Wilder, many artists no longer painted for expression but as a viable business venture. Furthermore, he claimed that buyers would not risk collecting works from a younger or less well-known artist. In addition to these factors, Wilder attributed the decline of his gallery to his extravagance and lack of business sensibilities. Eventually, the gallery faced financial problems and Wilder recognized the need to leave the business.

The Nicholas Wilder Gallery closed on December 31, 1979. Wilder informed his employees that he would close a year in advance and ensured that all of his artists found a new gallery for representation. He moved to New York after leaving his gallery and became an artist. Nicholas Wilder passed away in 1989 from AIDS-related causes.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The records of the Nicholas Wilder Gallery of Los Angeles measure 2.4 linear feet and date from 1944 through 1984, with the bulk of materials dating from 1968 to 1979. Scattered documentation of the contemporary art gallery's fourteen years of operation include artists' inventory cards (the bulk of the collection), photographic transparencies, letters and correspondence, invitations, notes, business and financial documents, and printed materials.

The majority of records date from the period after the gallery moved to La Cienega Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Very few records pertaining to specific exhibitions or openings are included in this collection. However, there is one exhibition catalog and scattered gallery invitations which were used as scrap paper. Other materials include business records that contain financial materials and notes. Printed Materials contain popular newspapers and magazines that reflect Wilder's interests, invitations to other galleries, auction catalogs, and business cards. Correspondence includes scattered gallery correspondence, Wilder's personal correspondence and documents, and holiday cards.

The bulk of the collection consists of artist files which include inventory cards and transparencies of works of art. Information on the inventory cards and transparencies may specify: date of creation, date of accession, potential collectors, purchase records, and titles. Notable artists include: Joe Goode, Tom Holland, Robert Graham, Billy Al Bengston, Cy Twombly, Ken Price, Ed Moses, Ron Davis, John McCracken, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, Agnes Martin, Edward Avedisian, John Altoon, Richard Yokomi, Sam Francis, Bruce Nauman, Hans Hofmann, and David Hockney. The majority of inventory cards reflect business at the gallery in the mid-late 1970s.

Financial records originating from the James Corcoran Gallery are included in this collection. The relationship between the two establishments is unclear although it seems that the James Corcoran Gallery moved into the space previously occupied by the Nicholas Wilder Gallery.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into four series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms:

  • Altoon, John, 1925-
  • Avedisian, Edward, 1936-2007
  • Bengston, Billy Al
  • Davis, Ron, 1937-
  • Francis, Sam, 1923-
  • Frankenthaler, Helen, 1928-
  • Goode, Joe, 1937-
  • Graham, Robert, 1938-
  • Hockney, David
  • Hofmann, Hans, 1880-1966
  • Holland, Tom, 1936-
  • James Corcoran Gallery
  • Martin, Agnes, 1912-
  • McCracken, John, 1934-
  • Moses, Ed, 1926-
  • Nauman, Bruce, 1941-
  • Noland, Kenneth, 1924-
  • Olitski, Jules, 1922-
  • Price, Kenneth, 1935-
  • Twombly, Cy, 1928-
  • Wilder, Nicholas
  • Yokomi, Richard
  • Art dealers -- California -- Los Angeles
  • Art galleries, Commercial--California--Los Angeles
  • Artists -- California -- Los Angeles

Provenance

The Nicholas Wilder Gallery records were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1998 by Matthew Curtis Klebaum, a friend of Wilder's and a former employee of the James Corcoran Gallery.

Separated and Related Materials

Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Nicholas Wilder conducted by Ruth Bowman on July 18, 1988.

How the Collection was Processed

The records were processed by Jayna M. Hanson in 2008 with funding provided by the Getty Foundation.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Nicholas Wilder Gallery records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Nicholas Wilder Gallery records, 1944-1984. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Business Records, 1968-1978, 1980-1984, circa 1970s
(Box 1; 5 folders)

This series includes financial materials, lists of works of art and notes and memoranda. Although these materials are scattered, one may find information concerning the financial problems facing the gallery in the late 1970s. Financial documents from the James Corcoran Gallery are included although they post-date the Nicholas Wilder Gallery. Many documents from the James Corcoran Gallery still refer to that of Wilder. Also found are receipts and bills from various vendors and businesses. Notes and Memoranda folders include phone messages, hand-written notes, and unidentified sketches which probably represent gallery plans. One folder of notes are found on the backs of invitations to openings at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery.

Materials are arranged by date with undated materials at the end.

Box Folder
1 1 Financial Material, 1968-1970, 1976-1978, circa 1970s
1 2 Financial Material -- James Corcoran Gallery, 1980-1984
1 3 Lists of Works of Art, before 1980
1 4 Notes and Memoranda (written on Nicholas Wilder Gallery invitations), circa 1970s
1 5 Notes and Memoranda, 1975, 1978, circa 1970s

Series 2: Correspondence, 1974-1981, circa 1970s
(Box 1; 4 folders)

This series includes scattered incoming letters and mailings as well as drafts of outgoing letters. Much of the outgoing correspondence is undated, hand-written, and only includes a first name. Also included are personal correspondence and biographical materials relating to Nicholas Wilder, theft notice mailings, and holiday cards.

Materials are arranged by date with undated materials at the end.

Box Folder
1 6 Gallery Correspondence, 1974-1978, circa 1970s
1 7 Theft Notices -- Art Dealers Association of America, 1977-1978
1 8 Nicholas Wilder Personal Correspondence and Documents, 1977-1978, 1980-1981
1 9 Holiday Cards, 1977, circa 1970s

Series 3: Printed Material, 1976-1980, circa 1970s
(Box 1; 9 folders)

This series includes scattered brochures and catalogs advertising rare book and Sotheby's auctions, various business cards, Nicholas Wilder Gallery stationery, invitations to openings at other galleries, and one catalog of an exhibition at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery. Magazines and newspapers reflect Wilder's interests in cars and popular culture.

Materials are arranged by date with undated materials at the end.

Box Folder
1 10-11 Brochures and Auction Catalogs, 1976-1980, circa 1970s
(2 folders)
1 12 Business Cards, circa 1970s
1 13 Exhibiton Catalog -- Nicholas Wilder Gallery, 1977
1 14-15 Invitations -- Other Galleries, 1977-1978, circa late 1970s
(2 folders)
1 16-17 Newspapers and Magazines, 1977-1978
(2 folders)
1 18 Stationery (blank), after 1969

Series 4: Artists Files, 1944-1984, circa late 1960s-1970s
(Box 1-3; 2 linear feet)

This series which comprises the bulk of the collection consists primarily of inventory cards arranged by name of artist that provide information on individual works of art shown at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery. There are also transparencies of the works of art. Both types of documents are arranged by artist.

The Artist Files series is arranged into 2 subseries:

4.1: Inventory Cards, 1965-1984

This subseries is composed of inventory cards originating from the Nicholas Wilder Gallery. Each work of art received a card with an inventory date and accession number. These cards are arranged according to artist with unidentified artists at the end. Within each file, cards are arranged according to the year in which a work of art was brought into the gallery. Many of the cards are not complete but may include: title and date of the work, sales information, potential collectors, date of accession, and dimensions.

Box Folder
1 19 Acton, Ario, 1974
1 20 Alexander, Peter, 1974
1 21 Almeida, Raymond, 1974, 1977
1 22 Altoon, John, 1965, 1972-1978
1 23 Arnoldi, Charles, 1973-1977
1 24 Avedisian, Edward, 1974-1975
1 25 Bachardy, Don, 1974-1977
1 26 Baer, Jo, 1973-1974
1 27 Baldwin, Gordon, 1977
1 28 Bannard, Darby, 1974, circa 1970s
1 29 Bell, Larry, 1977
1 30 Bengston, Billy Al, 1974
1 31 Berman, Wallace, 1974
1 32 Bradley, Peter, 1978
1 33 Bush, Jack, 1975, 1978
1 34 Christensen, Dan, 1974
1 35 Davis, Ron, 1973-1979
1 36 Davis, Stuart, 1974
1 37 De Maria, Walter, 1974
1 38 DeFrance, James, 1976
1 39 Delap, Tony, 1974-1978, circa 1970s
1 40 Diebenkorn, Richard, 1974
1 41 Eatherton, (Thomas), 1974
1 44 Frankenthaler, Helen, 1974-1976
1 45 Goddard, (?), 1974
1 46 Goode, Joe, 1974-1979
1 47 Goodnough, Robert, 1974, 1978, probably after 1974
1 48 Gorky, Arshile, 1975
1 49 Graham, Robert, 1973-1977
1 50 Graves, Morris, 1975-1976
1 51 Hall, Nigel, 1974
1 52 Helm, Robert, 1976-1978
1 53 Herms, George, 1973-1975, 1977-1978
1 54 Hockney, David, 1974, 1976-1977
1 55 Hofmann, Hans, 1973, 1975
Box Folder
2 1 Holland, Tom, 1973-1979
2 2 Hoyland, John, 1973, 1975, circa 1970s
2 3 Krushenick, Nicholas, 1974
2 4 Lachaise, Gaston, 1976
2 5 Lichtenstein, Roy, 1976
2 6 Lieberman, Alexander, 1977
2 7 Louis, Morris, 1977
2 8 Martin, Agnes, 1973-1975, circa 1970s
2 9 McCollum, Allan, 1973-1976
2 10 McCracken, John, 1974-1977
2 11 McDermott, Mo, 1977
2 12 Moses, Ed, 1973-1974, 1978, circa 1970s
2 13 Murray, Clark, 1974
2 14 Murrill, Gwynn, 1977-1978
2 15 Nauman, Bruce, 1973-1978
2 16 Noland, Kenneth, 1975
2 17 Okamura, (Arthur), 1974
2 18 Olitski, Jules, 1973-1975, 1977
2 19 Pettit, William, 1974-1975
2 20 Poons, Larry, 1974
2 21 Price, Kenneth, 1973-1975, circa 1970s
2 22 Prockter, Patrick, 1974
2 23 Raciti, Cheri(e), 1975, 1977
2 24 Rauschenberg, Robert, 1975, after 1974
2 25 Smith, Alexis, 1977-1978
2 26 Smith, Richard, 1976, 1978
2 27 Snyder, Joan, 1978
2 28 Sorensen, Don, 1975-1979
2 29 Spence, Andrew, 1974, 1976-1977
2 30 Stanzack, Julian, 1974
2 31 Stein, Louis, 1974
2 32 Todd, Michael, 1976
2 33 Torres, Horacio, 1975
2 34 Tuttle, Richard, 1975
2 35 Twombly, Cy, 1974, 1976
2 36 Westerman, H.C., 1974
2 37 Williams, Guy, 1974
2 38 Williams, William Thomas, around 1970
2 39 Wright, Stanton McDonald, 1976
2 40 Yokomi, Richard, 1973-1976, 1978, circa 1970s
2 41 Zecher, Peter, 1974-1975, 1977-1978
2 42 Unknown Artist(s), 1974, 1984

4.2: Transparencies, 1944-1978, circa late 1960s-1970s

This subseries consists of photographic transparencies of works of art. Presumably, the Nicholas Wilder Gallery showed these works. Transparencies are arranged by name of artist. Dates are determined by the date written on the card which is probably the year during which the work of art was created.

Box Folder
2 43 Alexander, Peter, 1968, circa late 1960s
2 44 Altoon, John, 1966, 1968, circa late 1960s
2 45 Arnoldi, Charles, 1974, 1977-1978, circa 1970s
2 46 Avedisian, Edward, circa 1970s
2 47 Bachardy, Don, 1974, circa 1970s
2 48 Baer, Jo, 1961-1962, 1971-1972, circa 1970s
2 49 Bengston, Billy Al, 1971-1972, 1974
2 50 Brice, William, 1976, circa 1970s
2 51 Bush, Jack, 1969, circa late 1960s
2 52 Christensen, Dan, 1972, 1974, circa 1970s
2 53 Davis, (?), 1968-1969
2 54 DeFrance, James, 1973, circa 1970s
2 55 Delap, Tony, 1978
2 56 Denman, (?), circa 1960s-1970s
2 57 Francis, Sam, 1973-1974, circa 1970s
2 58 Goodnough, Robert, 1970, circa 1970s
2 59 Graham, Robert, 1971-1973, circa 1970s
2 60 Graves, Morris, circa 1970s
2 61 Gustin, Phillip, circa 1970s
2 62 Herms, George, 1973
2 63 Hockney, David, 1976, circa 1970s
2 64 Hofmann, Hans, 1944
2 65 Holland, Tom, 1973-1977, circa 1970s
2 66 McCollum, Allan, 1972, 1974, circa 1970s
Box Folder
3 (hol) 1 McCracken, John, 1974, 1976, circa 1970s
3 (hol) 2 McLaughlin, John, 1946, 1956-1959, 1962-1963, 1971, 1973-1974
3 (hol) 3 Murrill, Gwynn, 1975-1977
3 (hol) 4 Nauman, Bruce, 1966, 1973-1974, circa 1960s-1970s
3 (hol) 5 Olitski, Jules, 1968, circa late 1960s or 1970s
3 (hol) 6 Olsen, R., 1968
3 (hol) 7 Pettit, William, 1968, circa late 1960s
3 (hol) 8 Raciti, Cherie, 1972-1975
3 (hol) 9 Smith, Alexis, 1977
3 (hol) 10 Snyder, Joan, 1972, 1974, circa 1970s
3 (hol) 11 Torres, Horatio, 1974
3 (hol) 12 Yokomi, Richard, 1969, 1972-1973, 1975-1976
3 (hol) 13 Zecher, Peter, 1973-1974
3 (hol) 14 Unidentified Artist(s), circa 1960s-1970s