Raymond Saroff papers, 1953-2009

A Finding Aid to the Raymond Saroff papers, 1953-2009, in the Archives of American Art, by Margot Chandler and Rachel Salzmann

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Raymond Saroff (b. 1922), a resident of New York City, is a filmmaker and collector of both modern and folk art. Saroff pursued his interest in American folk art with his partner, Howard Rose, a scholar and art collector. In 1960, Saroff purchased Leg, a paper mach´┐Ż sculpture by Claes Oldenburg. Around the same time, he became interested in "Happenings." Using borrowed equipment, Saroff filmed a series of 1962 "Happenings" known as "Ray Gun Theater" that Oldenburg presented to small audiences in a storefront on East Second Street, New York City.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Raymond Saroff papers are dated 1953-2009 and comprise 1.2 linear feet. Letters, printed material and photographs compiled by Saroff document his interest in Claes Oldenburg and ?Happenings.? Also included are a videotape of Saroff?s film Claes Oldenburg?s ?Ray Gun Theater ? 1962? and receipts for artwork purchased for his modern art collection. The 2014 addition includes a catalog essay by curator and collector Howard Rose, Saroff?s partner, for an exhibition of their folk art collection at Bard College (1991). Also found are financial records regarding his collections, related printed material, and photographs of artwork.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged in 2 series:

Subjects and Names

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

  • Oldenburg, Claes, 1929-
  • Collectors and collecting--New York (State)--New York
  • Photographs
  • Video recordings


Gift of Raymond Saroff, 2011 and 2014.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Margot Chandler in 2011. The 2014 addition was processed to a minimal level and the finding aid updated by Rachel Salzmann in 2015.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original material requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Raymond Saroff papers 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

Raymond Saroff papers, 1953-2009. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Raymond Saroff papers concerning Claes Oldenburg, 1953-2009
0.5 Linear feet; Box 1

This series documents Saroff's interest in Claes Oldenburg. Of note is Saroff's film Claes Oldenburg's Ray Gun Theater - 1962" . In 1962, ten "Happenings" conceived by Oldenburg known as "Ray Gun Theater" were presented in New York City at a store on East Second Street. Each evening-long event was filmed by Saroff, who then edited the film to approximately two hours before releasing it commercially. Correspondence concerns gifts and loans from Saroff's art collection. Financial records consist of sales receipts including one for his purchase of Leg. Printed material includes exhibition catalogs, clippings, and miscellaneous items. Photographs and a transparency are of Oldenburg's work in several media.

Box Folder
1 1 Letters, 1969-2009
1 2 Financial Records - Sales Receipts (A-Z by Gallery), 1953-1985
1 3 Claes Oldenburg's "Ray Gun Theater - 1962" by Raymond Saroff (1962), 1995
1 Videocassette (VHS)
1 Printed Material
1 4-7 Exhibition Catalogs, circa 1960-1995
1 8 Clippings, 1960-1995
1 9 Press Kit, 1995
1 10 Miscellaneous Items, 1964-1995
1 11 Photographs of Artwork by Oldenburg, 1960s-1970s
includes 1 color transparency

Series 2: Addition to the Raymond Saroff papers, 1960-2009
0.7 Linear feet; Boxes 1-2

Correspondence pertains to sales and loans from Saroff's Oldenburg art collection as well as from the folk art collection developed and owned by Saroff and Howard Rose. Among the writings are Rose's published and unpublished manuscripts on American folk art. Financial records include a collection inventory with provenance, attribution, and price information. Also found are receipts from galleries and auction houses documenting loans and sales. Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs. Photographs are of artwork.

Box Folder
1 12 Correspondence about Claes Oldenburg Collection, 1962, 1983-1985
1 13 Correspondence about Sales and Loans, 1962, 1989-1995
1 14 Writings by Howard Rose on American Folk Art, 1982-1990
1 15 Inventories of the Saroff and Rose Folk Art Collection, 1983-1995
1 16 Financial Records - Receipts for Sales, Deliveries, Consignments, 1984-1995
1 Printed Material
1 17 Clippings, 1988-1992
1 18 Announcements, Invitations and Press Releases, 1963-1999
1 19 Exhibition Catalogs, 1965-1995
1 20 Film Catalogs, 1963-1988
Box Folder
2 1 Film Catalogs, 1963-1988
2 2 Periodical, 1967, 1967
2 3 Photographs of Artwork, circa 1960-2000
includes slides and color transparencies