Sheldon Ross Gallery records, 1970-2007, bulk 1976-1995

A Finding Aid to the Sheldon Ross Gallery Records, 1970-2007, bulk 1976-1995, in the Archives of American Art, by Harriet E. Shapiro

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Support provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Table of Contents:

Historical Information

The Sheldon Ross Gallery (1975-1993), Birmingham, Michigan, and later Sheldon Ross Fine Arts and Sheldon Ross Fine Arts LLC (1993-2000) were operated by Sheldon Ross until his death in 2000. The Sheldon Ross Gallery was the only gallery in the Detroit area to consistently show German Expressionist art, emphasizing graphics. However, the gallery and Ross are best known for their early and continued support of Romare Bearden's work. The exhibition history shows a balance between an interest in local artists and an effort to offer diverse artwork from broad based sources.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The records of the Sheldon Ross Gallery, Birmingham, Michigan, measure 1.8 linear feet and are dated 1970-2007, with the bulk of materials dating from 1976-1995. The majority of the collection consists of artists' files. About half of the materials relate to Romare Bearden's work and his relationship with Sheldon Ross, the gallery owner. Also included are artists' files regarding George Grosz and Michigan artists. The contents of artists' files vary but generally include biographical information, printed materials and photographic images. The collection also contains correspondence, exhibition files, and photographs documenting the gallery's activities.

The gallery records document its exhibition history, exhibition reviews, sales of artwork, and Ross' significant projects. Also included are photographs and slides documenting much of the artwork exhibited. Materials relating to Romare Bearden include writings by and about Bearden and his artwork and correspondence between Bearden and Ross during the years 1976-1989. There are many catalogs of Bearden's solo exhibitions at galleries, museums, and institutions, as well as exhibition reviews from newspapers and magazines, and images of Bearden's works.

The gallery exhibited other well-known artists including 20th century American artists and German Expressionists, notably George Grosz, who instructed Bearden at the Art Students League in New York. Found in the records are exhibition catalogues, price lists, inventory cards and artists' background materials. Also found is correspondence with museums, artists and clients, and slides and other photographic material of artwork offered by the gallery. Of note is correspondence between Sheldon Ross and the FBI concerning Ross' participation as an expert witness in a prosecution of individuals who were involved in Romare Bearden forgeries.

There are drawings of Sheldon Ross and The Sheldon Ross Galley by his son, Robert Ross. Photographs are of Sheldon Ross and Romare Bearden, Sheldon Ross with family and friends, and the predecessor gallery, Middle Earth Gallery.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged in 7 Series. Materials are generally arranged by record type and chronologically thereafter.

Subjects and Names

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

  • Art Students League (New York, N.Y.) -- Faculty
  • Art Students League (New York, N.Y.) -- Students
  • Bearden, Romare, 1911-1988
  • Bearden, Romare, 1922-1988
  • Grosz, George, 1893-1959
  • Middle Earth Gallery
  • Ross, Sheldon, 1925-2000
  • United States--Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Art galleries, Commercial--Michigan
  • Arts--Forgeries
  • Expressionism (Art)--Germany
  • Photographs
  • Sketches
  • Writings


The records were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2010 by Phyllis Ross, widow of Sheldon Ross.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Harriet E. Shapiro in 2011.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original materials requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access requires advance notice.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Sheldon Ross 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

Sheldon Ross Gallery records, circa 1970-2007, bulk 1976-1995. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Gallery History, 1976-2000
0.2 Linear feet; Box 1, OV 4

Material concerning the Sheldon Ross Gallery history consists of newspaper clippings, press releases and mailings to clients. There also is a 1996 videotaped panel discussion at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island, New York in which Sheldon Ross discusses his role as an art dealer and collector. The Middle Earth Gallery folder consists of press releases and photographs of Sheldon Ross in the Gallery with local artists.

Box Folder
1 1 Sheldon Ross Gallery, 1976-2000
1 2 Middle Earth Gallery, (Predecessor of Sheldon Ross Gallery), 1970-1972

Series 2: Correspondence, 1982-1999
0.1 Linear feet; Box 1

Sheldon Ross Gallery correspondence includes letters between Sheldon Ross and the Whitney Museum concerning Ross' loan to the Museum of a work by Milton Avery and correspondence with galleries and collectors concerning sales of artwork. Special Agent Catherine Begley of the FBI corresponded with Ross regarding his participation as an expert witness in a prosecution for alleged forgery of Bearden's work. Also found are cards from friends and associates sent on the occasion of Sheldon Ross' 60th birthday.

Box Folder
1 3 Sheldon Ross Gallery Correspondence, 1982-1999
1 4 Sheldon Ross 60th Birthday Cards, 1985

Series 3: Exhibition Files, 1976-1988
0.1 Linear feet; Box 1

This series includes various exhibition lists with prices and write-ups concerning artists such as Kaethe Kollwitz, Max Beckmann, Karl Staber, John Sloan and Oscar Bluemner.

The "Die Shaffenden" exhibition, held at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, Canada, is documented by inventory cards and price lists, loan correspondence, and an exhibition announcement.

Box Folder
1 5 Exhibition Lists, 1976-1988
1 6 "Die Shaffenden Exhibition"(1976), 1976

Series 4: Artists' Files, 1968-2007
0.9 Linear feet; Boxes 1-2

The artists' files comprise about half of the Sheldon Ross Gallery records and most of these materials concern Romare Bearden. Also featured are records relating to George Grosz and Michigan artists Sue Lindburg [Browse], Susan Hauptman, Ron Morosan, Leo Mardirosian, Caroline Court, Israel Kaplanski, Gordon Orears and Allie McGhee. The types and quantities of materials vary from one artist to another.

The Romare Bearden materials include correspondence between Romare Bearden and Sheldon Ross spanning almost twenty years. Also included are biographical material and writings by and about Bearden and his work, including numerous exhibition catalogs.

The Romare Bearden biographical material includes a recording of a 1988 National Public Radio program entitled "Collage: From the Life and Art of Romare Bearden," a list of solo exhibitions from 1940-1980, and a selected bibliography concerning the artist and his work. There also is a writing by Bearden, "Rectangular Structures in My Montage Paintings" as well as copies of essays about Bearden and his work.

Materials concerning George Grosz include newspaper clippings, price lists and exhibition catalogs in addition to many photographs of works. The Michigan artists file contains some biographical material, newspaper clippings, photographs of artworks, and sketches of "art awards" by an unidentified person.

Additional material concerning Michigan artists is found in a folder titled "Exhibition Lists" folder in Series 3, Exhibition Files.

Box Folder
1 Romare Bearden
1 7 Biographical Material, 1980-1996
1 8 Letters to Sheldon Ross, 1974-1989
1 9 Letters from Sheldon Ross, 1976-1988
1 10 Writings by and about Romare Bearden, 1969-1983
1 11 The Mint Museum, 1970-1981
1 12 The Studio Museum in Harlem, 1991-1993
1 13 Exhibitions at Sheldon Ross Gallery, 1971-1990
1 14 Group Exhibitions, circa 1970-1996
1 15 Solo Exhibitions, New York, 1968-1986
1 16 Solo Exhibitions, Other, 1986-2007
1 18 Clippings, 1971-2001
1 19 Clippings, 1971-2001
1 20 Clippings, 1971-2001
1 21 Photographs, Artwork "Sold" and "Unsold,," after 1970
1 22 Transparencies, after 1970
1 23 Reproductions, after 1970
Box Folder
2 1 George Grosz, 1979-1988
2 2 George Grosz Photographic Material, 1976-1986
2 3 Michigan Artists, 1978-1999

Series 5: Printed Material, 1976-2000

Found are gallery exhibition reviews which appeared mostly in Detroit area newspapers. The exhibition announcements are both postcards and more elaborate materials, including some posters.

Box Folder
2 4 Clippings, 1976-2000
2 5 Announcements, 1976-1988

Series 6: Drawings by Robert Ross, after 1975
0.1 Linear feet; OV 5

This file contains two drawings by Sheldon Ross' son, Robert Ross; one is of the gallery and the other of Sheldon Ross in his gallery.

Series 7: Photographic Materials, circa 1970-2000
0.2 Linear feet; Boxes 2-3, OV 5

The core photographic material includes a collection of 35-mm color slides of artwork by Romare Bearden and George Grosz. There also are photographs of artwork, Sheldon Ross, and others involved in the galllery.

Box Folder
2 6 Photographs of Sheldon Ross, Friends and Family, after 1970
Oversized materials housed in OV 5
2 7 Artwork, after 1970
2 8 Transparencies and Negatives of Artwork, after 1970
Box Folder
3 1-3 Slides of Artwork, 1975-2000
3 slide boxes