Interim Director of the Archives of American Art Dr. Liza Kirwin has been awarded the 2012 Secretary’s Research Prize for her exhibition catalog Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. The publication celebrates a common document—the list—as a key to the lives of some of the most celebrated artists of the last two centuries.
There are hundreds of thousands of lists in the Archives of American Art. This exhibition and catalog includes intriguing examples from Leo Castelli’s to-do lists to Oscar Bluemner’s illustrated list of works of art. Whether dashed off as a quick reminder or carefully constructed as a comprehensive inventory, this humble form of documentation provides insight into its maker’s personal habits and decision-making processes. Pablo Picasso itemized his recommendations for the 1913 Armory Show; Robert Smithson wrote down 21 quotes about spirals around the time he completed Spiral Jetty; Eero Saarinen enumerated the good qualities of the then New York Times art editor and critic Aline Bernstein, his soon-to-be second wife; and Alexander Calder’s address book reveals the who’s who of the Parisian avant-garde in the early 20th century. In the hands of their creators, sometimes these artifacts become works of art in and of themselves.
Secretary G. Wayne Clough recognizes up to ten outstanding projects each year from around the Smithsonian Institution. Dr. Kirwin’s book was an awardee in the “exhibition catalogs” category. The Archives of American Art congratulates Dr. Kirwin on this well-deserved honor.
The accompanying exhibition was on display from February 5 to September 27, 2010 in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the Smithsonian’s Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. It subsequently traveled to the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City and will open at its next venue, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, on March 15, 2013.