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More Information | A Finding Aid to the Downtown Gallery records, 1824-1974, bulk 1926-1969 | Digitized Collection

Downtown Gallery records, 1824-1974, bulk 1926-1969

More Information

A Finding Aid to the Downtown Gallery Records,1824-1974, bulk 1926-1969, in the Archives of American Art
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Finding aid prepared by Catherine Stover Gaines
Scope and Content Note
The Downtown Gallery records constitute 109.5 linear feet on 167 reels of microfilm. The records are dated 1824 to 1974 with bulk dates from 1926 to 1969. There is an unprocessed addition to this collection dating circa 1970 of a single financial/legal document.
The Downtown Gallery was established in 1926 as Our Gallery and operated under the name Downtown Gallery from 1927 until 1973. Nineteenth-century material consists of items acquired by Edith Gregor Halpert for research purposes or to document works of art in the gallery's inventory. The few records postdating the closing of the gallery relate to the estate of Edith Gregor Halpert.
The extensive records of the Downtown Gallery present a comprehensive portrait of a significant commercial gallery that operated as a successful business for more than forty years, representing major contemporary American artists and engendering appreciation for early American folk art. Edith Halpert, the gallery's founder and director, was an influential force in the American art world for a large part of the twentieth century.
Personal papers are intermingled with the business records of the Downtown Gallery. Many of the artists represented by the gallery were Halpert's personal friends, and over the years she developed social relationships and friendships with many clients. These relationships are reflected by the contents of the records, especially the correspondence, some of which is purely personal. In addition, there are a small number of letters from relatives, photographs of Halpert's family, home and friends, and limited information about her country house and personal finances.
The Downtown Gallery records consist largely of correspondence with collectors, including Edgar and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, Preston Harrison, Mr. and Mrs. Maxim Karolik, William H. Lane, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Beram K. Saklatwalla, Robert Tannahill, and Electra Havemeyer Webb; with dealers, including robert Carlen, Landau Gallery, Leicester Galleries, Mirski Gallery, and Isabel Carleton Wilde; and with large numbers of curators and museum directors, including many affiliated with university museums. In addition, there is correspondence concerning routine gallery business and administrative affairs.
Artist files and an extensive series of notebooks (American Folk Art Gallery notebooks, artist notebooks, and publicity notebooks) compiled by gallery staff contain a wide variety of material and are a rich source of information about individual artists and the Downtown Gallery's exhibition history.
Business records include exhibition records, stock records, sales records, transit records, financial records, lists of artwork and clients, legal documents, minutes, insurance records, research files, and architectural plans.
Writings by Edith Gregor Halpert consist of articles on American folk art, speeches, and short stories; also included are her school notebooks and "Daily Thoughtlets" compiled at age seventeen. All writings by other authors are on art subjects, and most are texts or introductions for exhibition catalogs.
Among the miscellaneous records are biographical material on Edith Gregor Halpert and Samuel Halpert, works of art by Edith Gregor Halpert and other artists, artifacts, and audiovisual materials. The artifacts include wooden weather vane molds and supporting documentation as well as awards presented to Halpert. Audiovisual materials are 16-mm motion picture films of the Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation television series,
America: The Artist's Eye
, produced between 1961 and 1963 in association with Jensen Productions. An additional 16-mm motion picture film includes "tails out" footage of Charles Sheeler at home and at work, circa 1950. A copy of the program about Sheeler, along with the "tails out" material, is also on videocassette. In addition, there is a sound recording of a talk on collecting given by Halpert's client, folk art collector Maxim Karolik, in 1962.
Printed matter consists of items produced by the Downtown Gallery, including exhibition catalogs, checklists, invitations, announcements, and press releases. There are also news clippings about Halpert, the Downtown Gallery, and the Edith Gregor Halpert Collection; other art-related clippings are arranged topically. Miscellaneous printed matter not produced by the Downtown Gallery includes newsletters, press releases, publications of art organizations, and reproductions of artwork. A selection of twenty-five volumes from the personal library of Edith Gregor Halpert has been retained.
The photographs series includes images of people: Edith Gregor Halpert, family, friends, also many images of her dog, Adam, and views of her country home in Newtown, Connecticut. Other photographs of people include portraits of artists, most of whom were affiliated with the Downtown Gallery. There are also photographs of works of art (with a large number of black-and-white negatives, 35-mm color slides, and glass plate negatives) and of exhibitions, of the exterior and interior of the Downtown Gallery, and of an award presented to Halpert.
Language
English
Provenance
Between 1957 and 1967, the Downtown Gallery loaned portions of its records to the Archives of American Art for microfilming. Because the microfilming was done in increments, the material was not always filmed in logical sequence, and overlapping and duplication of records occurred. Since files loaned for microfilming were, for the most part, still working records used to conduct ongoing gallery business, their contents changed and shifted over time. After Edith Halpert's death in 1970, the records of the Downtown Gallery were received by the Archives of American Art, 1972-1978, as a gift from her niece and executor, Nathaly Baum. In addition to the previously microfilmed material, the gift includes correspondence, inventories and sales records, financial records, photographs, and printed matter, as well as artifacts.One additional document received 2016 by Karen Freeman, daughter of Arthur H. Freeman, who did business at L.D. Landau and Co. Freeman represented halpert as an insurance agent.
Related Material
Berman, Avis.
Pioneers in American Museums: Edith Halpert
.
Museum News
54, no. 2 (November/December 1975): 34-37, 61-64.
Bragazzi, Olive.
The Story Behind the Rediscovery of William Harnett and John Peto by Edith Halpert and Alfred Frankenstein
.
American Art Journal
15, no. 3 (Spring 1984): 51-65.
Tepfer, Diane.
Edith Gregor Halpert and the Downtown Gallery/Downtown, 1926-1940: A Study in American Art Patronage
. Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1989.
Edith Gregor Halpert, interview by Harlan Phillips, 1962-1963. Oral History Program, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Edith Gregor Halpert, interview by Harlan Phillips, January 20, 1965. New Deal and the Arts Project, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Edith Gregor Halpert, lecture delivered at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, October 19, 1959, on the 1959 American National Art Exhibition in Moscow. Tape-recorded by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and transcribed by the the Downtown Gallery staff.
In addition, the Archives of American Art has among its collections personal papers and oral history interviews of artists and collectors associated with the Downtown Gallery. Researchers are advised to conduct a name search in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS).
Funding
Funding for the processing, microfilming and digitization of the microfilm of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation
Processing Information
Through the generosity of the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc., the Archives of American Art has been able to process and microfilm the Downtown Gallery records and publish this finding aid for use with the microfilm. Related records, now more logically ordered into archival series, are arranged and described according to prevailing archival standards to facilitate access. The collection was processed by Catherine Stover Gaines and Lisa Lynch in 2000. Dr. Diane Tepfer's dissertation (1989) on Edith Gregor Halpert was an invaluable resource in arranging and describing the records of the Downtown Gallery; her chronology was the point of departure for our work. Glass plate negatives were re-housed in 2015 with a grant provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.