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Exhibition records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art, 1943-1975, bulk 1964-1975

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Megan McShea
Scope and Contents
The exhibition records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art measure 20.9 linear feet and date from 1943 to 1975, with the bulk of records dating from the period its galleries were in operation, from 1964 to 1975. Over two-thirds of the collection consists of exhibition files, which contain a wide range of documentation including artist files, checklists, correspondence, writings, photographs, interviews, numerous films and videos, artist statements, printed materials, and other records. Also found within the collection are administrative records of the museum, artist files, and papers of the Contemporary Wing's director and curator, Elayne Varian, which were produced outside of her work at Finch College.
Administrative records include records relating to the general operation of the Contemporary Wing concerning fundraising, professional associations, budget, contact information for artists, donors, and lenders to exhibitions. Also found are records of the permanent collection of artworks acquired by the museum between 1964 and 1975 from contemporary artists and collectors of contemporary art.
Artist files contain basic biographical information on over 150 contemporary artists, with scattered correspondence, photographs, technical information about artworks, artist statements, and other writings. Artist files also include an incomplete run of artist questionnaires gathered by the New York Arts Calendar Annual for 1964.
Elayne Varian's personal papers include curatorial records, a course schedule and syllabus related to her teaching activities, and various writings. Curatorial projects documented in Varian's papers include three programs produced outside of Finch College, including a juried show at the New York State Fair in 1967, a film series at Everson Museum of Syracuse University, and an exhibition at Guild Hall in East Hampton in 1973. Several of Varian's writing projects involved interviews, which are also found in this series in the form of sound recordings and transcripts. Interview-based writing projects include individual profiles on Brian O'Doherty and Babette Newberger, and interviews conducted for an article on the artist-dealer relationship published in
Art in America
(January 1970). Dealers interviewed for the latter project include Leo Castelli, Virginia Dwan, John Gibson, Richard Feigen, Arnold Glimcher, Fred Mueller, Martha Jackson, Sidney Janis, Betty Parsons, Seth Siegelaub, and Howard Wise. Artists interviewed include Roy Lichtenstein, Adolph Gottlieb, and Charles Ross.
Exhibition files, comprising the bulk of the collection, document exhibitions held in the Contemporary Wing during its existence from 1964 to 1975. Types of records found in the series include exhibition catalogs, correspondence, loan agreements, lists, contact information, insurance valuations of artworks, photographs, biographical information on artists, clippings, posters, press releases, and other publicity materials. In addition to the rich textual and photographic records found for exhibitions, numerous audiovisual recordings are also found, some of which were made in preparation for an exhibition, some document mounted exhibitions, and others are artworks themselves or components of artworks exhibited in the galleries. Interviews with artists, dealers, and others involved in exhibitions include Alan Sonfist, Mel Bochner, Hans Richter, Ruth Richards, James Brooks and Janet Katz, Margaret Benyon, Irwin Hollander (transcript only), David Anderson, Doris Chase, Will Insley, Michael Kirby, Les Levine, Ursula Meyer, Brian O'Doherty, Charles Ross, Tony Smith, Douglas Davis, Jane Davis, Russ Connor, Les Levine, Michael Mazur, Paul Gedeohn, and physicists Lloyd G. Cross, Allyn Z. Lite, and Gerald Thomas Bern Pethick. Video artworks, recordings of performances, or components of multimedia artworks are found by artists Vito Acconci, Kathy Dillon, Douglas Davis, Dan Graham, Les Levine, Bruce Nauman, Michael Netter, Eric Siegel, and Robert Whitman. A film of the
Art in Process: The Visual Development of a Structure
(1966) exhibition is found, and video recordings of artists Lynda Benglis, Michael Singer, and Sam Wiener form as part of the documentation for the
Projected Art: Artists at Work
(1971) exhibition.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Archives of American Art acquired these records from the Finch College Museum of Art after it closed permanently in June 1975.
Related Materials
Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with curator Elayne Varian conducted by Paul Cummings, May 2, 1975.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' Hidden Collections grant program. Funding for the digitization of two motion picture films was provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee, and for the remaining sound and video recordings from the Smithsonian's Collection Care Pool Fund. Funding for the digitization of the collection, not including audiovisual materials, was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Processing Information
This collection was fully processed and a finding aid prepared by Megan McShea in 2013 with funding provided by the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Hidden Collections" grant program. Motion picture film reel inspected and re-housed in 2016-2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The collection was prepared for digitization and the finding aid updated by Rihoko Ueno in 2018 with funding provided by The Walton Family Foundation.