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Howard Wise Gallery records, 1943-1989

Howard Wise Gallery records, 1943-1989

Howard Wise Gallery

Collection Information

Size: 11.4 linear feet

Summary: The records of the Howard Wise Gallery in New York, and its predecessor the Howard Wise Gallery of Present Day Painting and Sculpture in Cleveland, Ohio, measure 11.4 linear feet and date from 1943-1989. Records consist of correspondence, artist files, exhibition files, business records, writings, and video recordings that document the activities of Wise's gallery in Cleveland from 1957-1961 and, to a lesser extent, his gallery in New York City from 1960-1970. Wise's activities following the closing of the Howard Wise Gallery are also found among the correspondence, artist files, business records, writings, and video recordings.

Correspondence documents the operations of Wise's galleries in Cleveland and New York. A few subject files and a small amount of Howard Wise's personal correspondence (some pre-dating and post-dating the galleries) are also included in this series.

Artist files contain varying combinations of correspondence, printed material, notes and writings, and photographs. Most artists represented in this series were affiliated with Howard Wise Gallery either in Cleveland or New York City, but some files are for individuals of potential interest to the gallery, and those of continued interest to Wise after the closing of the gallery. Exhibition files contain correspondence, printed material, guest lists, and notes. Exhibition files are not a comprehensive record of exhibitions held in Wise's galleries.

Business records include records of cash disbursements that are primarily for Howard Wise's travel and entertainment expenses. Business memoranda and correspondence between the Cleveland and New York galleries document sales, inventory, shipments and financial information. Also among the business records are photographs of the Howard Wise Gallery of Present Day Painting and Sculpture in Cleveland, a set of slides of artworks and installation views dating to the late 1950s, and inventories and loan documentation related to Howard Wise's personal art collection. Writings consist of essays and speeches by Howard Wise, writings on Howard Wise and the Howard Wise Gallery artists by Douglas MacAgy and Marita Sturken, and a typescript recollection of a dinner party conversation with Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger from 1973.

Video recordings include 41 videoreels and videocassettes, a log book of video shot by Wise in the early 1970s, and a program for a screening of his videos held in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Recordings are mainly unedited footage of interviews with artists and community figures, gallery openings, and other community events in Wellfleet, Massachusetts and the greater Cape Cod region. A log book and detailed labels on videos provide details about their content. Three edited works made by Wise from the raw footage include "video portraits" of Serge Chermayeff, Edwin Dickinson, and Jack Tworkov. Also found is footage from the premiere performance of Jean Dubuffet's "Coucou Bazaar" at the Guggenheim Museum, and a dinner party attended by Dubuffet. Video of works by other artists include footage from media and kinetic artworks shown in the Howard Wise Gallery from 1964-1967, as well as a video performance by Hannah Wilke from 1974.

Biographical/Historical Note

The Howard Wise Gallery (established 1960, closed 1970) was an art gallery in New York, New York and Cleveland, Ohio. Wise opened the New York gallery in 1960 after several years in Cleveland. The gallery specialized in kinetic art and light sculpture. In 1971, he closed the gallery to concentrate on Electronic Arts Intermix, an arts support group in the New York area, and then moved to Wellfleet, Massachusetts.


The Howard Wise Gallery records were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1971 by Howard Wise and in 2011 by Barbara Wise, Howard Wise's widow via Dana Kasarsky, Wise's daughter-in-law.

Related Materials

Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Howard Wise conducted by Paul Cummings on February 22, 1971. The Harvard Art Museum Archives also holds archival records of the Howard Wise Gallery.

Location of Originals

  • Reel N70-77: Originals returned to Howard Wise Gallery after microfilming.

A Finding Aid to the Howard Wise Gallery Records,
, in the Archives of American Art
Historical Note
After twenty-five years as president of Arco Company, his family's industrial paint and varnish manufacturing business in Cleveland, Howard Wise (1903-1989) sold his interest in the business and began to pursue his own artistic interests. The Howard Wise Gallery of Present Day Painting and Sculpture opened in Cleveland in 1957 and operated for the next five years. It first showed School of Paris and New York painters and also sold prints. With the exception of a few collectors and loyal customers, Clevelanders did not appreciate Wise's efforts to bring the best new art from all over the world to the city. The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran several editorials ridiculing modern art in general and Howard Wise and his gallery in particular. Attendance was poor and Wise decided to relocate to New York.
After a year of searching for a suitable location and renovating the space, Howard Wise Gallery opened at 50 West 57th Street in 1960. The gallery generated excitement among visitors and artists, and sales and attendance were much better than in Cleveland. After closing the Cleveland gallery in 1961 Wise never again returned to his native city. Despite being well received and conducting significantly more business in New York, the gallery was not a great financial success. Between 1962 and 1965, art consultant Douglas MacAgy, a friend and the former director of the Dallas Museum of Art, worked with Wise in running the gallery. Although the critics were not always favorably impressed, Howard Wise Gallery had a significant following and made important contributions through its support of the use of technology in art, specifically kinetic and light sculpture and the video art movement.
By the late 1960s, Wise recognized that a gallery setting was not suitable for many of the new art forms. He closed Howard Wise Gallery in 1970 so that he could focus his energy and resources on exploring the best way to support environmental sculpture, political work, and video art. Wise founded Electronic Arts Intermix in 1971. Originally an artist-run umbrella organization, today Electronic Arts Intermix is a non-profit videotape distribution service and editing facility, that has amassed an important and highly regarded video art collection.
The collection is arranged as 5 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1943-1984 (Boxes 1-2; 2.0 linear ft.)
Series 2: Artist Files, 1950-1984 (Boxes 3-6; 3.4 linear ft.)
Series 3: Exhibition Files, 1957-1968 (Boxes 6-7; 0.9 linear ft.)
Series 4: Business Records, 1957-1989 (Boxes 7-9; 2.6 linear ft.)
Series 5: Writings, 1957-1984 (Box 9; 4 folders)
Series 6: Video Recordings, 1973-1985 (2.5 linear feet)
The Howard Wise Gallery records were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1971 by Howard Wise and in 2011 by Barbara Wise, Howard Wise's widow via Dana Kasarsky, Wise's daughter-in-law.
Location of Originals
  • Reel N70-77: Originals returned to Howard Wise Gallery after microfilming.
Processing Information
The records were processed in 2006 and 2011 by Catherine S. Gaines. Megan McShea integrated the 2011 addition with the collection and updated the finding aid in 2016.

Additional Forms Available

Many of the video recordings have been preserved, and digital copies are available for researchers in the Archives of American Art offices.

Restrictions on Access

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

How to Cite This Collection

Howard Wise Gallery records, 1943-1989. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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