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Oral history interview with Abram Lerner, 1975 Dec. 9-1976 Jan. 27

Lerner, Abram, 1913-2007

Museum director


Collection Information

Size: 179 Pages, Transcript

Format: Originally recorded on 3 sound tape reels. Reformatted in 2010 as 6 digital wav files. Duration is 5 hrs., 36 min.

Summary: An interview of Abram Lerner conducted 1975 Dec. 9-1976 Jan. 27, by Paul Cummings, for the Archives of American Art.
Lerner speaks of his childhood and youth in New York City; his education; going to museums and developing an interest in art; his painting career; getting on the WPA mural project; artists' unions and their importance; the gallery scene in New York City in the 1930s; going to work at the A.C.A. Gallery; meeting Joseph Hirshhorn, becoming friends and going to work for him; Hirshhorn's style of collecting; vainly trying to keep track of Hirshhorn's acquisitions; early exhibitions of Hirshhorn's collection, and their effect on the art market; Hirshhorn's involvement with the Smithsonian Institution and the beginning of the Hirshhorn Museum; the development of the Museum and its interaction with the Smithsonian; early exhibitions there; problems of museum administration and security; public response to the Hirshhorn Museum.
Lerner recalls Philip Evergood, Burgoyne Diller, Max Weber, and Douglas MacAgy.

Biographical/Historical Note

Abram Lerner (1913-2007) was a museum director in Washington, D.C.


These interviews are part of the Archives' Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.

Language Note

English .


Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

How to Use This Collection

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Abram Lerner, 1975 Dec. 9-1976 Jan. 27. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.