Skip to main content

Oral history interview with Dennis Adrian, 2015 October 8-9

Oral history interview with Dennis Adrian, 2015 October 8-9

Adrian, Dennis, 1937-

Curator, Art historian, Educator, Author


Collection Information

Size: 4 sound files (4 hrs., 18 min.) digital, wav

Summary: An interview with Dennis Adrian conducted 2015 October 8-9, by Lanny Silverman, for the Archives of American Art's Chicago's Art-Related Archival Materials: A Terra Foundation Resource, at Adrian's home in Seaside, Oregon.

Adrian speaks of growing up in Astoria; traveling to Chicago and New York; Cannon Beach; aging and getting older; his origins; curating; visual sensibilities; the Portland Public Library; opera; his parents; Finnish sensibility and humor; Portland Art Museum and classes for children; curator as voyeur; credit and accomplishments; hands on experiences; Artforum; art history; attending University of Chicago; homosexuality; looted European masterworks; Botticelli; exposure to real art; connoisseurship; collecting; a Robert Louis Stevenson letter; grandparents; violin making; family; growing into yourself; Chicago; coming out; war; New York University; Frumkin Gallery; collectors; New York; the art world; curators; Madison Art Center; Akron Art Museum; friendship and role models; Art Institute of Chicago; meeting Mies van der Rohe; meeting idols; education; Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker; Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art; Monster Roster; traveling; Chicago art politics; writing and critics; Eurocentric curators; Chicago as an undervalued city; Dog Day Afternoon; discovering art; New York sightings; and experiences running into artists. Adrian also recalls Roger Brown, Ruth Horwich, Gilda Buchbinder, Don Baum, Sherman Lee, Victor Carlson, Peter Voulkos, Lawrence Alloway, Rhona Hoffman, Allan Frumkin, June Leaf, Leon Golub, Jeremy Anderson, Lawrence Alloway, Robert Barnes, Tom Garver, Bruce Conner, Natasha Nicholson, H. C. Westermann, Franz Schulze, Bertha Harris Wiles, Muriel Newman, Aaron James Spire, Lillian Florsheim, John Maxon, Greg Knight, P.B. Maryan, Philip Pearlstein, Sylvia Sleigh, Nancy Spero, Irving Petlin, John Coplans, Alan Artner, Alice Shaddle, Phyllis Kind, Andy Warhol, Joseph Cornell, Tilda Swinton, Leo Castelli, Philip Guston, Dubuffet, Pussy Pepke, Bumpy Rogers, Barbara Rossi, Christina Ramberg, Phil Hanson, Philip Hanson, Miyoko Ito, Mark Jackson, Rolph Achilles, and Vito Acconci.

Biographical/Historical Note

Dennis Adrian (1937- ) is an art critic, educator, and curator in Chicago, Illinois. Lanny Silverman (1947- ) is a curator at the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Illinois.


This interview is part of the Archives of American Art 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 administrators.


Funding for this interview was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

How to Use This Collection

For information on how to access this interview contact Reference Services.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Dennis Adrian, 2015 October 8-9. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.