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Lee Nordness business records and papers, circa 1931-1992, bulk 1954-1984

Lee Nordness business records and papers, circa 1931-1992, bulk 1954-1984

Nordness, Lee, 1922-1995

Dealer

Collection Information

Size: 117.4 linear feet

Summary: The Lee Nordness business records and papers measure 117.4 linear feet and date from circa 1931 to 1992 with the bulk of materials dating from 1954 to 1984. The records document seven New York City art-related companies with which Nordness was involved: Talent Discovery Company, The Little Studio, Ltd., American Art Expositions, Inc., Nordness Gallery, Inc., Lee Nordness Galleries Art Advisory Section, Inc., Lee Nordness Galleries Exhibition Section, Inc., and Forms & Objects, Inc. Records include correspondence, artist's files, business and legal records, inventories, financial and sales records, printed materials, scrapbooks, and photographic materials. Also found is a small group of personal papers.

Biographical/Historical Note

Lee Nordness (1922-1995) was an art dealer in New York City.

Provenance

The Lee Nordness business records and papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in several increments by Lee Nordness in 1976, 1986, and as a bequest in 1996. Original materials were also lent by Nordness in 1964 and 1969 for microfilming, some of which may have been included in subsequent donations.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collection Care Preservation Fund.

A Finding Aid to the Lee Nordness business records and papers, circa 1931-1992 (bulk 1954-1984), in the Archives of American Art
AAA.nordlee
Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Haug
Biographical/Historical note
New York City gallerist and entrepreneur Lee Nordness (1922-1995) was born in Olympia, Washington. He studied art in college and received a bachelor's degree from Uppsala University in Sweden. From 1954-1956, Nordness ran a small gallery, Talent Discovery Company, out of his apartment in New York City. Around 1955, Nordness became the director of The Little Studio, Ltd., a gallery started by Richard Kollmer in 1952 to showcase moderately priced artwork by young artists. Nordness took over the business in 1957; it closed in April 1963.
In 1958, Nordness incorporated American Art Expositions, Inc. to organize
Art:USA:58
, a large exposition of contemporary American art held at Madison Square Garden. The following year
Art:USA:59
was held at the New York Coliseum.
Lee Nordness opened his own gallery, Nordness Gallery, Inc., in December 1957 on Madison Avenue. The gallery promoted a roster of contemporary painters and sculptors, including David Aronson, Al Blaustein, Alberto Collie, Ralston Crawford, Robert D'Arista, Kahlil Gibran, Ruth Gikow, Peter Grippe, Milton Hebald, Zubel Kachadoorian, James Kearns, Julian Levi, Walter Meigs, Gregorio Prestopino, Hiram Williams, Karl Zerbe, and the estates of Louis Guglielmi and Rico Lebrun. In 1966, Lee Nordness reorganized his businesses. He closed Nordness Gallery and opened Lee Nordness Art Advisory Section, an art consulting service to corporations, collectors, museums, and individuals, and Lee Nordness Galleries Exhibition Sections, Inc. to handle exhibitions and the sale of paintings and sculptures.
Lee Nordness had an interest in American crafts and, beginning in 1968, he added a permanent roster of American craftmakers to exhibit alongside paintings and sculpture. He opened Forms & Objects, Inc. to handle the exhibition and sales of fine crafts such as ceramics, fiber, glass, metal and wood. With a need for additional exhibition space, the gallery moved a few blocks off Madison Avenue to 236-238 East 75th Street.
Nordness traveled the globe to assemble prominent collections for clients, such as Art:USA, a collection of contemporary works by 102 American artists for S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Art:USA traveled throughout the United States and Europe in the mid-late 1960s before being donated to the National Collection of Fine Arts (Smithsonian Institution). In the late 1960s, he assembled a collection of 300 American craft objects for S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. called Objects:USA, which toured throughout the United States and Europe. This collection was disassembled in the late 1970s, many of the works donated to the Museum of Arts and Design, formerly the Museum of Contemporary Craft.
Nordness closed his New York galleries in the mid-1980s. Soon after, he moved to Belfair, Washington and opened Lee Nordness Galleries, Inc. in 1986. He passed away in 1995 in Washington.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 7 series:
Series 1: Nordness Gallery, Inc. and Lee Nordness Galleries Art Advisory Section, Inc., circa 1938-1992, bulk 1958-1982 (67.8 linear feet; Boxes 1-67, 117-119)
Series 2: Lee Nordness Galleries Exhibition Section, Inc., 1938-1985 (25.4 linear feet; Boxes 68-93, 120)
Series 3: Forms & Objects, Inc., circa 1931, circa 1959-1984 (13.5 linear feet; Boxes 93-106, 120)
Series 4: American Art Expositions, Inc., 1955-1968 (1.4 linear feet; Boxes 106-107)
Series 5: The Little Studio, Inc., 1947-1969 (7.7 linear feet; Boxes 108-115, 121)
Series 6: Talent Discovery Company, 1953-1957 (0.9 linear feet; Boxes 115-116, 121)
Series 7: Personal Papers of Lee Nordness, 1948-1976 (0.7 linear feet; Box 116)
Scope and Contents note
The Lee Nordness business records and papers measure 117.4 linear feet and date from circa 1931 to 1992 with the bulk of materials dating from 1954 to 1984. The records document seven New York City art-related companies with which Nordness was involved: Talent Discovery Company, The Little Studio, Ltd., American Art Expositions, Inc., Nordness Gallery, Inc., Lee Nordness Galleries Art Advisory Section, Inc., Lee Nordness Galleries Exhibition Section, Inc., and Forms & Objects, Inc. Records include correspondence, artist's files, business and legal records, inventories, financial and sales records, printed materials, scrapbooks, and photographic materials. Also found is a small group of personal papers.
More than half of the collection documents Lee Nordness' primary businesses, Nordness Gallery, Inc. and Lee Nordness Galleries Art Advisory Section, Inc. Business correspondence, artist's files, extensive project files, business and legal records, financial and sales records, inventories, printed materials, scrapbooks, and photographic materials reveal Nordness' role as an art dealer of contemporary American artwork and art consultant to companies and organizations. The records document his ability to adapt to changing external markets as well as his own interests, from dealing primarily in paintings and sculpture to promoting American fine crafts. Artists from Nordness' permanent roster are represented, including David Aronson, Al Blaustein, Alberto Collie, Ralston Crawford, Robert D'Arista, Kahlil Gibran, Ruth Gikow, Peter Grippe, Louis Guglielmi, Milton Hebald, Zubel Kachadoorian, James Kearns, Rico Lebrun, Julian Levi, Walter Meigs, Gregorio Prestopino, Hiram Williams, and Karl Zerbe. Companies and organizations represented include S.C. Johnson & Son, Co., Metromedia, and Cooper-Hewitt, National Museum of Design. Because materials from Nordness Gallery, Inc. and Art Advisory Section were often interfiled and related, the records were not separated into different series.
The records of Lee Nordness Galleries Exhibition Section, Inc. document the exhibition and sale of artwork through correspondence, artist's files, business records, financial and sales records, and scrapbooks for artists and exhibition seasons. Forms & Objects, Inc. contains correspondence, lecture notes, public relations files, business records, financial and sales records, scrapbooks and photographic materials related to American fine crafts.
The organization and press surrounding the monumental exhibitions
Art:USA:58
and
Art:USA:59
are illustrated in the correspondence, banking records, founding documents, newspaper clippings, paid bill receipts, and sales invoices of the American Art Expositions, Inc. records. Photographs of the Art:USA:59 artists taken by Fred Darrah are also found here.
The bulk of the records of The Little Studio, Inc. are financial records and sales invoices. Lee Nordness' involvement in the gallery is also documented through correspondence and business records. The records of Talent Discovery Company are primarily financial, including banking records, receipts, and tax records. Also found are shipping records, correspondence, and inventory cards.
There are few personal papers of Lee Nordness, the bulk of which are related to his involvement with his tenant cooperative. Also found is scattered correspondence, a scrapbook, and travel documents.
Records for the various companies were co-mingled upon accession. AAA has attempted to place papers in Nordness' original order based on discussions with Nordness and evidence from the records. However, researchers should note there is significant interfiling of the companies' records throughout the collection, especially scrapbooks and photographs. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use dates and keywords to help discover related materials throughout all series.
Abbreviations were often written by the gallery in the upper left-hand corner of a document to indicate to which company the record should be filed. Abbreviations used include: Nordness Gallery, "NG" or "LN"; Art Advisory Section, "AA" or "LN"; Exhibition Section, "ES" or "E/S"; Forms & Objects, "F/O"; American Art Expositions, "AAE"; The Little Studio, "TLS"; and, Talent Discovery Company, "TDC."
Provenance
The Lee Nordness business records and papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in several increments by Lee Nordness in 1976, 1986, and as a bequest in 1996. Original materials were also lent by Nordness in 1964 and 1969 for microfilming, some of which may have been included in subsequent donations.
Separated Materials note
Three microfilm reels of material were loaned to the Archives of American Art by Lee Nordness in 1959 regarding American Art Exposition, Inc.'s
Art:USA 58
and
Art:USA:59
. Microfilm includes correspondence, catalogs, visitor lists, press releases, lists of artwork, financial records, and advertising materials and is available on reels NAU1, NAU2 and NAU3.
Later, in 1964 and 1969, Lee Nordness loaned original materials for microfilming compiled by Nordness Gallery about the careers of Gregorio Prestopino, Julian E. Levi, and Lee Gatch, including correspondence, exhibition materials, biographical information, clippings, and photographs. Loaned material is available on reels N69-21 and D169. Original materials were returned to Nordness, but some may have been included in later donations and those originals have been integrated with the other donated records.
The contents of microfilm reels are not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Sarah Haug in 2012, with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care Preservation Fund.
The Archives of American Art has implemented minimal processing tactics when possible in order to increase access to more of our collections. Minimal processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder titles and dates, but not arranged further. Folder titles were transcribed from original folder headings. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders. Staples and other fasteners were not removed, but correspondence was removed from envelopes and filed behind the envelope. Materials were removed from binders or damaged binding when necessary.
Nordness' arrangement of papers was originally arranged by company. This arrangement was destroyed when Nordness had the papers moved. AAA has attempted to place papers in Nordness' original order based on discussions with Nordness and evidence from the records.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Lee Nordness business records and papers, circa 1931-1992, bulk 1954-1984. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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