Scope and Contents
The Lee Nordness business records and papers measure 117.5 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."
Immediate Source of Acquisition
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.
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.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collection Care Preservation Fund
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.
Motion picture film reel was inspected and re-housed in 2016-2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.