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Thomas M. Messer papers, 1949-2010

Messer, Thomas M., 1920-2013

Museum director

Collection Information

Size: 4.6 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of New York museum director and independent curator Thomas M. Messer measure 4.6 linear feet and date from 1949-2010. Material includes correspondence, a diary transcript, and printed material that reflect Messer's long career, primarily as director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Correspondence comprises the bulk of the collection and documents the relationships he built with artists, art historians, curators, and others colleagues. Notable correspondents include Francis Bacon, Will Barnet, Larry Bell, Alberto Burri, Pol Bury, Marc Chagall, Chryssa, Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Dan Flavin, Helen Frankenthaler, Alberto Giacometti, Richard Hamilton, Jean Hélion, Grace Knowlton, Rosemarie Koczy, Jirí Kolár, Katharine Kuh, Agnes Martin, Henry Moore, George Rickey, Charles Simonds, Clyfford Still, Jack Tworkov, and many others.

Biographical/Historical Note

Thomas Messer (1920-2013) was a museum director and independent curator in New York, New York. Born and raised in Czechoslovakia, Messer became a United States citizen in 1944 and served in the United States Army in World War II. He earned his bachelor's degree from Boston University and studied at the Sorbonne in France before returning to the United States to study art history and museology at Harvard University. After obtaining his graduate degree, Messer was the director of the Roswell Museum in Roswell, New Mexico and then of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. In 1961, Messer became the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which includes the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy. Messer retired from his position there in 1988 and became a freelance curator, teacher, writer, and arts consultant.


Donated to the Archives of American Art in 1995 by Thomas Messer and in 2016 by the Thomas Messer estate via Adam Lehner, executor.

Related Materials

Language Note

Collection is in English, French, German, and Czech