Daniel Grant surpasses his own general excellence with today’s delicately braided narrative of Leo Castelli’s dealings as a gallerist and the value and importance of the Smithsonian’s The Archives of American Art:
The Archives of American Art were founded in 1954 by Edgar P. Richardson, then director of the Detroit Institute of Art, who was frustrated in his attempts to research certain American artists whose papers had seemingly vanished. The Archives now contain over 5,500 document collections, including those from artists Milton Avery, Romare Bearden, Isabel Bishop, Alexander Calder, Thomas Eakins, Jacob Lawrence, Louise Nevelson, Jackson Pollock and Grant Wood; in all, there are 16 million letters, diaries, photographs, audio and video recordings, scrapbooks, manuscripts and financial records of artists, critics, dealers, collectors and scholars. Papers are cataloged, microfilmed and stored.
In 1970, the Archives became a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution. (In 2005, when the Archives received a $3.5 million grant from the Terra Foundation, it begun digitizing its holdings.) There is a regional office in New York City, and copies of the Archives’ unrestricted microfilm may be viewed at the Boston Public Library, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif.
The Washington office gets the most visitors (1,500 in 2010), and nearly two million individuals world-wide accessed material available in digital form through the Archives’ website. The majority of users, Mr. Smith noted, are from academia, but “we are also heavily used by private collectors, art dealers and auction house staff. Strangely, we also have several genealogists tracking down family members.”
The Archives’ oral-history project currently contains over 2,000 interviews with artists, collectors and dealers.
Leo Castelli’s Cache of Art-History Gold (Wall Street Journal)