The Getty Research Institute has acquired the Harald Szeemann Archive and Library. The stockpile contains more than 28,000 artists’ books, monographs and publications and 36,000 photos related to the Swiss curator’s projects. This is the institute’s largest acquisition to date.
Considered one of the most influential curators of the 20th century, Szeemann was known for his illuminating surveys of international art and his insightful retrospectives of such artists as James Ensor, Egon Schiele, Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke and Bruce Nauman. Also included in the archive is his correspondence with curators, artists and scholars dating back to the late 1950s, Szeemann’s own sketches and notes, as well as other rare and unique materials acquired through the curator’s work and research.
In 1961, at the age of 28, Szeemann was named director of the Kunsthalle Bern, making him one of the youngest museum directors in the world. He garnered attention through such groundbreaking exhibitions as the Conceptual art survey “Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form,” and by being the first to commission Christo and Jeanne-Claude to wrap a building. The artists shrouded the Kunsthalle with over 16,000 square feet of cloth for one week in 1968.
However, Szeemann was best known for his success as an independent curator. Among numerous museum exhibitions, he also organized Documenta V in 1972 and co-directed the Venice Biennale in 1980, 1999 and 2001. By the time of his death, in 2005 at the age of 71, Szeemann had curated more than 200 exhibitions.
The collection will be catalogued over the next few years, and will subsequently become available to scholars. The Getty’s acquisition of the Szeemann Archive follows the recent joint acquisition of the art and archival material of Robert Mapplethorpe by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Trust.