Getty acquires Harald Szeemann archive and library


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Harald Szeemann, the famed Swiss art curator, left behind a trove of documents, books and correspondence when he died in 2005. His personal archive, which cut a scholarly swath through much of 20th century Western art, will have a new home at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, starting in September.

The Getty said Tuesday that it has acquired Szeemann’s extensive archive, which consists of more than 1,000 boxes of research and includes correspondence with numerous artists. During his career, he championed many and varied artists, including Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly and Christo and Jeanne-Claude.


In addition, his personal library of approximately 28,000 volumes will also reside at the Getty.

Altogether, Szeemann’s archive and library will be the largest acquisition in the Getty Research Institute’s history. Thomas Gaehtgens, director of the institute, said in an interview that the acquisition is a purchase, not a donation. He declined to reveal how much the Getty paid.

Gaehtgens said he expects the Szeemann archive and library to arrive in September. Researchers at the Getty will spend three to four years preparing the material to make it accessible to the public, he said. Szeemann was the curator behind the famous 1969 exhibition ‘Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form.’ He served as the director of the Kunsthalle Bern from 1961 to 1969.

The archive also includes about 36,000 photographs as well as drawings and other materials that Szeemann assembled over the course of organizing and researching more than 200 exhibitions.


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-- David Ng

Upper photo: A view of the Szeemann archive, with Marcia Reed, chief curator at the Getty Research Institute. Credit: J. Paul Getty Trust

Lower photo: The Getty Villa. Credit: Gabriel Bouys / AFP/Getty Images