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Finding aid for the Harald Szeemann papers
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Collection Overview
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Swiss art curator Harald Szeemann (1933-2005) organized more than 150 exhibitions during a career that spanned almost five decades. An advocate of contemporary movements such as conceptualism, land art, happenings, Fluxus and performance, and of artists such as Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly and Mario Merz, Szeemann developed a new form of exhibition-making that centered on close collaborative relationships with artists and a sweeping global vision of contemporary visual culture. He organized vast international surveys such as documenta 5; retrospectives of individual artists including Sigmar Polke, Bruce Nauman, Wolfgang Laib, James Ensor, and Eugène Delacroix; and thematic exhibitions on such provocative topics as utopia, disaster, and the "Plateau of Humankind." Szeemann's papers thoroughly document his curatorial practice, including preliminary notes for many projects, written descriptions and proposals for exhibitions, installation sketches, photographic documentation, research files, and extensive correspondence with colleagues, artists and collaborators. Series V and VI currently are being processed. They will be opened for research when processing is complete.
Among the most influential art curators of his generation, Harald Szeemann (Swiss, 1933-2005) organized more than 150 exhibitions during a career that spanned almost five decades. Szeemann studied art history, archaeology and journalism in Bern and Paris and had a brief, but successful, theatrical career before he organized his first exhibition in 1957. In 1961 he became one of the youngest museum directors in the world when he was appointed to head the Kunsthalle Bern. From 1961 to 1966, Szeemann was also in charge of the exhibition program at the Städtische Galerie Biel. Szeemann gained prominence through a lively and experimental series of exhibitions that included early projects with Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and Christo. In addition to showcasing current developments in contemporary art such as kinetic art, op art, and happenings, Szeemann also examined areas of early twentieth-century modernism such as Dada and surrealism, including artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Kazimir Malevich, and Vassily Kandinsky, as well as various fields of visual culture such as Art Brut, science fiction and religious iconography.
1400.0 linear feet
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Series I, II, III, IV, VII, VIII, and IX are open for use by qualified researchers with the following exceptions. Unreformatted audiovisual materials, nitrate negatives and computer files are unavailable. Boxes 81, 214, 224, 2409, 2418, and RX are sealed pending further review. Boxes 230-267 contain nitrate negatives and are restricted. Boxes 82, 215, and 1074B require special handling; contact the repository regarding access. Boxes 2885A and 3087 are restricted due to fragility; contact the repository regarding access. Boxes 1074C and 1074D are restricted due to fragility; contact repository to request digital imaging. Boxes B-13**, B-16**, B-43**, B-48**, B-79**, B-81**, B-83**, B-84**, and B-86** are housed off-site and only open for use with the curator's permission. Contact repository regarding access. Boxes 320-321, 924, 2955-3028*, 2966**, TP59A-TP59B, and TP77-TP78 are currently only open for use with the curator's permission. Contact the repository regarding access. The remainder of the archive is currently unprocessed. Each series will be opened for use as processing is completed.