Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Betty Asher papers
Date (inclusive): 1860-1999
69.6 linear feet
(76 boxes, 55 flat files, 1 roll)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
The papers of art collector and dealer Betty Asher document the Los Angeles art scene from circa 1960 to 1990, though most
comprehensively in the 1970s, through photographs, artist files, and more than three hundred posters. Correspondence, photographs
and other documents provide information about Asher's family history and the process by which she built her art collection.
Included in the papers are her collections of postcards and other ephemera.
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Language: Collection material is in
Betty Asher (née Michael) was born in Chicago on May 4, 1914, to James and Rayna Michael, proprietors of a pharmacy. While
training as a nurse, she met Leonard Asher, who was then a medical intern. The two married in 1939, and after two years in
Boston, where Leonard had a residency, the couple moved permanently to Los Angeles. Daughter Rayna (1942-1990) was followed
by son Michael (1943-). Though marriage put an end to Asher's nursing career, it also stimulated her interest in art and art
collecting. With her husband she began acquiring lithographs from Associated American Artists in New York. As she gained more
experience and knowledge, she progressed from lithographs to original pieces by American, Mexican, and Haitian artists. By
the late fifties, her growing familiarity with artists and galleries in Los Angeles spurred her move into contemporary art.
Due to her early interest, she managed to acquire major pieces from Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and many other
artists. In 1966, shortly after Maurice Tuchman became curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA),
Asher was hired to assist him in the curatorial department, having already served on the museum's Contemporary Art Council.
As prices for contemporary art rose, and especially after Asher's divorce in the mid 1970s, she began to concentrate on art
pottery in her acquisitions, amassing an impressive collection of contemporary and traditional art cups and saucers. She resigned
from the museum in August 1978 in order to work full time as a dealer, teaming up with Patricia Faure to open the Asher/Faure
Gallery the following year. The gallery mixed exhibitions of younger local artists (such as Gwynn Murrill and Michael McMillen)
with better-known names represented by established galleries in New York (such as Morris Louis, Joel Shapiro, Kenneth Noland,
and Sam Francis). Asher retired from the gallery in 1990. She died at her home in Beverly Hills in 1994.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Betty Asher papers, 1860-1999, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2009.M.30.
Gift of Michael Asher in 2009.
Processed by Annette Leddy and Jan Bender between October 2009 and February 2010.
Thirty-two books and journals were transferred to the library's general collection. To find the publications, search the
for the Provenance/Source Collection "Betty Asher."
Scope and Content of Collection
The Betty Asher papers consist of a rich range of material, including letters, photographs, posters, press clippings, records
of Asher's collections, and tea cup postcards. Together these give a vivid sense of the Michael and Asher families, Betty
Asher as collector, and the Los Angeles art world of the postwar years.
Series I contains over 700 photographs, including formal studio portraits, color snapshots, baby albums, and twenty photographs
of the Asher family residence taken by Julius Shulman. Documenting Asher's collecting interests are approximately 200 photographs
of her art collection, part of which has now been donated to local museums, and part of which was sold at auction. Her ceramics
and cup collection is also documented in photographs. Many of these photographs depict pieces as they were originally installed
in different areas of the various Asher homes.
Several black-and-white and color photographs document the exhibition Limited Works by Important Artists (known as the "Multiples
show") held at the Egg and the Eye Gallery in 1966. The exhibition featured Pop art prints, books, sculpture, ceramics and
games by Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Watts, among others. More than 200 photographs of Los Angeles gallery openings
and art parties at Asher's home in Los Angeles from the 1960s to the 1990s highlight her presence in the Southern California
art scene, along with other pivotal figures such as Irving Blum, Stephanie Barron, Stanley and Elise Grinstein, and Patricia
Series II includes family letters and professional correspondence not contained in individual artist files, as well as official
documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, and business contracts. Asher's favorite recipes are also preserved in
Business files in Series III include loan forms and invoices chronicling the amassing of Asher's collections of art and teacups.
Asher's collection of more than 1200 cup postcards comprises Series IV. Series V pertains to exhibitions of Asher's cup collection.
The artist files in Series VI include a wealth of material that traces Asher's strong relationships with artists, which developed
in tandem with her collecting activities. Asher's artist files contain letters, postcards and gifts from artists such as George
Herms, Dan Flavin, Joe Goode, Emerson Woelffer, William Copley, and Bruce Conner. A significant portion of the archive is
comprised of gallery announcements and over 300 posters, many of them signed by artists such as Billy Al Bengston and Edward
Kienholz. Eighty of these posters are original announcements from Ferus Gallery and Irving Blum Gallery.
Printed matter, such as clippings and announcements, when not included in the above series, may be found in Series VII.
Arranged in seven series:
Series I. Family photographs, 1860-1998;
Series II. Personal materials, 1900-1999;
Series III. Business files, 1950-1992;
Series IV. Collections, 1865-1994;
Series V. Cup exhibitions, 1972-1995;
Series VI. Artist files, 1938-1996;
Series VII. Printed matter, 1914-1996.
Subjects - Topics
Art dealers--United States--20th century
Art museums--California--Los Angeles
Art--Collectors and collecting--United States
Genres and Forms of Material
Photographic prints--20th century
Slides (photographs)--20th century
Bengston, Billy Al
Blum, Irving, 1930-
Copley, William Nelson, 1919-1996
Ferus Gallery (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Flavin, Dan, 1933-1996
Herms, George, 1935-
Irving Blum Gallery (Los Angeles, Calif.).
Kienholz, Edward, 1927-1994
Warhol, Andy, 1928-1987
Watts, Robert, 1923-1988
Woelffer, Emerson, 1914-2003