A Finding Aid to the Exhibition Records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art, 1943-1975, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.finccoll
Creators:
Finch College. Museum of Art
Varian, Elayne H.
Dates:
1943-1975
bulk 1964-1975
Languages:
English
The collection is in English.
Physical Description:
20.9 Linear feet
Repository:
The exhibition records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art measure 20.9 linear feet and date from 1943 to 1975, with the bulk of records dating from the period its galleries were in operation, from 1964 to 1975. Over two-thirds of the collection consists of exhibition files, which contain a wide range of documentation including artist files, checklists, correspondence, writings, photographs, interviews, numerous films and videos, artist statements, printed materials, and other records. Also found within the collection are administrative records of the museum, artist files, and papers of the Contemporary Wing's director and curator, Elayne Varian, which were produced outside of her work at Finch College.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The exhibition records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art measure 20.9 linear feet and date from 1943 to 1975, with the bulk of records dating from the period its galleries were in operation, from 1964 to 1975. Over two-thirds of the collection consists of exhibition files, which contain a wide range of documentation including artist files, checklists, correspondence, writings, photographs, interviews, numerous films and videos, artist statements, printed materials, and other records. Also found within the collection are administrative records of the museum, artist files, and papers of the Contemporary Wing's director and curator, Elayne Varian, which were produced outside of her work at Finch College.
Administrative records include records relating to the general operation of the Contemporary Wing concerning fundraising, professional associations, budget, contact information for artists, donors, and lenders to exhibitions. Also found are records of the permanent collection of artworks acquired by the museum between 1964 and 1975 from contemporary artists and collectors of contemporary art.
Artist files contain basic biographical information on over 150 contemporary artists, with scattered correspondence, photographs, technical information about artworks, artist statements, and other writings. Artist files also include an incomplete run of artist questionnaires gathered by the New York Arts Calendar Annual for 1964.
Elayne Varian's personal papers include curatorial records, a course schedule and syllabus related to her teaching activities, and various writings. Curatorial projects documented in Varian's papers include three programs produced outside of Finch College, including a juried show at the New York State Fair in 1967, a film series at Everson Museum of Syracuse University, and an exhibition at Guild Hall in East Hampton in 1973. Several of Varian's writing projects involved interviews, which are also found in this series in the form of sound recordings and transcripts. Interview-based writing projects include individual profiles on Brian O'Doherty and Babette Newberger, and interviews conducted for an article on the artist-dealer relationship published in
Art in America
(January 1970). Dealers interviewed for the latter project include Leo Castelli, Virginia Dwan, John Gibson, Richard Feigen, Arnold Glimcher, Fred Mueller, Martha Jackson, Sidney Janis, Betty Parsons, Seth Siegelaub, and Howard Wise. Artists interviewed include Roy Lichtenstein, Adolph Gottlieb, and Charles Ross.
Exhibition files, comprising the bulk of the collection, document exhibitions held in the Contemporary Wing during its existence from 1964 to 1975. Types of records found in the series include exhibition catalogs, correspondence, loan agreements, lists, contact information, insurance valuations of artworks, photographs, biographical information on artists, clippings, posters, press releases, and other publicity materials. In addition to the rich textual and photographic records found for exhibitions, numerous audiovisual recordings are also found, some of which were made in preparation for an exhibition, some document mounted exhibitions, and others are artworks themselves or components of artworks exhibited in the galleries. Interviews with artists, dealers, and others involved in exhibitions include Alan Sonfist, Mel Bochner, Hans Richter, Ruth Richards, James Brooks and Janet Katz, Margaret Benyon, Irwin Hollander (transcript only), David Anderson, Doris Chase, Will Insley, Michael Kirby, Les Levine, Ursula Meyer, Brian O'Doherty, Charles Ross, Tony Smith, Douglas Davis, Jane Davis, Russ Connor, Les Levine, Michael Mazur, Paul Gedeohn, and physicists Lloyd G. Cross, Allyn Z. Lite, and Gerald Thomas Bern Pethick. Video artworks, recordings of performances, or components of multimedia artworks are found by artists Vito Acconci, Kathy Dillon, Douglas Davis, Dan Graham, Les Levine, Bruce Nauman, Michael Netter, Eric Siegel, and Robert Whitman. A film of the
Art in Process: The Visual Development of a Structure
(1966) exhibition is found, and video recordings of artists Lynda Benglis, Michael Singer, and Sam Wiener form as part of the documentation for the
Projected Art: Artists at Work
(1971) exhibition.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 4 series.
  • Series 1: Administrative Records, 1950-1975 (2 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, 22, OV 23)
  • Series 2: Artist Files, 1958-1975 (2.4 linear feet; Boxes 3-4, 22, OV 23, FC 27-28)
  • Series 3: Elayne Varian Personal Papers, 1965-1970 (1.3 linear feet; Boxes 5-6)
  • Series 4: Exhibition Files, 1943-1975 (14.9 linear feet; Boxes 6-22, OV 24-25, FC 26)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
The Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art, later called simply the "Contemporary Wing," was established in 1964 by the president of Finch College, Roland De Marco, as an extension the Finch College Museum of Art in New York City.
Its mission was to educate art history students at the Manhattan women's college who were interested in working with contemporary art. DeMarco, himself an art collector, hired Elayne Varian as director and curator of the contemporary wing. DeMarco met Varian in the New York office of the prominent international art dealership Duveen Brothers, where she had worked since the mid-1940s, most recently as an art dealer. Varian received her art education in Chicago, where she studied art history and education at the University of Chicago, and took classes in film at the Bauhaus and in fine art the Art Institute of Chicago. Sensitive to emerging art movements in galleries and studios around the city of New York, as the contemporary wing's curator, Varian quickly established a reputation for thoughtfully conceived, cutting-edge exhibitions which were consistently well-received by the press.
Under Varian, the Contemporary Wing carried out a dual mission of showing work of living artists and educating students and the public about the artwork and museum work in general. Varian used the galleries to provide practical training to students interested in a gallery or museum career throughout its existence. For several years, she also maintained an assistantship position for post-graduate museum professionals to gain experience in the field, many of whom went on to careers in museums across New York State.
The Contemporary Wing's best-known exhibitions formed a series of six shows called
Art in Process
, held between 1965 and 1972. Each of the
Art in Process
shows took a different medium, including painting, sculpture, collage, conceptual art, installation art, and serial art, and brought the process of art-making into the gallery with the artworks in various ways. For example, for
Art in Process V
(1972), the show about installation art, the galleries were open to the public for the entire process of its installation, allowing visitors to watch the works take shape. Another show entitled
Documentation
(1968) exhibited artworks with documentation such as artist's notes, sales records, and conservation records, bringing to light the value of record-keeping in the visual arts. Two exhibitions entitled
Projected Art
were also innovative, with the first (1966-1967) bringing experimental films from the cinema to the galleries, and the second (1971) showing artists' processes via footage and slides of artists working. Another show,
Artists' Videotape Performances
(1971), involved both screening of and creation of works in the gallery using a range of experiments with recent video technology. The museum also participated in an experimental broadcast of an artwork entitled
Talk Out!
by Douglas Davis, in which a telephone in the gallery allowed visitors to participate in its creation while it was broadcast live from Syracuse, NY. Other exhibitions that showcased experimentation in art included
N-Dimensional Space
(1970), on holography in art,
Destruction Art
(1968), on destructive actions being incorporated into contemporary art-making, and
Schemata 7
(1967), a show about the use of environments in contemporary art, whose working title was "Walk-in Sculpture."
Other popular exhibitions at the Contemporary Wing included shows on
Art Deco
(1970) and
Art Nouveau
(1969). Several shows mined the private collections of prominent contemporary art collectors including Martha Jackson, Betty Parsons, George Rickey, Paul Magriel, Jacques Kaplan, Josephine and Philip Bruno, and Carlo F. Bilotti. A number of exhibitions featured contemporary art from overseas including
Art from Belgium
(1965),
Art from Finland
(1973),
Seven Swedish Painters
(1965), and
Art in Jewelry
(1966), which featured mainly international jewelry artists. Retrospective exhibitions of Hans Richter, Hugo Weber, and James Brooks were also held.
Hundreds of contemporary artists were shown at the Contemporary Wing in the eleven years of its existence, including many who came to be leading figures in contemporary art, and some who already were, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Mel Bochner, Eva Hesse, Lynda Benglis, Bruce Nauman, Robert Morris, Lawrence Weiner, Robert Smithson, Sol Le Witt, Dan Flavin, Philip Pearlstein, and Yayoi Kusama, to name just a few.
The Contemporary Wing and the entire Finch College Museum of Art shut its doors in 1975, when Finch College closed due to lack of funds. The permanent collection was sold at that time, and the proceeds were used to pay Finch College employee salaries. Elayne Varian went on to the position of curator of contemporary art at the John and Mabel Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida. She died in 1987.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies
All of the sound and video recordings in this collection, and two of the motion picture films, were digitized for research access in 2013 and are available at the Archives of American Art offices. The rest of the collection was digitized in 2018 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been digitized include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages digitized.
Processing Information
This collection was fully processed and a finding aid prepared by Megan McShea in 2013 with funding provided by the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Hidden Collections" grant program. Motion picture film reel inspected and re-housed in 2016-2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The collection was prepared for digitization and the finding aid updated by Rihoko Ueno in 2018 with funding provided by The Walton Family Foundation.
Author
Megan McShea
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' Hidden Collections grant program. Funding for the digitization of two motion picture films was provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee, and for the remaining sound and video recordings from the Smithsonian's Collection Care Pool Fund. Funding for the digitization of the collection, not including audiovisual materials, was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Archives of American Art acquired these records from the Finch College Museum of Art after it closed permanently in June 1975.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Conditions Governing Use
The Exhibition records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Exhibition records of the Contemporary Study Wing of the Finch College Museum of Art, 1943-1975. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with curator Elayne Varian conducted by Paul Cummings, May 2, 1975.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Sculptors -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcripts Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art dealers -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video artists -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum records Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gallery directors Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum administrators -- New York (State) -- New York Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gallery owners Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum curators -- New York (State) -- New York Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Acconci, Vito, 1940- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Glimcher, Arnold B. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Benglis, Lynda, 1941- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anderson, David K., 1935- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bochner, Mel, 1940- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Benyon, Margaret, 1940- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Janis, Sidney, 1896-1989 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Castelli, Leo Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brooks, James, 1906-1992 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jackson, Martha Kellogg Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hollander, Irwin Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Insley, Will, 1929-2011 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gottlieb, Adolph, 1903-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Graham, Dan, 1942- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smith, Tony, 1912-1980 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Siegelaub, Seth, 1941- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Richter, Hans, 1888-1976 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Parsons, Betty Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
O'Doherty, Brian Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nauman, Bruce, 1941- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kirby, Michael Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chase, Doris, 1923- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cross, Lloyd G. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Davis, Douglas Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dwan, Virginia Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Feigen, Richard L., 1930- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wise, Howard Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Weiner, Sam Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sonfist, Alan Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mazur, Michael, 1935-2009 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Meyer, Ursula, 1915- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lichtenstein, Roy, 1923-1997 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Levine, Les, 1935- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/