A Finding Aid to the Thomas M. Messer Papers, 1949-2010, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.messthom
Creators:
Messer, Thomas M.
Dates:
1949-2010
Languages:
English
Collection is in English, French, German, and Czech
English; French; German; Czech
Physical Description:
4.6 Linear Feet
Repository:
The papers of New York museum director and independent curator Thomas M. Messer measure 4.6 linear feet and date from 1949-2010. Material includes correspondence, a diary transcript, and printed material that reflect Messer's long career, primarily as director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Correspondence comprises the bulk of the collection and documents the relationships he built with artists, art historians, curators, and others colleagues. Notable correspondents include Francis Bacon, Will Barnet, Larry Bell, Alberto Burri, Pol Bury, Marc Chagall, Chryssa, Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Dan Flavin, Helen Frankenthaler, Alberto Giacometti, Richard Hamilton, Jean Hélion, Grace Knowlton, Rosemarie Koczy, Jirí Kolár, Katharine Kuh, Agnes Martin, Henry Moore, George Rickey, Charles Simonds, Clyfford Still, Jack Tworkov, and many others.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of New York museum director and independent curator Thomas M. Messer measure 4.6 linear feet and date from 1949-2010. Material includes correspondence, a diary transcript, and printed material that reflect Messer's long career, primarily as director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Correspondence comprises the bulk of the collection and documents the relationships he built with artists, art historians, curators, and others colleagues. Notable correspondents include Francis Bacon, Will Barnet, Larry Bell, Alberto Burri, Pol Bury, Marc Chagall, Chryssa, Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Dan Flavin, Helen Frankenthaler, Alberto Giacometti, Richard Hamilton, Jean Hélion, Grace Knowlton, Rosemarie Koczy, Jirí Kolár, Katharine Kuh, Agnes Martin, Henry Moore, George Rickey, Charles Simonds, Clyfford Still, Jack Tworkov, and many others.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as three series
  • Series 1: Correspondence, 1962-2010 (4 linear feet; Box 1-4)
  • Series 2: Diary Transcript, 2007-2009 (0.02 gigabytes; ER01)
  • Series 3: Printed Material, 1949-1987 (0.6 linear feet; Box 5-6)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Thomas Messer (1920-2013) was a museum director and independent curator in New York, New York. Born and raised in Czechoslovakia, Messer became a United States citizen in 1944 and served in the United States Army in World War II. He earned his bachelor's degree from Boston University and studied at the Sorbonne in France before returning to the United States to study art history and museology at Harvard University. After obtaining his graduate degree, Messer was the director of the Roswell Museum in Roswell, New Mexico and then of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. In 1961, Messer became the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which includes the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy. Messer retired from his position there in 1988 and became a freelance curator, teacher, writer, and arts consultant.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Hilary Price in 2017.
Author
Hilary Price
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated to the Archives of American Art in 1995 by Thomas Messer and in 2016 by the Thomas Messer estate via Adam Lehner, executor.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Use of electronic records requires advance notice.
Conditions Governing Use
The Thomas M. Messer papers 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
Thomas M. Messer papers, 1949-2010. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Also found in the Archives of American Art are two oral history interviews with Thomas Messer conducted by Paul Cummings in 1970 and by Andrew Decker in 1994-1995.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Transcripts Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art museum directors -- United States Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Curators -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rickey, George Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Barnet, Will, 1911-2012 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Still, Clyfford, 1904-1980 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chryssa, 1933- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Flavin, Dan, 1933- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chagall, Marc, 1887- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Moore, Henry, 1898-1986 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Knowlton, Grace, 1932- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dubuffet, Jean, 1901- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Giacometti, Alberto, 1901-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tworkov, Jack Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ernst, Max, 1891-1976 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kuh, Katharine Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Simonds, Charles, 1945- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Frankenthaler, Helen, 1928-2011 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bell, Larry, 1939- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bacon, Francis, 1909-1992 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hamilton, Richard, 1922- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Martin, Agnes, 1912-2004 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Koczy, Rosemarie, 1939-2007 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bury, Pol, 1922-2005 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hélion, Jean, 1904-1987 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kolář, Jiří, 1914-2002 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Burri, Alberto, 1915- 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/