Smithsonian American Art Museum, Research and Scholars Center

Nam June Paik Papers

Collection ID:
Paik, Nam June, 1932-2006
bulk 1960-2000
Nineteen different languages are represented in the collection. The bulk of the materials are in
, but there is also a significant amount of materials in
Physical Description:
55 Linear feet
The archive is comprised of the papers of the artist (his writings, notes, scores, plans and designs, photographs and assorted print ephemera), his library (books, magazines, trade catalogs, etc.), as well as three dimensional artifacts from his studio (objects, toys, televisions, radios, the artist's desk, etc.) and over 200 videotapes (the artist's single-channel videotapes, installation videotapes, and videotape records of performances and interviews).

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of Nam June Paik measure approximately 55 linear feet and date from 1832 to 2008, with the bulk of materials dating from 1960 to 2000. The papers document the artist's global career in video and multimedia art. The collection includes the artist's early writings on art, history and technology, performance scores, production notes for videotape and television products, plans for video installations, and documentation of large-scale television projects such as Guadalcanal Requiem (1977/79) and The More the Better (1988).
Letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes and notes from friends and business associates reflect Paik's association with a wide international circle of artists, including many of those associated with Fluxus. Biographical materials include vintage photographs, an early affidavit of support from Jonas Mekas for Paik's temporary entry into the United States and the transcript of a 1977 interview conducted by Dick Higgins.
Additional materials that provide insight into Paik's career include documentation of early Fluxus performances both before and after Paik's move to New York City in 1964 and printed announcements and programs for exhibitions, festivals, and performances.
Also included in the papers are over 400 books and magazines.

The collection is arranged into fourteen series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1957-1999 (Box 1; 10 folders; .20 linear feet)
  • Series 2. Correspondence, 1959-2002 (Boxes 1-4 and oversize box 51; 74 folders, 1.5 linear feet)
  • Series 3. Financial and Legal Records,1965-2002 (Boxes 5-6; 27 folders; .8 linear feet)
  • Series 4. Project Files, ca. 1965-1998 (Boxes 7-10 and oversize boxes 52-53, 66 folders; 2 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Exhibition Files, 1974-2002 (Box 10 and oversize box 53; 19 folders; .3 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Notes and Writings, ca. 1960-2000 (Boxes 11-15 and oversize box 54; 112 folders; 2.1 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Sketchbooks and Sketches, 1974-1979 and undated (Box 16 and oversize box 54; 9 folders; .1 linear feet)
  • Series 8: Photographs, ca. 1940-2001 (Boxes 16-17 and oversize boxes 55 and 57; 36 folders; .9 linear feet)
  • Series 9: Artifacts and Ephemera, ca. 1960-2000 (Box 18 and oversize box 55; 17 folders; .5 linear feet)
  • Series 10: Printed Materials, 1832-2004 (Boxes 19-25 and oversize boxes 56-63; 121 folders; 10 linear feet)
  • Series 11: Books, 1839-2003 (Boxes 25-40 and oversize box 66; 17 linear feet)
  • Series 12: Magazines and Newsletters, ca. 1900-2000 (Boxes 41-46; 6 linear feet)
  • Series 13: Product Manuals, Trade Catalogs and Directories, ca. 1970-2000 (Boxes 47-50; 4 linear feet)
  • Series 14: Newspapers, 1867-2008 (Oversize boxes 62-65; 9.5 linear feet)

Biographical note
Biographical note
Nam June Paik (1932-2006), internationally recognized as the "Father of Video Art," created a large body of work, including video sculptures, installations, performances, videotapes and television productions. His art and ideas embodied a radical new vision for an art form that changed global visual culture.
Born in 1932 in Seoul, Korea, to a wealthy industrial family, Paik and his family fled Korea in 1950 at the outset of the Korean War, first to Hong Kong, then to Japan. Paik graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1956, and then traveled to Germany to pursue his interest in avant-garde music, composition and performance. There he met John Cage and George Maciunas and became a member of the neo-dada Fluxus movement. In 1963, Paik had his legendary one-artist exhibition at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany, that featured his prepared television sets, which radically altered the look and content of television.
After immigrating to the United States in 1964, he settled in New York City, where he expanded his engagement with video and television, and had exhibitions of his work at the New School, Galerie Bonino, and the Howard Wise Gallery. In 1965, Paik was one of the first artists to use a portable video camcorder. In 1969, he worked with Japanese engineer Shuya Abe to construct an early video-synthesizer that allowed Paik to combine and manipulate images from different sources. The Paik-Abe video synthesizer transformed electronic moving-image making. Paik invented a new artistic medium with television and video, creating an astonishing array of artworks, from his seminal video Global Groove (1973), to his sculptures TV Buddha (1974) and TV Cello (1971); to installations such as TV Garden (1974), Video Fish (1975) and Fin de Siecle II (1989); videotapes Living with Living Theatre (1989) and Guadalcanal Requiem (1977/1979); and global satellite television productions such as Good Morning Mr. Orwell, which broadcast from the Centre Pompidou in Paris and a WNET-TV studio in New York City January 1, 1984.
Paik has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including the major retrospectives: Nam June Paik, organized by Tate Liverpool and museum kunst palast, Düsseldorf (2011); The Worlds of Nam June Paik organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City (2000); and Nam June Paik, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art (1982). He has been featured in major international art exhibitions including Documenta, the Venice Biennale, and the Whitney Biennial.

Kathleen Brown, with additions and revisions by Christine Hennessey and Hannah Pacious
This collection was processed with support from the Smithsonian Collection Care and Preservation Fund.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
In 2009, the Nam June Paik archive was received as a gift from the Nam June Paik estate.
Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate, 2009.
Processing Note
This collection was processed by Kathleen Brown with support from the Smithsonian Collection Care and Preservation Fund.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Nam June Paik Archive, Smithsonian American Art Museum; Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate
Restrictions on Access
Access to the archive requires an advance appointment. Please contact Paik Archive staff by email at
Ownership and Literary Rights
Unpublished materials are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Interviews Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- United States Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Exhibition catalogs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Books Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Fluxus (Group of artists) Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video art Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Research and Scholars Center
PO Box 37012, MRC970
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012