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Harald Szeemann papers, 1800-2011, bulk 1949-2005

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Descriptive Summary
Biographical / Historical Note
Scope and Content of Collection
Indexing Terms
Related Material
Administrative Information
Container List
Series I. Project files, 1836-2007, bulk 1949-2005
Series II. Artist files 1888-2009, bulk 1969-2005
Series III. Curator and museum professional files, 1903, 1942, 1955-2007
Series III.A. Curator files, 1903, 1942, 1955-2007
Series III.B. Correspondence binders, 1973-1998
Series III.C. Unfiled materials, 1958-2007
Series IV. Photographs, 1800, 1836-2011, bulk 1957-2005
Series IV.A. Projects, 1895-2007
Series IV.B. Artists, 1892-2007, bulk 1960-1999
Series IV.C. Margarethe Fellerer photographs of Monte Verità, 1904-1979, undated
Series IV.D. Topical, 1900-2004
Series IV.E. Slide carousels, 1997, undated
Series IV.F. Personal, approximately 1880-2004
Series V. Audiovisual files, 1926-2005, undated, bulk 1983-2005
Series V.A. Project files, 1969-2005, undated, bulk 1983-2005
Series V.B. Artist files, 1926, 1950-1956, 1965-2005, undated
Series V.C. Curator and museum professional files, 1989-2005, undated
Series V.D. Topical files, 1956, 1960, 1965-1972, 1984-2004, undated
Series V.E. Gallery and museum ephemera, 1995-2005, undated
Series V.F. Personal files, 1996-2005
Series V.G. Unidentified, undated
Series VI. Topical files, 1806-2005, bulk 1967-2005
Series VI.A. Arts and letters, 1905-2005, bulk 1956-2005
Series VI.B. Clippings and assorted research materials, approximately 1969-2005
Series VI.C. People and organizations, 1967-2004, undated
Series VI.D. Places, 1851-2004, undated
Series VI.E. Politics, environment, and society, 1905-2004, undated
Series VI.F. Professional associations, 1961-2005, undated
Series VI.G. Themes, 1912-2004, undated
Series VI.H. Unfiled materials, 1806, 1924-1929, 1948-1958, 1967-2004, undated
Series VII. Gallery and museum ephemera, 1915, 1937, 1953-2007, undated
Series VII.A. Galleries, 1953-2007, undated
Series VII.B. Museums, 1915, 1937, 1954, 1960-2007, undated
Series VII.C. General, 2004-2005
Series VIII. Personal files, 1800, 1933-2007, undated
Series VIII.A. Individuals, 1800, 1933-2007, undated
Series VIII.B. Objects, 1997, 2000, undated
Series IX. Business files, 1923-2011, bulk 1974-2004
Series IX.A. Receipts and bank documents, 1968-2006
Series IX.B. Taxes and balances, 1969-2004
Series IX.C. Miscellaneous business, 1923-2004, 2011, bulk 1974-2004
Series X. Digital files, approximately 2001-approximately 2006
Szeemann (Harald) Papers

Scope and Content of Collection

Harald Szeemann's vast archive documents his career as a visionary art curator for almost five decades, from 1957 to 2005. Included are project files tracing the development of numerous exhibitions and other projects, extensive correspondence with noted artists and cultural figures throughout the world, photographic documentation of exhibitions and artworks, video art and recorded interviews, exhibition announcements and other ephemera from hundreds of museums and galleries, research files on a broad range of topics, a small group of personal papers, and business records.

Series I documents Szeemann's curatorial process from conception to installation ("from vision to nail"), including his detailed notes, installation sketches, correspondence, building plans, exhibition announcements and checklists, wall texts, research material, and documents related to the production of didactic material, framing, and shipping. Some projects have files on the individual artists in the exhibition, and there is crossover with Series II. The project files also include material related to other projects such as films, books, texts, seminars, lectures and awards ceremonies. Also documented are exhibitions Szeemann co-curated, for which he was a consultant, or to which he contributed writings. The files were organized by Szeemann in chronological order. Unrealized projects have been integrated into the series by the archivist using the earliest date mentioned in the records.

Series II contains artist files on more than 24,000 artists. While many files contain only one or two items, other files include artist correspondence, unique works of art, rare posters, and limited-edition items along with exhibition announcements and press clippings. Some exhibition records were relocated to the artist files by Szeemann, so there is crossover with Series I. Artist files are not limited to fine artists, but also include authors, musicians, filmmakers, and other creators. Szeemann accrued particularly extensive files on Joseph Beuys, James Lee Byars, Gilbert Clavel, Marcel Duchamp, Mario Merz, Antonin Artaud, and Hugo Ball. Click here for the finding aid for Series II.

Series III contains Szeemann's files on and correspondence with other curators and art world figures, including architects, gallerists, art critics, art historians, choreographers, collectors, and photographers. Correspondence with catalog contributors and other collaborators to his exhibitions can be found here, as well as materials on art associations, magazines, companies, awards, publishing houses, and fairs.

Series IV contains more than 40,500 photographic prints, negatives, slides, and transparencies. Included is extensive documentation of many of Szeemann's exhibitions and other projects; photographs of artists with whom he worked and their individual artworks and performances; a collection of portraits of the Monte Verità intellectual circle by photographer Margarethe Fellerer; Szeemann's slide library, including slideshows compiled for lectures; collections of photographs reflecting Szeemann's interdisciplinary subject interests with a focus on cultural sites and geographic locations; and portraits and snapshots of Szeemann and his family.

Series V comprises Szeemann's audiovisual collection of approximately 2240 items including films and videos submitted by artists, radio and television interviews, music, photographic and textual files regarding exhibitions or artists, and materials received from museums and galleries. Some of the material has been separated from other series. Formats include VHS, compact discs, vinyl records, DVDs, audiocassettes, CD-ROMs, CD-Rs, floppy disks, and film and audiotape reels.

Series VI documents Szeemann's research interests in wide range subject areas including fine and graphic arts; art collectors and publishing houses; dance and choreography; film, video, and broadcast media; literature and philosophy; music; theater; countries, regions, and cities in Europe and around the globe; people; politics, environment and society; and assorted topics he collected under the rubric Temi (themes). Materials include clippings from newspapers, magazines, and press bureaus; brochures and pamphlets; publications including books, journals, and newsletters; photographic materials; postcards; drawings; posters; theater and film programs; calendars; city guidebooks; and maps.

Series VII contains the ephemera Szeemann collected from hundreds of museums and galleries throughout the world. He also collected ephemera from international exhibitions, festivals, symposiums and workshops, and other events. Materials include brochures, booklets; exhibition and institution guides; catalogs; correspondence in the form of faxes, emails, postcards and letters; posters; price lists; ticket stubs; and city guidebooks; and, less frequently, items such as matches; pins; shopping bags; and coasters.

Series VIII includes family correspondence; materials collected by Szeemann about individuals in his family; materials collected by his family about his death including obituaries and condolence letters; and objects.

Series IX reflects Szeemann's business activities and contains many years' worth of bank statements, receipts, and other financial records created or used by Szeemann during the course of travel or work, with a small portion covering personal family expenses, such as tuition and house repairs.

Series X contains Szeemann's hard drive which includes his emails from Microsoft Outlook; and other files, mostly JPG, BMP, PDF, TIF, HTM, and Microsoft Word, primarily relating to artists and exhibitions.


The collection is arranged in ten series:
Series I. Project files;
Series II. Artist files;
Series III. Curator and museum professional files;
Series IV. Photographs;
Series V. Audiovisual;
Series VI. Topical;
Series VII. Gallery and museum ephemera;
Series VIII. Personal files;
Series IX. Business files;
Series X. Digital files.

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