Dutch Connection: Conceptual Art at MoMA Library

  • Posted on Oct 28, 2011 by

After spending the past six months processing the Art & Project/Depot VBVR Gift as Project Cataloger to the MoMA Library it seems timely to report on the venerable cache of materials. These materials are incorporated to the library collection as a gift from Adriaan van Ravesteijn, co-founder of the preeminent gallery for Conceptual Art in Amsterdam, Art & Project, which ceased operations in 2001 after 30 years of programming. The Art & Project/Depot VBVR Gift arrived at the library summer 2010, with materials reflecting relationships with the artists represented in the gallery program, including materials ranging from rare exhibition catalogs and artists’ books to monographs and ephemera.

The library donation followed an initial gift of artwork in 2007 that inspired the 2009 MoMA exhibition In & Out of Amsterdam, organized by Prints and Illustrated Books Curator Christophe Cherix. The point of departure for Cherix’s exhibition was his assertion that the work of 10 International artists (of American, Dutch and other European nationalities) could be drawn together in their connections both with the theme of displacement or travel, as well as with their relationship to the city of Amsterdam. Another common link for these artists is their participation with the Art & Project Gallery.

The dematerialized practices of this period associated with Conceptual Art, Post-Minimalism, Process Art and Arte Povera are reflected in artists’ publications.

Jan Dibbets, Robin Redbreast's Territory/Sculpture 1969
Jan Dibbets, Robin Redbreast’s Territory/Sculpture 1969 (Seth Siegelaub,1970).


Bas Jan Ader, Fall 1, Los Angeles and Fall 2, Amsterdam   

Bas Jan Ader, Fall 1, Los Angeles, 1970 and Fall 2, Amsterdam, 1970.     

Parallels can be drawn between the In & Out of Amsterdam exhibition and the Art & Project/Depot VBVR library gift. For example Jan Dibbets’ work Robin Redbreast's Territory/Sculpture 1969 figures into the exhibition as an artists’ book and related drawings. This artists’ book was viewed by the artist as a sculpture resulting from the documentation of the altered flight patterns of a highly territorial bird, as if drawn in space. Copies of the artists’ book were among some of the highlights of the gift. The iconic performance works captured in the films Fall 1 and Fall 2 by Bas Jan Ader were also included in the exhibition. The artist in these works documents himself filmically tumbling off of a roof in Los Angeles, and riding a bike into a canal in Amsterdam. They find another manifestation in their combined inclusion in the artist book Fall, also included in the library gift. In this way both Dibbets and Jan Ader arrive at the artists’ book format being an essential container for their works.

Selection of materials published by Seth Siegelaub
Selection of materials published by Seth Siegelaub

This gift of primarily artists’ books and other special collections materials, once combined with the incoming collections of the Seth Siegelaub and Herman and Nicole Daled Archives, further bolsters MoMA as a prominent research center for Conceptual Art. Above are a number of notable catalogs and artists’ books published by the art dealer turned curator and publisher Seth Siegelaub, which will make a full complement to the archival collection. The more-than 150 titles added from the gift can be browsed via Arcade.

Ryan Evans, Project Cataloger, The Museum of Modern Art Library

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