November 9, 2011  |  Behind the Scenes, Library and Archives
Dutch Connection: Conceptual Art at the MoMA Library

Jan Dibbets. Robin Redbreast’s Territory/Sculpture 1969 (detail). 1970. Publisher: Seth Siegelaub

After spending the past six months processing the Art & Project/Depot VBVR Gift as Project Cataloger at the MoMA Library, it seems timely to report on the venerable cache of materials. These materials were incorporated into the MoMA Library collection as a gift from Adriaan van Ravesteijn, cofounder 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 MoMA in the summer of 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: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960–1976, organized by Christophe Cherix, Chief Curator, Department of Prints and Illustrated Books. The point of departure for Cherix’s exhibition was his assertion that the work of 10 international artists (from America, The Netherlands, and other European countries) 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 artPost-MinimalismProcess art and Arte Povera are reflected in artists’ publications.

Jan Dibbets. Robin Redbreast’s Territory/Sculpture 1969. 1970. Publisher: Seth Siegelaub

From left: Bas Jan Ader. Fall 1, Los Angeles. 1970. Bas Jan Ader. Fall 2, Amsterdam. 1970</i>

Parallels can be drawn between the In & Out of Amsterdam exhibition and the Art & Project/Depot VBVR library gift. For example, Jan Dibbets’s work Robin Redbreast’s Territory/Sculpture 1969 figures into the exhibition as an artist’s book and related drawings. This artist’s 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 artist’s 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 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’s 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

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 catalogues 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, the catalog of The New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC).

For more information about MoMA Library research projects and activities, please visit The New York Art Resources Consortium (NYARC) website. NYARC consists of the research libraries of the Brooklyn Museum, The Frick Collection, and The Museum of Modern Art. Visit Arcade, NYARC’s catalog, for your art research needs.