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Frank O'Hara Papers

in the Museum of Modern Art Archives

The Museum of Modern Art Archives
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497
© 2002
The Museum of Modern Art Museum Archives
Finding aid updated 09/23/91 and revised 04/05/96

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
Title: Frank O'Hara Papers
Bulk Dates: 1956-1966
Quantity: 1.75 Linear Feet
4 5" manuscript boxes.

Biographical Note

O'Hara (1926-1966) was an art critic, poet, playwright and a member of the staff of the Museum of Modern Art 1951-1953, 1955-1966. In 1953 he resigned from the Museum to devote himself to writing. From 1955 until 1966 he organized circulating exhibitions of the Museum and in 1960 was appointed Assistant Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions. In 1956 he took a leave of absence from the Museum to accept a one-semester fellowship at the Poet's Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He died when struck by a car on Fire Island on July 25, 1966.

O'Hara was responsible for selecting the United States representations at the IV Sao Paulo Bienal and the IV International Art Exhibition of Japan in 1957 and Documenta II in Kassel, Germany in 1959. He organized a Jackson Pollock retrospective that toured Europe in 1958. That same year, for the United States representation at the XXIX Biennale in Venice he chose works by Seymour Lipton and Mark Tobey, winner of the International Jury's Award. He also organized the Robert Motherwell and Reuben Nakian exhibitions that became part of the United States Representation at the VI Sao Paulo Bienal in 1961.

In 1960 O'Hara directed The New Spanish Painting and Sculpture which was shown at the Museum before travelling to nine cities in the United States and Canada. At the time of his death two exhibitions of sculpture by David Smith and an exhibition of paintings by the Surrealists Rene Magritte and Yves Tanguy were circulating nationally.

O'Hara served in the navy, attended Harvard University (A.B. 1950) and the University of Michigan (M.A. 1951) where he received the Avery Hopwood Award for Poetry. He was considered an important poet and the author of published volumes: A City Winter and Other Poems (1952), Meditations in an Emergency (1956), Second Avenue (1960), Odes (1960) and Lunch Poems (1964). He served as an editorial associate of Art News and his art critiques appeared in Folder and Evergreen Review. He is the author of Jackson Pollock (New York: Braziler; 1959) and New Spanish Painting and Sculpture (New York: Museum of Modern Art; 1960). He also wrote one act plays, five of which have been performed.

Scope and Content Note

27 filing units in four 5" document boxes. Includes schedules, correspondence for and checklists of exhibitions on which Frank O'Hara worked, and Museum activities in which he was interested: project proposals and cost estimates; information re: lenders and contributors; proposed schedules for exhibitions; articles and clippings with reference to O'Hara; museum administrative matters; staff meeting minutes and notices; exhibition catalogs; and a book and photographs.

Items date from ca. 1956 through 1968. Correspondents include Michael Barjansky, Robert Bollt, Bernard Brodsky, Wilson Burdett, Walter Burns, Jean Cassou, Enrico Crispolti, Rene d'Harnoncourt, Arthur Drexler, Jean Dubuffet, James C. Dunn, Robert Giron, Jane Gollin, Peggy Guggenheim, Ben Heller, Felrath Hines, Joseph Hirshhorn, Werner Hofmann, Sam Hunter, Elaine Johnson, Dietrich Mahlow, Porter McCray, Patrick B. McGinnis, Dr. O. Meyer, Dorothy C. Miller, Grace L. McCann Morley, George Montgomery, Stefan Munsing, Renee S. Neu, Roy R. Neuberger, Isamu Noguchi, Richard Palmer, Virginia Pearson, Lee Krasner Pollock, Arturo Profili, Waldo Rasmussen, Gerhart Rindauer, Bryan Robertson, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Robert Rosenblum, Arnold Rudlinger, Godfrey Sanitini, Meyer Schapiro, Mrs. Gable Senior, Tom Slick, David Smith, Gordon M. Smith, Francisco Matarasso Sobrino, G. R. Swenson, Vittorio Viale, Monroe Wheeler, E. de Wilde, William Wright.

In arranging these Papers, original order (an alphabetical arrangement by exhibition) was maintained.


Access Restrictions

The records are open for research and contain no restricted materials.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Frank O'Hara Papers are the physical property of The Museum of Modern Art. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with The Museum of Modern Art. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archivist.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in DADABASE, the library catalog of The Museum of Modern Art. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Persons and Organizations:
Abstract expressionism.
Arts -- Exhibitions, Traveling.
Kline, Franz, 1910-1962 -- Archives.
Motherwell, Robert -- Archives.
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
Nakian, Reuben, 1897- -- Archives.
New American painting.
O'Hara, Frank -- Archives.
O'Hara, Frank, 1926-1966
Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956 -- Archives.
Smith, David, 1906-1965 -- Archives.
Abstract expressionism.
Arts -- Exhibitions, Traveling.
Kline, Franz, 1910-1962 -- Archives.
Motherwell, Robert -- Archives.
Nakian, Reuben, 1897- -- Archives.
New American painting.
O'Hara, Frank -- Archives.
Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956 -- Archives.
Smith, David, 1906-1965 -- Archives.

Related Collections

O'Hara material can be found in the papers of the International Council Exhibitions [ICE] and those of Dorothy C. Miller, both in the Museum Archives.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Long version: Frank O'Hara Papers, [folder]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Short version: FOH, [folder]. MoMA Archives, NY.


Papers were organized by Elizabeth Tweedy [Streibert], Frank O'Hara's secretary at time of his death on July 25, 1966 [see file folder #20]. At that time, O'Hara was Assistant Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions.

Container List

Folder Description

Folder Title Date
1. IV Bienal Do Museu de Arte Moderne, Sao Paulo, Brazil

ICE-#32-57; Sept.-Dec. 1957; exh. divided into 2 sections: a) 34 ptgs. & 29 drawgs. by Pollock; b) 23 ptgs. & 15 sculptures by 8 artists. Works selected by FO'H. See also ICE Papers.
Incl.: project proposals and cost estimates for U.S. representation.

2. XXIX Biennale di Venezia

ICE F-#37-58; June-Oct. 1958; exh. included 46 ptgs. & 26 sculptures by 4 artists. Lipton & Tobey works selected by FO'H. Rothko & D. Smith works selected by S. Hunter.
See also ICE Papers.
Incl.: project proposals, cost estimates, and preliminary selection lists for U.S. representation; correspondence; lists of lenders; form letter and loan agreement form.

3. Cezanne to Miro

ICE F-#111-67; 1968; 53 ptgs. by 43 artists, selected by M. Wheeler. Travelled to Buenos Aires, Santiago, Caracas. See also ICE Papers.
Incl.: material re: contributors to exh.

4. Documenta II Exhibition, Kassel, Germany

ICE F-#40-59; July-Oct. 1959; exh. included 144 works by 44 American artists, with J. Pollock retrospective. Selected by FO'H & P. A. McCray. See also ICE Papers.
Incl.: correspondence; preliminary lists of potential artists and works for U.S. representation; Pollock possibilities; draft of letter to possible lenders and lists of potential lenders.

5. International Circulating Exhibition & Circulating Exhibition Department Material

Incl. correspondence of circulating exhibitions and international circulating exhibitions; memoranda re: meetings on proposed national circulating exhibitions; schedule of exhibitions leaving & returning to MoMA from Oct. 1956-Aug. 1957; periodical bulletins of Exhibitions Circulated by the International Program, Jan. 1957-April 1958; exhibition notes; proposed schedules for Venice, Biennale, & Pollock exhibitions; info. re: exh. of the International Program.

6. Franz Kline

ICE F-#75-62; 1963-64; 67 ptgs., dwgs., collages, & gouaches, selected by O'Hara; travelled to Amsterdam, Turin, Brussels, Basel, Vienna, London, & Paris. See also ICE Papers.
Incl.: correspondence from Nov. 1962-May 1965; info. re: exh.

7. Miscellaneous Circulating Exhibitions

Incl. 41 Aquarellistes Americains d'Aujourdhui; New Trends in Expressionism, International exhibition of Bruges, May-Sept. 1958; Brussels Universal and International Exhibition, 1958; American Collage; Noguchi Sculpture show, Paris, 1958; Latin American Architecture, Version II, exhibition preparations; American Paintings for Russia; 20th Century Italian Art from American collections; Paris Biennale I; American Painters, Rome-New York Foundation; Japanese Painting and Sculpture; 4th International Art exhibition, Japan; U.S. Representation, Third International Contemporary Art Exhibition, India, 1957; U.S. Representation, XI Triennale di Milano, 1957; Industrial Design Exh. for India, estimated costs.

1958, 1964
8. Clippings and Notes

Incl. articles re: actor James Dean, one with reference to O'Hara; clippings re: Jean Cocteau; various notes and lists.

1956, 1957
9. Museum Administrative Matters

Incl. memos re: museum procedure, meeting announcements, events schedules, and staff benefits.

1956, 1957, 1965
10. Modern Sculpture USA

# ICE F-96-63; 1963-1966; exh. opened at Rodin Museum, Paris; 71 works by 32 sculptors, selected by RD'H & FO'H. Travelled to France & Germany. See also ICE Papers. Incl.: thank-you letters to lenders of art works; lenders lists; material concerning damaged art work; material regarding the return and dispersal of the art loans to the exh.

11. Staff Meeting Notices & Minutes

Incl. minutes re: meetings of forthcoming publications (Feb.-April 1966), Program Coordination Committee (June 1965-June 1966), and Staff Program Committee (Dec. 1964-March 1965).

12. Robert Motherwell

# ICE F-95-63; travelled 1965-66; MoMA Exh. # 776; 1965; 103 ptgs., collages, & dwgs. selected by FO'H. Travelled to Amsterdam, London, Brussels, Essen, & Turin. See also Ice Papers.
Incl.: floor plan for exh. pieces at MoMA, Nov. 1964 show; correspondence concerning exh.; different editions of statement re: Motherwell by FO'H for exh. catalog (1965); intro. to exh. catalog; excerpts from Motherwell's writings.

13. Reuben Nakian: Small Bronzes, Terra-Cottas & Drawings

C/E # 66-14; 1966-68; 11 bookings; See also C/E file.
Includes: biographical info. re: Nakian; exh. check-list; correspondence concerning Nakian exh.; form thank-you letter and list of lenders to Nakian exh.; FO'H's notes on Nakian exh. and David Smith exh. at Kroller Muller Museum; two published articles re: Nakian.]

14.a. The New American Painting Exhibitio;

ICE F #36-57; travelled 1958-1959; MoMA Exh. # 645; May-Sept. 1959; 81 paintings by 17 artists, selected by DCM. FO'H assisted. Exh. travelled to 8 countries. See also DCM Papers; ICE Papers.]


Sept. 1957-Jan. 1958
14.b. The New American Painting Exhibitio;


Feb. 1958-Dec. 1958
14.c. The New American Painting Exhibitio;


15. The New American Painting Exhibition

Incl. exhibition details; form letter to possible lenders; list of possible lenders; artists' statements; form letter to find lenders; 1st draft of catalog intro. by FO'H; forward of Basel catalog by Arnold Rudlinger; exh. check-list; initial project proposals, descriptions and cost estimates; loan agreement forms.

16. The New American Painting & Jackson Pollock: joint 'ICE' show

1958-1959; Incl. status report for Europe exh., April 1958; correspondence concerning exh. in Paris.

17. The New Spanish Painting and Sculpture

C/E #59-3; Oct. 1960-Jan. 1962; MoMA Exh. #668; July 20-Sept. 28 1960; 50 ptgs. & sculptures by 16 artists, selected by FO'H. Exh. organized under the Int.'I Program of exhs. of foreign material shown in the U.S.
Incl.: correspondence; selection lists of works; notebook; The Paintings by Tharrats in the World's Press.]

18. Frank O'Hara: biographical information; obituary articles, 1966
19. Frank O'Hara: Correspondence

chronologically arranged; provenance and organization of O'Hara Papers discussed.
Incl. personal correspondence.

July 1957-Dec. 1965
20. Frank O'Hara: O'Hara's trip to Europe

Incl. itinerary and correspondence; notes re. Yugoslavia trip.

Fall 1963
21. Jackson Pollock

[Note ICE F-#35-57; 1958-1959; 31 ptgs. & 20 dwgs. & watercolors selected by FO'H. Based on retrospective for IV Bienal, Sao Paulo, 1957. Exh. travelled to Rome, Basel, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris Berlin, & London. See also ICE Papers.
Incl.: material re: Pollock exh. in Europe; correspondence.

22. Recent Landscapes by 8 Americans

Exh. #ICE F-100-65; C/E 64-1; 1964-1966; 14 bookings. See also C/E file.
Incl.: correspondence; list of artists' addresses; checklist of paintings; letters to potential lenders; letters for extension of loan periods; thank-you letters to lenders; two photographs re: Sopoletto exh.; material regarding the framing & purchasing of frames of works; preparation schedule for exh.; info. re: negatives; publicity release.

23. David Smith: European Exhibition

ICE F-#82-63; 1966-1967; 48 sculptures selected by FO'H. Exh. travelled to Netherlands, London, Basel, and Germany. See also ICE Papers.
Incl.: correspondence; preliminary list of works; checklist of exh. pieces; lenders list; shipment list; checklist with frame sizes; checklist re: packing and unpacking directions; box lists for Kroller-Muller; biography-chronology; catalog preface, 2 stages (Rasmussen); catalog intro. (O'Hara); exh. opening remarks by Wm. Tyler (Netherlands); letters/photos from potential lenders; loan agreements. See also, #29.

24. David Smith

Correspondence re: Smith exhs. and proposal for book on Smith
[Note: Incl. transcript of Nov. 1964 channel 13 show; poem by D. Smith; 2 articles re: Smith; exh. catalogs.

1964, 1965
25. U.S. Government Art Projects: Some Distinguished Alumni

Exh. #C/E 61-24; circulated Feb. 1963-Feb. 1964; 57 works by 28 artists, selected by DCM. FO'H assisted.
Incl.: exh. schedule for WPA Alumni show; loan requests; preliminary checklists of exh. pieces; material re: framing & repairing of certain pieces.

26. Berkson, Bill & Le Seur, Joe, ed. Homage to Frank O'Hara. Bolinas, CA: Big Sky; 1978.

Gift to Archives by Waldo Rasmussen

Sept. 1978
27. L'Artiste dans son atelie;

this mat., Incl. photographs, added later.

28. Alexander Smith, Bibliography

from Rose Kolmetz, International Program, to Museum Archives: 10/90. See also, #29.

29. Additions: Papers received

Gift of Maureen O'Hara (sister of Frank).
• 2 handwritten sheets (photocopy) of speech delivered at opening of David Smith exhibition (see #23).
• Selected bibliography of O'Hara writings (see also, #28).
• List of participants and poetry selections at an O'Hara memorial poetry reading

September 19, 1991Summer 1966.
30. “Teens Quiz A Critic: `What's With Modern Art?' ” Ingenue. (Dunellen, NJ) p. 65. December, 1964

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Box and Folder List

Box Folder
1 1.-8.
2 9.-14.c.
3 15.-22.
4 23.-30.

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