Andre Emmerich Gallery documents now available

03rd August 2012

In 1993, the Smithsonian Archives of American Art interviewed the legendary American art dealer and gallerist Andre Emmerich. It was, as conversations go, brilliantly colourful, engaging, full of anecdotes and ample deviations, with vivid snatches of history that would have been lost had the exchange not occurred.

The transcript of that interview has been in the public domain for nearly 20 years, such is the idea behind the Archives existence: to collect, preserve and provide access to "primary sources that document the history of the visual arts in America".

Now artists, academics, investors, curators and anyone else with a vested interest in art can immerse themselves in a bounty of historical information that brings to life a particularly important part of Mr Emmerich's life.

Along with the Leon Levy Foundation Project, the Archives have, after three years, organised, arranged, preserved invaluable records and personal papers from his eponymous gallery, further enriching its collection of documentation the late art dealer. They are now available online.

It was no small task, as the records and papers date from 1925 right up to 2008, though it must be noted that the actual gallery closed in 1998 and Mr Emmerich passed away in 2007.

Add to that the diversity of the documentation - appointment books; artists' files and accounts; inventory, sales, purchase and consignment records; administrative and subject files; financial and legal records; and exhibition files – and one can begin to really appreciate the ambitious endeavour that has been undertaken.

One of the focal points of this new collection is the more personal papers, many of which document Mr Emmerich's relationships with many seminal artists, including those whose works he showed at his gallery –  Anthony Caro, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Hans Hofmann, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski to name but a few.

His passion for colour field painting is obvious throughout, as is his later interest in pre-Columbian art, which he became somewhat of an authority on, authoring two well-received books on the subject.

Mr Emmerich was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1924. Seven years later, his family relocated to Amsterdam, perceptively feeling the rise of anti-Semitism. In 1940, his family headed to a new life in the US.

In his early professional life, he pottered about Paris, working as a writer and editor, specialising in art. This was a passion he inherited from his grandfather, who collected art on behalf of J.P. Morgan.

On his return to America, he decided that he too wanted to be more actively involved in art. Being a commentator, author and observer wasn't enough. He wanted to be in art's full embrace; even if he appreciated it was transient.

"You know, art dealers are a little bit like people who belong to lending libraries who can't afford to buy the books," he told the Archives all those years ago.

"But at least they can afford to live with them for a while. You can take them out of the lending library. In a way, I live in a lending library. And the challenge, of course, in the country is - as it is in the gallery, and the great fun - is installing art, the process the French so nicely call 'mis en valeur,' to put into value, to bring out what is best and most wonderful about a given painting or a sculpture - how it will look best, how it will relate best to others."

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