Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Kirk Varnedoe papers
Date (inclusive): 1890-2006 (bulk 1970-2003)
Varnedoe, Kirk, 1946-2003
61.08 linear feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
Papers of critic and curator Kirk Varnedoe include student papers and lecture notes, research files for exhibitions and publications,
typescripts and audio tapes of lectures, and a small amount of material related to his position at the Museum of Modern Art
in New York.
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Language: Collection material is in
Kirk Varnedoe was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1946 to a wealthy and distinguished Southern family. He attended Williams College,
where he began studying studio art, but soon switched to art history under the influence of Professor Lane Faison. He also
played college football and, after graduating, returned to coach the football team and teach art history for a year. He then
earned a Ph.D. at Stanford under Rodin scholar Albert Elsen, with whom he collaborated on an exhibition and catalog about
the profusion of drawings falsely attributed to Rodin. From 1974 to 1988 he taught first at Columbia University and then at
the Institute of Fine Arts, while also curating exhibitions on Scandinavian painting, Gustave Caillebotte, turn-of-the century
Vienna, and primitivism in Modern Art. From 1988 to 2002 he was the curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern
Art, New York. His exhibitions there, beginning with
High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, and ending with a major retrospective on Jackson Pollock, attempted to acquaint the museum-going public with art historical
narratives that artists and academics had long accepted. These efforts, together with Varnedoe's Artist Choice series, which
engaged contemporary artists to organize exhibitions of work from the permanent collection, helped move the museum into a
less canonical and more dynamic presentation of modern art.
Open for use by qualified researchers. Box 119 contains confidential correspondence and is restricted until 2082. Audio visual
material restricted until reformatting is complete.
Kirk Varnedoe Papers, 1890-2006 (bulk, 1970-2003), The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2008.M.60.
Gift of Elyn Zimmerman.
Initial rehousing of the collection was performed by Vladimira Stefura. Jan Bender processed the greater part of the collection.
Annette Leddy did a small part of the processing and cataloged and described the collection.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Kirk Varnedoe papers consist primarily of research files related to Varnedoe's publications, exhibitions, and lectures.
Study photographs abound in these files, particularly of Auguste Rodin's drawings, but all Varnedoe's major interests are
well represented, including Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns. Under some research topics are filed exhibition checklists,
installation photographs, and bibliographies. Education and teaching files, containing syllabi, lecture notes, and papers,
reveal a coherent intellectual path from Varnedoe's undergraduate days through the Mellon lectures given the year before his
untimely death. There is scant personal material, mainly consisting of correspondence during his extended periods in France,
and photographs of these travels. Apart from the exhibition material in the research files, Varnedoe's tenure at the Museum
of Modern Art in New York is reflected in a discrete amount of miscellaneous material, such as meeting minutes, calendars,
and memoranda. There are also audio recordings of Varnedoe's Slade and Mellon lectures.
Arranged in eight series:
Series I. Professional correspondence, 1969-2003;
Series II. Personal, 1970-2003, undated;
Series III. Education, 1964-1972, undated;
Series IV. Teaching, 1972-1985, undated;
Series V. Lectures, 1972-2005;
Series VI. Research and Writing, 1890-2006, undated;
Series VII. MOMA files, 1948-2004, undated;
Series VIII. Printed matter, 1971-2006, undated.
Subjects - Names
Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956
Rodin, Auguste, 1840-1917
Subjects - Topics
Art exhibitions--20th century
Art, Modern--19th century
Art, Modern--20th century
Elsen, Albert Edward, 1927-
Johns, Jasper, 1930-
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.).