Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Marcia Tucker papers
Date (inclusive): 1918-2007, bulk 1957-2005
93.51 linear feet
(205 boxes, 3 flat file folders)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
Museum files, correspondence, writings and other materials pertinent to Marcia Tucker's career as curator at the Whitney Museum
of American Art and founding director of the New Museum (New York, N.Y.).
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Marcia Tucker (1940-2006), American curator, art critic and museum director, studied art and art history at Connecticut College
(B.A.) and New York University (M.A.) where she worked with Robert Goldwater. Starting out as an artist, she wrote reviews
for art magazines, and cataloged and curated the private collections of Alfred and Margo Barr, and of William and Noma Copley.
Finding she preferred the role of art interpreter and presenter, she accepted a position as curator at the Whitney Museum
of American Art, where she soon distinguished herself as an innovator and advocate for the underrepresented American artists
residing outside New York City, as well as for women artists, African American artists, folk artists, and other sorts of "outsiders."
Insisting that the criteria for exhibiting contemporary art should never be those of the connoisseur, Tucker selected work
that challenged, disturbed, and resisted interpretation. For this she was roundly criticized but not deterred from what she
later called "a career built on bad reviews." Frequently traveling around the country and especially to California for studio
visits, she developed friendships with artists whose work she exhibited, such as Terry Allen, John Baldessari, and Bruce Nauman.
These unconventionally close relationships, and what is now seen as her groundbreaking exhibition on Richard Tuttle, possibly
contributed to her being fired from the Whitney.
In response, Tucker founded the first museum of contemporary art in New York, the New Museum. Working on a shoestring budget
and with a small staff of like-minded individuals, Tucker experimented with presenting exhibitions that openly flaunted traditional
art historical standards, such as Bad Painting (1978). At the same time, the museum was to be run as differently as possible
from the hierarchical Whitney: all decisions were made collectively and by consensus. The challenges of maintaining this approach
as the institution grew in size and budget made the New Museum, among other things, a laboratory for institutional innovation.
The Museum soon acquired powerful supporters in Henry Luce III and Vera List, who helped to guide the institution toward greater
financial stability. The museum's program continued to be focussed on the underrepresented, and perhaps less on the avant-garde
per se. Among major exhibitions were the following: The Decade show (1984), Living Paintings (1988), Strange Attractors: Signs
of Chaos (1989), Bad Girls (1994), and The Time of Our Lives (1999). Tucker retired in 2000 and died in 2006.
Open for use by qualified researchers, except Marcia Tucker's manuscript, "A Short Life of Trouble," which is sealed until
16 October 2106 (Box 72). Audio visual material is unavailable until reformatting is complete. Contact the repository for
information regarding access.
Marcia Tucker papers, 1957-2007. The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2004.M.13
Acquired from Marcia Tucker, 2004.
Annette Leddy processed and arranged the papers and wrote the finding aid in 2005. She also processed five shipments of additional
materials. The first two additions, received in 2005, were integrated into the rest of the archive; a third addition, received
in 2008, was not integrated and comprises Series XIX; a fourth ADD, received in 2012, forms Series XX, a fifth, consisting
of a single DVD,was integrated into the DVDs in Series XIX (Box 23, DVD 12).
200 monographs and circa 30 serials were transferred to the library.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection documents Marcia Tucker's uniquely intertwined personal and professional activity from the beginning of her
work as a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1968 through her retirement from the Founding Directorship of the
New Museum in 2000. Museum files from the Whitney, comprising acquisitions, studio visits, interoffice memos, and minutes
of meetings, reflect the institutional practices and aesthetic standards that Tucker ebulliently questioned. Her firing from
the Whitney is portrayed in correspondence and clippings, as is her subsequent creation of an experimental institution, the
New Museum. The evolution of Tucker's prescient, influential ideas about contemporary art, art exhibition, and museum management
is evident in exhibition files, writings, lectures, and in her collection of writings by others.
Correspondence reveals her close connection with artists throughout the U.S., and her exceptional capacity to inspire and
relate to various types of people. There are relatively large files of letters from the artists Nicholas Africano, Terry Allen,
John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman, Pat Steir, Jack Tworkov and Ree Morton. There is also a good amount of correspondence with
Henry Luce III, whose support was critical to the New Museum's success. From the period prior to Tucker's term at the Whitney
are letters from employers Margo Barr and William and Noma Copley, and a file of letters from Tucker's first husband, Michael
Arranged in 18 series:
Series I. Museum files, 1965-2001
Series II. Correspondence, 1960-2003
Series III. Exhibitions, 1969-1999
Series IV. Artists' files, 1965-1999
Series V. Writings, 1957-2004
Series VI. Lectures, 1965-2002
Series VII. Teaching files, 1967-1978
Series VIII. Theater files, 1976-2000
Series IX. Notebooks, circa 1960-2004
Series X. Personal, 1960-2005
Series XI. Writings by others, circa 1964-2003
Series XII. Printed matter, 1967-2000
Series XIII. Visitor books, 1996,1999
Series XIV. Artwork, 1960-1993
Series XV. Slides, negatives and color photographs, circa 1968-2002
Series XVI. Videos, 1980-2003
Series XVII. Audio recordings, 1970-1993
Series XVIII. Diskettes, 1985-2001
Series XIX. ADD3, 1918-2006
Series XX. ADD4, 1955-2007.
Subjects - Names
Subjects - Corporate Bodies
New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York, N.Y.).
Whitney Museum of American Art.
Subjects - Topics
Art critics-United States-Correspondence
Art museum curators-United States-Professional relationships
Art, American-20th century
Feminism and art--United States
Museum curators--United States--Correspondence
Genres and Forms of Material
Africano, Nicholas, 1948-
Allen, Jo Harvey, 1942-
Baldessari, John, 1931-
Copley, William Nelson, 1919-1996
Luce, Henry, III, 1925-2005
Morton, Ree, 1936-1977
Nauman, Bruce, 1941-
Tuttle, Richard, 1941-