Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Kirk Varnedoe papers
Date (inclusive): 1890-2006 (bulk 1970-2003)
61.08 Linear Feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 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 English
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,
Series IV. Teaching,
Series V. Lectures, 1972-2005;
Series VI. Research and
Writing, 1890-2006, undated;
Series VII. Museum of
Modern Art files, 1948-2004, undated;
Series VIII. Printed matter, 1971-2006, undated.
Subjects - Names
Subjects - Topics
Art, Modern -- 19th century
Art, Modern -- 20th century
Art exhibitions -- 20th century
Elsen, Albert E.,
Museum of Modern Art (New York,
Johns, Jasper, 1930-