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Asher (Betty) Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Betty Asher papers
    Date (inclusive): 1860-1999
    Number: 2009.M.30
    Creator/Collector: Asher, Betty
    Physical Description: 69.6 Linear Feet (76 boxes, 55 flat files, 1 roll)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The papers of art collector and dealer Betty Asher document the Los Angeles art scene from circa 1960 to 1990, though most comprehensively in the 1970s, through photographs, artist files, and more than three hundred posters. Correspondence, photographs and other documents provide information about Asher's family history and the process by which she built her art collection. Included in the papers are her collections of postcards and other ephemera.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Betty Asher (née Michael) was born in Chicago on May 4, 1914, to James and Rayna Michael, proprietors of a pharmacy. While training as a nurse, she met Leonard Asher, who was then a medical intern. The two married in 1939, and after two years in Boston, where Leonard had a residency, the couple moved permanently to Los Angeles. Daughter Rayna (1942-1990) was followed by son Michael (1943-2012). Though marriage put an end to Asher's nursing career, it also stimulated her interest in art and art collecting. With her husband she began acquiring lithographs from Associated American Artists in New York. As she gained more experience and knowledge, she progressed from lithographs to original pieces by American, Mexican, and Haitian artists. By the late fifties, her growing familiarity with artists and galleries in Los Angeles spurred her move into contemporary art. Due to her early interest, she managed to acquire major pieces from Rauschenberg, Ruscha, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and many other artists. In 1966, shortly after Maurice Tuchman became curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Asher was hired to assist him in the curatorial department, having already served on the museum's Contemporary Art Council. As prices for contemporary art rose, and especially after Asher's divorce in the mid 1970s, she began to concentrate on art pottery in her acquisitions, amassing an impressive collection of contemporary and traditional art cups and saucers. She resigned from the museum in August 1978 in order to work full time as a dealer, teaming up with Patricia Faure to open the Asher/Faure Gallery the following year. The gallery mixed exhibitions of younger local artists (such as Gwynn Murrill and Michael McMillen) with better-known names represented by established galleries in New York (such as Morris Louis, Joel Shapiro, Kenneth Noland, and Sam Francis). Asher retired from the gallery in 1990. She died at her home in Beverly Hills in 1994.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Betty Asher papers, 1860-1999, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2009.M.30.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Michael Asher in 2009.

    Processing History

    Processed by Annette Leddy and Jan Bender between October 2009 and February 2010.

    Separated Materials

    Thirty-two books and journals were transferred to the library's general collection. To find the publications, search the library catalog   for the Betty Asher Collection."

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Betty Asher papers consist of a rich range of material, including letters, photographs, posters, press clippings, records of Asher's collections, and tea cup postcards. Together these give a vivid sense of the Michael and Asher families, Betty Asher as collector, and the Los Angeles art world of the postwar years.
    Series I contains over 700 photographs, including formal studio portraits, color snapshots, baby albums, and twenty photographs of the Asher family residence taken by Julius Shulman. Documenting Asher's collecting interests are approximately 200 photographs of her art collection, part of which has now been donated to local museums, and part of which was sold at auction. Her ceramics and cup collection is also documented in photographs. Many of these photographs depict pieces as they were originally installed in different areas of the various Asher homes.
    Several black-and-white and color photographs document the exhibition Limited Works by Important Artists (known as the "Multiples show") held at the Egg and the Eye Gallery in 1966. The exhibition featured Pop art prints, books, sculpture, ceramics and games by Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and Robert Watts, among others. More than 200 photographs of Los Angeles gallery openings and art parties at Asher's home in Los Angeles from the 1960s to the 1990s highlight her presence in the Southern California art scene, along with other pivotal figures such as Irving Blum, Stephanie Barron, Stanley and Elise Grinstein, and Patricia Faure.
    Series II includes family letters and professional correspondence not contained in individual artist files, as well as official documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, and business contracts. Asher's favorite recipes are also preserved in this series.
    Business files in Series III include loan forms and invoices chronicling the amassing of Asher's collections of art and teacups. Asher's collection of more than 1200 cup postcards comprises Series IV. Series V pertains to exhibitions of Asher's cup collection. The artist files in Series VI include a wealth of material that traces Asher's strong relationships with artists, which developed in tandem with her collecting activities. Asher's artist files contain letters, postcards and gifts from artists such as George Herms, Dan Flavin, Joe Goode, Emerson Woelffer, William Copley, and Bruce Conner. A significant portion of the archive is comprised of gallery announcements and over 300 posters, many of them signed by artists such as Billy Al Bengston and Edward Kienholz. Eighty of these posters are original announcements from Ferus Gallery and Irving Blum Gallery.
    Printed matter, such as clippings and announcements, when not included in the above series, may be found in Series VII.


    Arranged in seven series: Series I. Family photographs, 1860-1998; Series II. Personal materials, 1900-1999; Series III. Business files, 1950-1992; Series IV. Collections, 1865-1994; Series V. Cup exhibitions, 1972-1995; Series VI. Artist files, 1938-1996; Series VII. Printed matter, 1914-1996.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Pop art
    Conceptual Art
    Art dealers -- United States -- 20th century
    Art -- Collectors and collecting -- United States
    Art museums -- California -- Los Angeles

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Correspondence -- 20th century
    Photographs, Original
    Slides (photographs) -- 20th century
    Photographic prints -- 20th century
    Posters -- 20th century
    Postcards -- 20th century
    Postcards -- 19th century


    Ruscha, Edward
    Flavin, Dan
    Woelffer, Emerson
    Irving Blum Gallery (Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Watts, Robert
    Warhol, Andy
    Shulman, Julius
    Asher, Michael
    Asher, Betty
    Conner, Bruce
    Blum, Irving
    Bengston, Billy Al
    Ferus Gallery (Los Angeles, Calif.)
    Kienholz, Edward, 1927-1994
    Herms, George
    Goode, Joe
    Copley, William Nelson