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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Materials
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Lawrence Alloway papers
    Date (inclusive): 1891-2003, undated
    Number: 2003.M.46
    Creator/Collector: Alloway, Lawrence, 1926-1990
    Physical Description: 47.58 Linear Feet (81 boxes, 5 flat file folders)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    Business Number: (310) 440-7390
    Fax Number: (310) 440-7780
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: Lawrence Alloway was a British born art critic active in the New York art scene from 1960 until his death in 1990. An early champion of post-war American art, he coined the term "Pop Art." The archive consists of correspondence with his wife, the artist Sylvia Sleigh, work files, manuscripts and clippings, personal documents, and many photographs and slides of contemporary art.
    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

    Lawrence Alloway, born in England in 1926 and largely self-educated, became a major 20th century critic of American art, known for his pluralism and inclusiveness. As a young man he was associated with the Independent Group in England, a circle of artists, critics and writers that included Reyner Banham, and that questioned conventional distinctions between high and low art. As a director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London from 1954 to 1959, he introduced American Abstract Expressionism to post-war England. In 1961 Alloway settled in New York and remained there for the rest of his life, teaching at Bennington College (1961-1962) and SUNY Stony Brook (1968-1981), curating at the Guggenheim Museum(1962-1966), and always simultaneously working as an art critic, which he considered his true vocation.
    Beginning as a book reviewer for the London Sunday Times (1944-1946), Alloway wrote for and edited various art journals, including Art News (1953-1957), Art International (1957-1961) and Artforum (1971-1976). His longest-running and most influential position was, however, that of art reviewer for the Nation (1968-1981). Toward the end of his life he served on the Editorial Board of Woman's Art Journal. He also wrote poetry throughout his life.
    Notorious for having invented the term Pop Art, Alloway nonetheless treated a wide range of subjects, from William Hogarth to science fiction, including movies, design, public sculpture, earthworks, neo-realism, and feminism. Scorning the limiting assumptions of a traditional art history education, he anticipated the now current concept of visual culture as early as 1957 in his essay "The Long Front of Culture." He also analyzed the art world from a sociological viewpoint, both as a market and as a political context. Among his various books, at least two remain classics of art criticism: Topics in American Art since 1945 (1975) and Network:The Art World Described as a System (1972).
    In 1955 Alloway married the figurative artist Sylvia Sleigh after having courted her for several years during her marriage to another man. Through Sleigh, Alloway became closely associated with women artists in New York during the 1970s heyday of feminism and became an advocate of parity for women within the art world, authoring the notable "Women's Art and the Failure of Art Criticism" (1979). He also reported on the museum worker strikes of the 1970s, resulting in another influential essay, "Museums and Unionization" (1975).
    He died in 1990 of a neurological disease.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers. Audio visual materials from ADD1 are unavailable until reformatting is complete.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation note

    Lawrence Alloway papers, 1935-2003, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2003.M.46

    Immediate Source of Acquisition note

    Acquired in 2006 from Sylvia Sleigh.

    Processing Information note

    Annette Leddy processed the archive and wrote the finding aid in 2008 and revised it in September 2009. In 2012 Boxes 72-80, a gift from the Sylvia Sleigh Estate, were integrated into the finding aid as ADD1.

    Digital Collection

    In 2015 correspondence between Lawrence Alloway and Sylvia Sleigh from 1948 to 1953 was digitized as part of the GRI research project, "Lawrence Alloway, Critic and Curator." The digital collection does not include correspondence added to the collection after the initial acquisition, which is housed in Box 72 and Box 73.The digitized correspondence is available for research: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/2003m46b1_6 

    Related Materials

    Sylvia Sleigh papers, 1803-2011, bulk 1940-2000, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2004.M.4. Connect to finding aid.  

    Separated Materials

    197 monographs were moved to the library in 2008. 136 monographs and 4 serials from ADD1 were moved to the library in 2012.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Lawrence Alloway Papers span the critic's entire career, including his earliest reviews, notes, and writings in 1940s England. In Series I. his assiduous correspondence with Sylvia Sleigh from the early 1950s portrays the workings of his mind and the development of his ideas in the period just before his relocation to America. It also conveys his impetuous personality and devotion to the person who remained his closest companion for the rest of his life. Other correspondence is relatively scant, though there are a number of letters from the artist Ray Johnson, and a photocopied set of correspondence between Alloway and Jean Dubuffet. Series II. Work files reflect the topics to which he repeatedly returned, such as Abstract Expressionism, Conceptual Art, Pop Art, museum politics, realism, women's art, Betty Parsons, and also artists who interested him, such as Audrey Flack, Rosemary Mayer, Robert Smithson, Vito Acconci, Allan Kaprow and Barnett Newman. These files comprise clippings, brochures, notes, and writings, while Series VI. Photographs and slides of art, comprise a visual record of these interests. Series V. Personal contains photographs of Alloway in his professional life and at home with Sleigh. Poetry by Alloway is included in letters to Sleigh and in Series II.B. Writings.
    Box 41, Financial and medical papers, is restricted pending further consideration by Alloway's estate.

    Arrangement note

    Arranged in nine series: Series I. Correspondence, 1938-2000 Series II. Work files, 1935-1995 Series III. Professional organizations, 1958-1959 Series IV. Teaching files, 1960-1981 Series V. Personal, 1942-1990 Series VI. Writings by others, 1947-2003 Series VII. Photographs and slides of art, circa 1950- circa 1980 Series VIII. Audio visual, undated Series IX. Posters, 1964-1981

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Acconci, Vito, 1940-2017
    Flack, Audrey
    Smithson, Robert
    Sleigh, Sylvia
    Parsons, Betty
    Newman, Barnett, 1905-1970
    Mayer, Rosemary, 1943-2014
    Kaprow, Allan

    Subjects - Topics

    Conceptual Art
    Feminism and art
    Pop art
    Women artists
    Art, American -- 20th century
    Art criticism
    Abstract expressionism

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Drawings -- United States -- 20th century
    Photographs, Original
    Photographic prints


    Mayer, Rosemary, 1943-2014
    Sleigh, Sylvia
    Dubuffet, Jean, 1901-1985
    Johnson, Ray, 1927-1995
    Alloway, Lawrence, 1926-1990