Since Watson Library's earliest days, art galleries have generously donated exhibition catalogs and other publications. Gifts from contemporary art galleries have been key to the formation of one of the finest collections of research material in this area on an international scale.
In 2001, Watson launched the Contemporary Catalogs Project to actively build our collection of contemporary art gallery exhibition catalogs. Thanks to the solicitation efforts of our staff and volunteers, and the generosity of galleries around the world, we have acquired over 23,000 publications from sixty countries in more than ten languages. Catalogs have come from countries including: Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, the Baltic States, Canada, the Caribbean, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Middle East, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Poland, Spain, South Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, Switzerland, Romania, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In addition to print catalogs, we also receive many electronic PDF catalogs that feature a broad geographical scale of established and emerging artists from diverse backgrounds. Below, we are pleased to offer a selection of contemporary catalog donations—both past and present—from galleries around the world.
As part of this ongoing project, a few years ago the library received fifty-two catalogs from V.M. Art Gallery in Karachi, Pakistan. They were wrapped in a handsewn bag addressed to Chief Librarian Ken Soehner. The catalogs cover a range of art topics including paintings, sculpture, prints, and drawings by known Pakistani artists including Hamra Abbas and Equus Quagga. In 2019, we received a gift of multiple catalogs from another Pakistani gallery, Art Chowk.
We have received generous donations from Middle Eastern galleries in the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and Israel, including twelve exhibition catalogs from Ayyam Gallery in Dubai, the Assar Art Gallery in Tehran, and Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah in Kuwait.
We received eight impressive catalogs from the Raw Gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel, including the colorful exhibition catalog, Multiplane(s), from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which features the colorful work of one of the Israeli artists the gallery represents, Iva Kafri. Kafri uses a variety of materials including wallpaper, spray paint, acrylic paint, and Plexiglass to create abstract paintings and installations.
The Raw Art Gallery also donated sixteen digital exhibition catalogs, including the above solo show of Fahed Halab, which contain paintings and video works mostly on the theme of construction sites. Many digital contemporary gallery catalogs, such as the one above, include photographs of the exhibition spaces.
We have also received gifts from European galleries. In 2014, a selection of twenty-four catalogs arrived from Sprüth Magers (Berlin); in 2017 we received an exceptional gift from Galerie Laurent Strouk (Paris) of fifty-six catalogs which arrived in two large boxes labeled “Fragile”; and in 2018, we received over one hundred catalogs from Baudoin Lebon (Paris). We are especially grateful to Mr. Lebon for continuing to send publications from his innovative gallery representing artists including Joseph Cornell, Jim Dine, Monique Frydman, and Yves Reynier.
We have received wonderful catalogs from galleries in Asia, including an extraordinary gift of 189 catalogs from Art Beatus Gallery (Hong Kong), 101 catalogs from Nantenshi Gallery (Tokyo), and 56 catalogs from Gallery Yeh (Seoul).
One Day, One Deal (above) is one of sixteen catalogs and eight issues of Versus that were donated by Gallery Factory (Seoul) in 2017. It explores the work of South Korean artist Jihoon Park, who collected front-page pictures of newspapers from cities around the world while riding the subway and made them into creative works juxtaposing newsprint clips with silhouetted cutouts.
In June 2020, as part of the African American Artists Project, the library reached out to over eighty Black-owned galleries and galleries that represent African American artists. We received over 150 publications, including forty digitized catalogs providing researchers with a broad range of contemporary African American art. The gifts include a selection of catalogs donated by Galerie Myrtis and Kavi Gupta, representing the works of Betye Saar, Theaster Gates, and Delita Martin.
In October 2021, Watson Library was awarded a grant as part of the National Endowment for the Humanities: Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan. The project aimed to assess and expand the library's collection of underrepresented heritage groups, especially Indigenous American, Latinx and Hispanic American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander artists. Past/Present/Future was the culminating exhibition to Thomas J. Watson Library's grant project.
In addition to purchasing current, retrospective, and rare material, NEH grant staff and Watson volunteers reached out to galleries representing artists from these groups. We have received over three hundred gallery publications from galleries worldwide representing contemporary art by these cultural heritage groups.
The PDF exhibition catalog above, donated by K Art (Buffalo, NY), features the work of multi-disciplinary artist Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne and Arapaho Nation) surveying his ongoing site-specific series, Native Hosts; recent primary and ghost print works; and vivid Neuf paintings (pictured above). Born in Wichita, Kansas, Edgar Heap of Birds is a multi-disciplinary artist, advocate, and educator.
Other gallery donations from the NEH project include the Garth Greenan Gallery (NYC) and Telluride Gallery of Art (Telluride, CO), both representing Native American artists; a gift of five Walasse Ting exhibition catalogs from 1999-2017 from Catto Gallery (London); two catalogs on the work of Chinese-born American contemporary artist, Hung Liu, from Nancy Hoffman Gallery (NYC); seventy-one catalogs representing Latinx and Hispanic American artists from Patricia Conde Galeria (Mexico) and twenty-nine catalogs from Almeida + Dale Galeria de Arte (Sao Paulo).
We also continue to receive gifts from galleries in the United States including Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, Palm Beach, Philadelphia, Portland, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Santa Fe. Major New York City galleries such as Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, and David Zwirner, have donated essential texts of well-known and emerging artists including the catalogs pictured above of Eva Hesse, Pablo Picasso, and Yayoi Kusama.
To explore Watson’s contemporary gallery holdings, search Watsonline by the gallery name as keyword or author.
I would like to acknowledge the support of Ken Soehner and Jared Ash.