The New York Collection for Stockholm is an aggregate collection of works of art that was created in the early 1970s. The elements that generated the collection began to come together during the revolutionary artistic developments in the 1960s. After World War II, the United States went through a great deal of change, due to the influence of mass media, the dissemination of information and new technologies, the rise of consumerism, the Vietnam War and, artistically, the emergence in the late 1940s and 1950s of Abstract Expressionism, a form of art characterized best by its emotional influence and subconscious, spontaneous creation. The group Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was part of this zeitgeist and wanted to foster collaboration between artists and engineers and further both communities’ self-interests.
Initially, E.A.T. was inspired by 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, an event produced by artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman and Bell Lab engineers Willhelm Klüver and Fred Waldhauer in 1966. The 10 performance ran for nine evenings, starting on October 13, and was held at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City. The nine multimedia evenings included work by seven other collaborations between an artist and engineers, and it was through the idea of these unions that E.A.T. was officially born immediately after the event. Two years later, the number of group members had expanded to roughly 2,000 artists and 2,000 engineers who participated in projects around the world.
As one of the co-founders of E.A.T., Klüver’s connection to the Moderna Museet in his homeland, Sweden, was instrumental in the genesis of the New York Collection for Stockholm. The director of the Moderna, Pontus Hulten, had Klüver to thank for the museum’s acquisition of some of the best American art at that time—ranging from Andy Warhol to Donald Judd. In 1964, one of Rauschenberg’s sculptures joined the ranks of the Moderna’s permanent collection, five years after he had met Klüver.
Klüver had already become an influential part of the New York art community before 9 Evenings, working with artists to help them utilize technology in their works. Klüver also helped organize exhibitions and film series in Stockholm. One of the events he helped organize at the Moderna hat gained considerable notice in 1964 was 5 New York Evenings, a performance art series. In the early 1970s, the E.A.T. looked to put together a collection of some of the most important American art of the 1960s, with the aim of donating it to a public museum. They chose 30 works in a variety of media and selected the Moderna Museet in Stockholm as the recipient because of its strong history of support for American contemporary art.
The galleries representing the artists slated for the collection agreed to waive their commissions, cutting the price of the acquisition in half. Princess Christina of Sweden agreed to be the “Patroness of the Collection” so the Swedish government was willing to donate a fifth of the funds necessary for the purchases. However, E.A.T. needed more money in order to purchase the collection, and it was through E.A.T. and Klüver’s work that the enough funding was raised in the form of a limited edition portfolio. The portfolio includes 30 prints by each of the artists—including Kenneth Noland, Dan Flavin, and Nam June Paik—whose work E.A.T. intended to purchase and gift to the Moderna for its collection. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 300, and began selling in the spring of 1973. By the summer of that year, E.A.T. had acquired enough funding to purchase its contemporary American art collection and donate it to Stockholm.
The Georgia Museum of Art has recently purchased one of the original portfolios Klüver and Hulten compiled. Lynn Boland, Pierre Daura Curator of European Art, organized the exhibition, and the prints from the portfolio will be on display in the Lamar Dodd Gallery at the GMOA from August 18 until October 28. If seeing one of the great turning points of American art sounds like a great way to spend the day, then we highly suggest you come for a visitDon’t miss an extra special treat when Julie Martin (Billy Klüver’s widow and co-founder of E.A.T.) and Robert Whitman (artist and co-founder of E.A.T.) come to GMOA. Boland will lead a conversation with both of them in the gallery on October 24 at 7 p.m.