By the time of her appointment as director, Anne d'Harnoncourt was well-established as one of the foremost Duchampian scholars. In the dozen years since her 1969 participation in PMA's acquisition and installation of his mixed media assemblage, "Étant donnés," what becomes evident in these papers is the development of d'Harnoncourt's very close relationship with Duchamp's widow, Alexina, better known as Teeny, and with Jacqueline Matisse Monnier, Teeny's daughter from her first marriage to Pierre Matisse and an artist in her own right. The breadth and depth of their correspondence speaks to a relationship of mutual admiration, utmost respect, and sincere friendship, as well as to a commitment to preserve and promote the life work of Marcel Duchamp, with an eye to prevent exploitation of the artist's avant-garde concepts and practices. Files for each woman are identified by their name.
The fifteen years of correspondence between d'Harnoncourt and Alexina Duchamp document a constant conversation about the frequent requests from scholars, publishers, museums and gallery dealers to reproduce, borrow, buy or sell works pertaining to Marcel Duchamp and related artists. Also evident is the close contact d'Harnoncourt maintained to keep Mme. Duchamp abreast of this Museum's acquisitions and projects, such as the 1987 reproduction of the "Manual of instructions for 'Étant donnés'" as part of PMA's celebration of what would have been the artist's 100th birthday. (The Museum also marked the occasion with its exhibition, "Apropos of Marcel Duchamp 1887/1987," held from Oct. 1, 1987 to Jan. 3, 1988.) Third-party correspondence is also included, most of which is between d'Harnoncourt and various PMA staff. Viewed collectively, these files make evident that the exchange of information between these two women about a wide range of exhibitions, artists and books was outdone only by their exchange of affection. Also related to Mme. Duchamp are the "Estate" files, which primarily consist of documentation of loans she made to PMA from her private collection, as well as bequests and gifts from her children made in her memory.
Most of the topics discussed between d'Harnoncourt and Mme. Duchamp are continued and expanded upon in her correspondence with Jacqueline "Jackie" Matisse Monnier. Friendship and scholarship are again evident, as is the frequent wrestling with issues of rights and reproduction and permissions to borrow, publish, film or merchandise. Works for sale, exhibitions, authentications, and requests from researchers pertaining to Duchamp or his artist siblings are points of discussion as are plans to visit, exchanges of personal gifts, and updates on mutual acquaintances, such as Merce Cunningham and Jasper Johns. Of course, the Museum's stewardship of its Duchamp collection is another consistent, if only implied, topic. Of note is d'Harnoncourt's lengthiest writing, dated Apr. 24, 1996, to Monnier and her brother Paul Matisse. In this 6-page letter, she reports on PMA's efforts to create a "comprehensive archive and study center" that examines the works of Marcel Duchamp as well as his relationship with the Museum. Her descriptions of pertinent objects and archival material held by the Museum not only concisely summarize the genesis of each acquisition, but deliver interesting asides as well. An example of the latter pertains to the art collection and archives of Walter and Louise Arensberg, who not only championed Duchamp's work but built much of their collection of modern art under his advice. As to why their collection doesn't contain more photographs by Man Ray of Duchamp and their "collaborative activities," d'Harnoncourt points out that the Arensbergs had a falling out with Man Ray in the 1940s. D'Harnoncourt concludes the letter with a topic she and Monnier frequently discussed--concern for quality control of images of "Étant donnés," especially in light of the 1987 lifting of the restriction to reproduce the interior view. Also of concern to both women was the issue of privacy versus publication of Duchamp's correspondence with the sculptor Maria Martins, with whom he had an affair and whose torso served as a model for the "Étant donnés" nude. Monnier brought resolution to the latter when she gave the Museum permission to publish the original letters and their translations in the 2009 exhibition catalogue "Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés." These files also include third-party correspondence, between Monnier and others, or between PMA staff, as well as the notes d'Harnoncourt and curator Ann Temkin kept of their respective meetings with Monnier.
Other name or subject files of note include the following. "Acquisitions offered" pertains to items available through public sale, usually at auction, as well as those offered directly to PMA for purchase or for consideration as gifts. These acquisitions consist of works by Duchamp, about the artist, or owned by him, as well as works by his contemporaries. Items offered for consideration include objects, photographs, publications and artist books, and archival material, usually letters written by Duchamp, as well as those works in which the artist makes the documentation the object; namely, the multiple editions of boxes and valises housing reproductions of Duchamp's notes. Offers for objects created by later artists who claim Duchamp as part of their inspiration are also documented here. "Collection" refers to all works, object and archival, held at PMA pertaining to Duchamp. Any realized gifts and purchases are also included here. Most of the documentation in the folders titled "Exhibitions not at PMA" is correspondence from museums worldwide requesting loans from PMA. Other documentation consists of exhibition proposals, published announcements and checklists, and papers regarding the planning and publishing of exhibition catalogues. Correspondence offering performance art programs is also included here. "Exhibition proposals" pertain to shows suggested by PMA curators, and "Loans, incoming" document this Museum's requests to borrow works from other institutions.
Documentation of projects attempting to examine Duchamp in other media can be found in "Film, video and television projects" and "Researcher requests and projects" folders. The latter files, along with those identified by individual scholars, comprise a significant amount of documentation within this subseries. Researchers wrote to d'Harnoncourt with queries about the Museum's art and archival holdings or with requests to interview her or gain her input about their particular project. Requests for photographs, which are numerous, are filed in the "general" folders. Research projects primarily pertain to writings such as student theses and scholarly journals and books. Several proposals for symposia and lectures are also included. One researcher of note, included in the general researcher files, first contacted d'Harnoncourt in 1994 when he was a doctoral candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art seeking information of the "Large Glass." Two years later, an instructor at the Courtauld wrote on the young scholar's behalf requesting d'Harnoncourt to meet with him to talk about Duchamp. Her annotations to that letter included her impression that, "he does sound great and I'm eager to meet/say hello." They apparently did meet. And their meeting apparently went well. The student was Michael Taylor who joined PMA one year later, and who from 2003 to the summer of 2011 served as the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art. Taylor was the primary author of the comprehensive and richly illustrated catalogue to the 2009 Étant donnés exhibition. In kindred Duchampian spirit, he dedicated the catalogue to d'Harnoncourt's memory.
Published writings are filed as "Writings: Various publications," and consist of clippings from journals, newspapers, general interest magazine and book excerpts. Book and exhibition reviews are also included. D'Harnoncourt's writings are filed separately as are the typescripts or reprints of a few other authors.
"General" files consist primarily of correspondence and staff memoranda pertaining to topics other than those identified here or in the case of certain memoranda pertaining to multiple topics. D'Harnoncourt communicated primarily with the curatorial staff of Twentieth Century Art, which at century's end became the Modern and Contemporary Art department, and with Rights and Reproduction staff as the Museum regularly received numerous requests to publish images of works by Duchamp in its collection. Discussions of merchandising ideas, from t-shirts to CD-ROMs, and reissues of publications are also documented.
According to her files, d'Harnoncourt traveled to several cities in the U.S. to lecture on Duchamp in 1989, 1993, 1994 and 1996. The files are included in the "Outside lectures and other remarks" subseries to the "Remarks and recognitions" series of the Anne d'Harnoncourt Papers. Additional files pertaining to talks she gave about Duchamp on behalf of the Museum are included in her director's records in the "Remarks" subseries of the "Long term records series. For documentation of PMA's exhibitions featuring Duchamp and related artists, such as Jean Crotti, Suzanne Duchamp, and Joseph Cornell, see Series II, "Exhibitions," as well as the exhibition files in the curatorial records of Twentieth Century Art Department and of Modern and Contemporary Art Department. As one of the premier centers of Duchampian scholarship, the Museum Archives also holds several significant collections relating to the artist. These are the Alexina and Marcel Duchamp Papers, Marcel Duchamp Exhibition records, Marcel Duchamp Research Collection, and Arensberg Archives.