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Frank Gehry Archive Acquired by Getty

The Getty Research Institute announced Wednesday the acquisition of a major archive of the world-renowned, and Santa Monica-prominent architect Frank Gehry. The Frank Gehry Papers cover more than 30 years of his singular career and includes comprehensive material on some of his best-known projects. The acquisition is part purchase and part gift.

“Frank Gehry is undoubtedly the world’s most famous living architect. This extensive archive, covering the first three decades of his illustrious career, offers an in-depth look at the genesis of Gehry’s distinctive style and includes many of the projects for which he is internationally known,” said Thomas W. Gaehtgens, director of the Getty Research Institute. “The Getty Research Institute’s architectural holdings, especially in modern and contemporary architecture and design from the West Coast, are unparalleled and widely used. This standout addition connects with threads throughout these collections, and I’m sure it will quickly become an indispensable resource for researchers and curators. At the Getty, we have enjoyed a long, fruitful relationship with Mr. Gehry for many years, and we’re so proud to give this archive a home and to further his rich legacy,” Gaehtgens said.

The archive encompasses the period from Gehry’s early graduate studies to the 1988 competition entry for the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the success of which marked Gehry’s entrée into a global architectural elite. (Gehry won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize the following year, in 1989.)

The archive includes drawings, partial and complete models, project documentation, correspondence, photographs and slides, and ephemera pertaining to 283 projects designed between 1954 (the Romm House project) and 1988 (the Walt Disney Concert Hall competition). The collection also includes materials produced after 1988 for projects which were initiated before that date, including construction documents and models for the Disney Concert Hall (completed in 2003), early design drawings for the Grand Avenue Project (still in development), and materials relating to later phases of projects which had begun much earlier (Loyola Law School, 1520 Cloverfield, and the Gehry Residence in Santa Monica, amongst others.) In total, these documents offer a comprehensive portrait of the emergence and rise to prominence of Gehry’s architectural practice over a 30-year period.

“This archive constitutes a unique scholarly resource for research into postwar global architectural culture,” said Maristella Casciato, senior curator of architectural collections at the Getty Research Institute. “The collection details important architectural trajectories in the decades which witnessed shifts away from high modernism to early postmodern vocabularies, and then to high-tech and digital architectures. Frank Gehry was a powerful figure in this evolution. He contributed to the essential concepts which put Los Angeles and its particular architectural vision at the center of the global architectural discourse.”

The Gehry Archive is massive, comprising approximately 1,000 sketches, more than 120,000 working drawings, more than 100,000 slides, hundreds of boxes of office records, personal papers, and correspondence, 168 working models, and 112 presentation models. In addition to these physical materials, the collection includes digital files which represent Frank Gehry’s pioneering work in developing software platforms crucial in the design process. These digital files pertain to designs for the Vitra Museum (1989), the Disney Concert Hall, and the Grand Avenue Project.

“I’m honored by the attention of the Getty Research Institute delving into the history of my work, my beginnings, and other things that I never thought anybody would be interested in,” said Frank Gehry. “I’m very moved that this great institution, with its resources to search for the best examples of creativity in our world, has found me an interesting party. I will be forever grateful.”

Selections from this archive, including drawings, a model, and photographs of the Walt Disney Concert Hall (2003), will be on view in the upcoming Getty Research Institute exhibition Berlin/Los Angeles: A Space for Music on view April 25 through July 30, 2017.

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