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Repository: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives
Creator:Sweeney, James Johnson, 1900-1986.
Title:James Johnson Sweeney Administrative papers
Call Number:A0001
Volume:5 cubic ft. (6 record center cartons)
Biographical Abstract:James Johnson Sweeney (JJS) served as the second director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (SRGM), from 1952-1960. During his tenure, JJS re-envisioned the priorities of the SRGM and with the support of Harry Guggenheim, expanded the scope of the collection to include "objective" painting as well as sculpture, established the long term loans program in 1953, and the Guggenheim International Awards in 1956. He was also involved in the final years of the construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed museum building.
Scope and Content Abstract:The records of James Johnson Sweeney (JJS) span the years 1951-1961 and document his administration. The documentation includes general correspondence from 1956-1960 (bulk 1959-1960) and individually titled correspondence folders from 1951-1961, both incoming and outgoing. History pertaining to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum includes correspondence regarding loans, acquisitions, and the planning and construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright building. Record types in the collection include correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, architectural drawings of other institutions, and photographs.
Location:Compact Files
Arrangement: Arranged alphabetically.
Restrictions: Restricted documents are closed to outside researchers. Contact the Manager of Library & Archives for further information.
Subjects: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Sweeney, James Johnson, 1900-1986
Contributors: Guggenheim, Harry Frank, 1890-1971
Rebay, Hilla, 1890-1967

Biographical Note

James Johnson Sweeney (JJS) was born on May 30, 1900 in Brooklyn, New York. His family immigrated from Donegal, Ireland and his father imported rugs, lace, and textiles. He grew up in Cincinnati and Chicago and traveled to Europe, visiting art museums with his mother. JJS received his A.B. degree from Georgetown University in 1922 and continued his studies in literature and art at Jesus College in Cambridge, England from 1922-1924, at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1925, and at the University of Siena, Italy in 1926. JJS was awarded several honorary doctorate degrees. In 1927, JJS married Laura Harden and they had five children together: Ann Sweeney Baxter; Sean Sweeney; Siadhal Sweeney; Tadhg Sweeney; and Ciannait Sweeney Tait.

Though JJS was known internationally as a lecturer, editor, curator, art historian and critic in the 1930s, he remained involved in the family textile importing business until the early 1940s. JJS was Director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art from 1945-1946 where he curated a number of exhibitions before, during, and after his tenure as director. JJS served on the Board of Directors of the International Association of Art Critics as Vice President from 1948-1957, President from 1957-1963, and Director beginning in 1963.

In 1952, JJS succeeded Hilla Rebay as the second director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, formerly the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. JJS is responsible for reorganizing and re-envisioning the priorities of the museum, beginning by painting the walls white and removing the paintings from their frames. With the support of Harry Guggenheim, JJS expanded the scope of the collection to include "objective" painting as well as sculpture, established the long term loans program in 1953, and the Guggenheim International Awards in 1956. He was also involved in the final years of the construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed museum building, which opened October 21, 1959, notably seeking out solutions to lighting issues inherent in Wright's design. JJS resigned as Director in July 1960, but carried out his duties until August 15, 1960.

After his departure from the SRGM in 1960, JJS went on to serve as Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from 1961-1967, art adviser and Chairman of the executive committee at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem in the early 1970s, and continued to publish essays and articles and contribute to exhibition catalogues. JJS died in Manhattan on April 14, 1986.


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Art of This Century : The Guggenheim Museum and its Collection. New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 1993.
Glueck, Grace. "James Johnson Sweeney Dies; Art Critic and Museum Head." The New York Times 1986, 15 Apr.
Beauchamp, Toni Ramona. James Johnson Sweeney and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: 1961-1967. Thesis University of Texas at Austin, 1983. (box 773521)
James Johnson Sweeney Resume, c. 1958 (box 773521)

Scope and Content Note

The James Johnson Sweeney (JJS) administrative papers span the years 1951-1961 and document his administration as Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (SRGM). History pertaining to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum includes correspondence regarding loans, acquisitions, and the planning and construction of the Frank Lloyd Wright building. Record types in the collection include correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, architectural drawings of other institutions, and photographs. Clippings relate to SRGM exhibitions, changes to the SRGM in the JJS administration, and the opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright building. Photographs are primarily installation views, both at the SRGM and other institutions, and photographs of works submitted to the SRGM for consideration. Includes correspondence regarding exhibitions, loans, requests for reproductions, articles and other publications, requests for JJS to lecture, queries for advice regarding modern art, copies of press releases, condition reports from the Registrar, correspondence regarding the construction and opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright designed building, communication with art professionals, art critics, artists, and administrators at other institutions, as well as Harry F. Guggenheim, Clinton N. Hunt, and Hilla Rebay. Harry Guggenheim folders contain an organizational chart from June 1957. Papers also include correspondence highlighting the public perception of the SRGM.Correspondence included is both incoming and outgoing and arranged alphabetically by subject. Though primarily written by and addressed to JJS, correspondence may be written on his behalf by museum employees and may have been redirected to his office. Correspondence is broken into two groups. The first includes general correspondence from 1956-1960 (bulk 1959-1960), arranged alphabetically. The second group includes individually titled folders from 1951-1961, arranged alphabetically by subject. The subjects include general topics, individuals, and institutions listed by name, type, and geographic area. Correspondence with individuals and institutions included in the second group may also be included in general correspondence folders. Highlights in the general correspondence include that with artists such as Alvar Aalto, Robert Motherwell, and Jules Olitsky, and gallery owners such as Sidney Janis and Betty Parsons.

Folder List

805073, 100545, 805074General: A-Z (60 folders) 1956-1960
100545Addison Gallery of American Art 1954-1955
100545Albright Art Gallery 1955-1957
100545American Association of Museums 1952-1960
American Federation of Arts
100545General (2 folders) 1952-1961
805074Film Festivals 1951-1957
100545Art Association of Indianapolis: The John Herron Art Institute 1954-1955
100545Art Gallery of Toronto (2 folders) 1952-1960
100545Art in America 1955-1960
100545, 805074Art Institute of Chicago (2 folders) 1953-1960
100545Art News 1953-1960
100545Arthur L�nars and Cie 1955-1958
100545Arts Club of Chicago 1952-1960
100545Arts Council of Great Britain: Selections and Kandinsky Group (2 folders) 1956-1960
100545Australia 1955-1960
100545Baltimore Museum of Art 1954-1959
100545Belgium 1954-1959
805074Biennale di Venezia 1953-1960
100545Black Mountain College 1954
100545Brancusi Memorial 1961
100545Brandeis University 1960
100545Brooklyn Museum 1953-1959
Brussels World Fair and European Kandinsky Loan
100545General 1956-1959
100545Photographs 1956-1959
805074Budget and Payroll (restricted) 1953-1954
100545Carnegie Institute 1953-1959
100545Carolina Art Association 1952-1955
Childs, Bernard
100545General 1959-1960
100545Photographs 1959-1960
100545Cincinnati Art Museum 1955-1960
100545City Art Museum of St. Louis 1958-1960
100545Cleveland Museum of Art 1955-1960
709646Coe College 1953-1958
709646College Art Association of America 1955-1960
805074Cologne: Wallraf Richartz Museum: European Loan 1957-1958
709646Columbia University 1959
709646Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston 1957-1960
709646Council of Europe 1960
709646Dayton Art Institute 1955-1960
709646Delaunay, Sonia and Delaunay European Loan 1957-1959
709646DeRochemont, Richard 1955-1959
709646Detroit Institute of Arts 1959-1960
805074Films 1955-1959
Fine Arts Associates: Rodin Marble
709646General 1957-1960
709646Photographs 1957-1960
709646Fort Worth Art Center 1953-1960
709646French American Art Center 1956-1957
709646French Embassy (2 folders) 1953-1960
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna
709646General 1955-1960
709646Photographs (2 folders) 1955-1960
709646Georgia Institute of Technology 1954-1958
709646Germany 1953-1959
709646Guggenheim, Harry F. (9 folders) (1 restricted) 1953-1960
709646Harcourt Brace and Company: Brancusi Book 1956-1958
709646Holden, Egan and Associates: Arthur C. Holden 1953-1955
805074Holland: The Hague, Stedelijk Museum and Selections (2 folders) 1953-1960
709646Howard University 1953-1957
Hunt, Clinton N.
709646General (5 folders) (restricted) 1952-1958
709646Photographs 1952-1958
709646Indiana University 1952-1959
709646Institute of International Education 1959-1960
805074Institutes of Contemporary Art 1953-1959
709646International Art Festival 1958-1959
709646International Association of Plastic Arts 1956-1960
709646International Council of Museums 1953-1958
709646International Graphic Arts Society 1952-1954
709646International Institute for the Conservation of Museum Objects 1954-1957
Ivy Lee and T.J. Ross
691742General (7 folders) 1953-1960
691742Photographs of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1959
691742Japan 1956-1960
805074Johnson, Ray (restricted) 1954-1960
691742Malevich, Kasimir (Re:) 1953-1956
Maremont, Arnold H.
691742General 1958-1960
691742Photographs 1958-1960
691742Maremont Fund: Underprivileged Children 1959-1960
691742Marquette University 1954-1955
691742Metropolitan Educational Television Association 1958-1959
691742Metropolitan Museum of Art 1953-1960
691742Milwaukee Art Institute 1954-1957
691742Milwaukee-Downer College 1954-1957
691742Minneapolis Institute of Arts 1954-1959
691742Miro, Joan 1956-1960
691742Moholy-Nagy, Sibyl 1953-1959
691742Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 1954-1959
691742Mus�e des Arts D�coratifs 1958-1960
691742Mus�e Fernand L�ger 1957-1959
691742Mus�e National d'Art Moderne 1952-1959
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
691742General 1957-1960
691742Photographs 1957-1960
691742Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 1953-1960
Museum of Modern Art
691742General (5 folders) 1952-1960
691742Photographs 1952-1960
691742Museums Association 1953-1959
691742Museums Council of New York City 1953-1958
691742National Broadcasting Company 1955-1959
691742National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa 1955-1960
691742Newark Museum 1955-1958
691742Newlin, Albert C. 1952-1959
691742New Yorker 1953-1958
691742New York Herald Tribune 1953-1959
691742New York Times 1953-1960
691742New York University 1956-1959
691742Oberlin College 1956-1958
691742Obre, Barbara (Mrs. Henry) 1953-1959
691742Pasadena Art Museum 1953-1960
Philadelphia Museum of Art
691742General 1953-1958
691742Photographs 1953-1958
691742Portland Art Museum, Oregon 1954-1955
805074Printers 1958-1959
691742Rebay, Hilla (2 folders) 1952-1957
691742Roch�, Henri Pierre 1953-1960
691742San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (formerly San Francisco Museum of Art) (2 folders) 1953-1959
691742School Art League of New York City 1952-1958
Sculptors Guild
691742General 1955-1959
691742Photographs 1955-1959
691742Society of the Four Arts 1956
State University of New York: Harpur College
691742General 1952-1958
691742Photographs 1952-1958
691742Stewart, Right Honorable Earl Castle 1953-1957
691742Sweden 1958-1959
691743Thiele, Albert E. 1953-1960
691743Three Brothers Exhibition: Newspaper and Magazine Clippings 1957-1958
691743Time, Inc. 1955-1960
691743Toledo Museum of Art 1954-1959
691743United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 1956-1959
691743United Press Associations: Paul Mocsanyi 1953-1958
691743University of Arkansas 1954-1958
691743University of California 1953-1960
691743University of Georgia 1955-1960
691743University of Kentucky 1960
691743University of Miami: Lowe Gallery 1954-1955
691743University of Michigan 1957-1960
691743University of Minnesota 1954-1959
691743University of North Carolina 1954-1959
691743University of Pennsylvania 1956-1959
691743Unsolicited Correspondence (restricted) 1954-1960
691743Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 1953-1958
691743Vogue Magazine 1953-1960
691743Wadsworth Atheneum 1957-1960
691743Walker Art Center 1953-1959
691743Walker, Maynard 1955
691743Wesleyan University 1957
691743Wettach, Michael and Fred Wettach 1957-1960
691743Whelpley, Medley G.B. 1953-1960
691743Whitney Museum of American Art 1952-1960
Wildenstein, Georges and Wildnestein and Company
691743General 1952-1960
691743Photographs 1952-1960
691743Williams College 1955-1960
691743William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art 1954-1959
Worcester Art Museum
691743General 1957-1958
691743Photographs 1957-1958
691743Yale University 1955-1958
691743Zervos, Christian 1956-1958
691743Zigrosser, Carl (restricted) 1952-1960
James Johnson Sweeney Administrative papers
Collection Overview
Biographical Note
Scope and Content Note
Folder List
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