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How to Research an Artist: Artist & Pamphlet Files

An introduction to finding information about artists. Guide by Miguel Rosales.

Artist Files

Image of Artist File Boxes

Some libraries, especially museums and historical societies have vertical files of miscellaneous material that can include information on artists. The Art & Architecture Collection at the New York Public Library has such a collection. The Artists Files is a unique group of ephemeral information holding over a million items on artists of all nationalities. It consists of ephemeral materials on painters, sculptors, architects, fashion designers, designers, jewelers, craftsmen, collectors, and artisans. The range of material is broad and consists of articles from magazines and newspapers, reproductions, photographs, manuscripts, gallery and museum announcements, exhibition brochures and press releases. Its greatest strength lies in its inclusion of both major and minor artists. This information is not available through our online catalog, instead, you can consult our department staff directly.

Pamphlet Files

Image of Artist File BoxesThe Pamphlet Files were established as an original NYPL resource, part of the Library’s traditional and strong interest in the preservation of ephemera. Some of the material in these files dates back to the late nineteenth century. The Pamphlet Files are often the only record that a gallery or an organization existed. They are not cataloged, and there are no references to them in our online catalog. These files include exhibition brochures, fliers, small group exhibition catalogs, gallery announcements, newsletters and other ephemera relating to galleries, museums, colleges and universities, professional associations, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and other arts organizations.

While this collection consists of material predominantly from New York City and state, it also contains many files from throughout the United States, Europe, Central and South America. In addition, there are files for one-time arts events and movements, such as “New York State Exposition” and “Art for Peace.” The list of entries is arranged in alphabetical order; for galleries that have a given name and a surname, i.e. “Martha Jackson Gallery,” the entry will be alphabetized according to the first name. You can to view the A to Z list to see which galleries are represented or email us at art@nypl.org to see if new institutions have been added.

Get Help

For further assistance in using any of these resources you can contact the Art & Architecture staff by visiting us in Room 300 of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building or through email at art@nypl.org.