Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The Downtown Gallery records constitute 109 linear feet on 167 reels of microfilm. The records are dated 1824 to 1974 with bulk dates from 1926 to 1969.
The Downtown Gallery was established in 1926 as Our Gallery and operated under the name Downtown Gallery from 1927 until 1973. Nineteenth-century material consists of items acquired by Edith Gregor Halpert for research purposes or to document works of art in the gallery's inventory. The few records postdating the closing of the gallery relate to the estate of Edith Gregor Halpert.
The extensive records of the Downtown Gallery present a comprehensive portrait of a significant commercial gallery that operated as a successful business for more than forty years, representing major contemporary American artists and engendering appreciation for early American folk art. Edith Halpert, the gallery's founder and director, was an influential force in the American art world for a large part of the twentieth century.
Personal papers are intermingled with the business records of the Downtown Gallery. Many of the artists represented by the gallery were Halpert's personal friends, and over the years she developed social relationships and friendships with many clients. These relationships are reflected by the contents of the records, especially the correspondence, some of which is purely personal. In addition, there are a small number of letters from relatives, photographs of Halpert's family, home and friends, and limited information about her country house and personal finances.
The Downtown Gallery records consist largely of correspondence with collectors, including Edgar and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, Preston Harrison, Mr. and Mrs. Maxim Karolik, William H. Lane, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, Beram K. Saklatwalla, Robert Tannahill, and Electra Havemeyer Webb; with dealers, including robert Carlen, Landau Gallery, Leicester Galleries, Mirski Gallery, and Isabel Carleton Wilde; and with large numbers of curators and museum directors, including many affiliated with university museums. In addition, there is correspondence concerning routine gallery business and administrative affairs.
Artist files and an extensive series of notebooks (American Folk Art Gallery notebooks, artist notebooks, and publicity notebooks) compiled by gallery staff contain a wide variety of material and are a rich source of information about individual artists and the Downtown Gallery's exhibition history.
Business records include exhibition records, stock records, sales records, transit records, financial records, lists of artwork and clients, legal documents, minutes, insurance records, research files, and architectural plans.
Writings by Edith Gregor Halpert consist of articles on American folk art, speeches, and short stories; also included are her school notebooks and "Daily Thoughtlets" compiled at age seventeen. All writings by other authors are on art subjects, and most are texts or introductions for exhibition catalogs.
Among the miscellaneous records are biographical material on Edith Gregor Halpert and Samuel Halpert, works of art by Edith Gregor Halpert and other artists, artifacts, and audiovisual materials. The artifacts include wooden weather vane molds and supporting documentation as well as awards presented to Halpert. Audiovisual materials are 16-mm motion picture films of the Westinghouse Broadcasting Corporation television series, America: The Artist's Eye, produced between 1961 and 1963 in association with Jensen Productions, four copies of the Charles Sheeler episode of The Artist's Eye, and additional Sheeler footage, circa 1950. In addition, there is a sound recording of a talk on collecting given by Halpert's client, folk art collector Maxim Karolik, in 1962.
Printed matter consists of items produced by the Downtown Gallery, including exhibition catalogs, checklists, invitations, announcements, and press releases. There are also news clippings about Halpert, the Downtown Gallery, and the Edith Gregor Halpert Collection; other art-related clippings are arranged topically. Miscellaneous printed matter not produced by the Downtown Gallery includes newsletters, press releases, publications of art organizations, and reproductions of artwork. A selection of twenty-five volumes from the personal library of Edith Gregor Halpert has been retained.
The photographs series includes images of people: Edith Gregor Halpert, family, friends, also many images of her dog, Adam, and views of her country home in Newtown, Connecticut. Other photographs of people include portraits of artists, most of whom were affiliated with the Downtown Gallery. There are also photographs of works of art (with a large number of black-and-white negatives, 35-mm color slides, and glass plate negatives) and of exhibitions, of the exterior and interior of the Downtown Gallery, and of an award presented to Halpert.
An additional item received 2016 includes an inventory of artwork in the estate of Edith Halpert at her death.
Downtown Gallery records, 1824-1974, bulk 1926-1969. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
The microfilm of this collection has been digitized and is available online via the Archives of American Art website.
Funding for the processing, microfilming and digitization of the microfilm of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.
NOTICE TO RESEARCHERS: Prior to publishing information regarding sales transactions, researchers are responsible for obtaining written permission from both artist and purchaser involved. If it cannot be established after a reasonable search whether an artist or purchaser is living, it can be assumed that the information may be published 60 years after the date of the sales transaction.
Berman, Avis. Pioneers in American Museums: Edith Halpert. Museum News 54, no. 2 (November/December 1975): 34-37, 61-64.
Bragazzi, Olive. The Story Behind the Rediscovery of William Harnett and John Peto by Edith Halpert and Alfred Frankenstein. American Art Journal 15, no. 3 (Spring 1984): 51-65.
Tepfer, Diane. Edith Gregor Halpert and the Downtown Gallery/Downtown, 1926-1940: A Study in American Art Patronage. Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1989.
Edith Gregor Halpert, interview by Harlan Phillips, 1962-1963. Oral History Program, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Edith Gregor Halpert, interview by Harlan Phillips, January 20, 1965. New Deal and the Arts Project, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Edith Gregor Halpert, lecture delivered at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, October 19, 1959, on the 1959 American National Art Exhibition in Moscow. Tape-recorded by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, and transcribed by the Downtown Gallery staff.
In addition, the Archives of American Art has among its collections personal papers and oral history interviews of artists and collectors associated with the Downtown Gallery. Researchers are advised to conduct a name search in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS).
The Downtown Gallery is an art gallery in New York, New York, owned by Edith Gregor Halpert. Established as Our Gallery in 1926 by Edith Gregor Halpert and Berthe Kroll Goldsmith for the purpose of promoting modern American art. Downtown Gallery was an early promoter of American folk art. The gallery name changed to Downtown Gallery in 1927, and Halpert became its sole owner in 1935. Subsidiary galleries operated by Downtown Gallery on its premises were: The Daylight Gallery (opened 1930), American Folk Art Gallery (established with Holger Cahill in 1929, opened 1931), the John Marin Room (opened 1950), and the Ground-Floor Room (opened 1951). After Halpert's death in 1970, Downtown Gallery continued limited operation until 1973, under the direction of her niece, Nathaly Baum.
The bulk of the records were originally received as a loan in 1957 and 1967 from Edith Gregor Halpert, and microfilmed on reels ND1-ND71. Additions were received incrementally, between 1972 and 1978 from Nathaly Baum, niece of and executor of Halpert's estate, and microfilmed incrementally as well on various reels. In 1998, with funds provided by the Luce Foundation, the collection was reprocessed by Catherine Stover Gaines into one coherent arrangement, and remicrofilmed 1999-2000, totaling 167 reels of film. Most, but not all, of the documents from the early loaned material were subsequently donated. One additional document received 2016 by Karen Freeman, daughter of Arthur H. Freeman, who did business at L. D. Landau and Co. Freeman represented Halpert as an insurance agent.
The papers of Downtown Gallery (New York, N.Y.) in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 1999 from 167 reels of microfilm. The bulk of the collection has been digitized. [Researchers should note that as the Archives' first microfilm digitization project, the image quality is poor, especially for printed illustrations and photographs, due to the bi-tonal format used at the time.]
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001