The records of New York City World House Galleries measure 9.8 linear feet and date from 1927 to 1991, with the bulk of them dating from 1953 to 1980. The collection documents the gallery's general business affairs, sales, and relationships with artists from 1953-1968, and later gifts and sales by founder entrepreneur and art collector Herbert Mayer. Artists for which files are found include Jean Dubuffet, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee and Georgio Morandi, among many others. Additional records include correspondence, inventory records, sales and purchase records, records of gifts and auctions, and shipping and consignment records.
Scope and Contents:
The records of New York City World House Galleries measure 9.8 linear feet and date from 1927 to 1991, with the bulk of the records dating from 1953 to 1980. The collection documents the gallery's general business affairs, sales, and relationships with artists from 1953-1968, and later gifts and sales by founder entrepreneur and art collector Herbert Mayer. Artists for which files are found include Jean Dubuffet, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee and Georgio Morandi, among many others. Additional records include correspondence, inventory records, sales and purchase records, records of gifts and auctions, and shipping and consignment records.
Correspondence is somewhat scattered and concerns administrative matters and business with galleries, collectors, museums, and a few artists.
Artist files contain a variety of documents, such as correspondence, artist statements and resumes, sales records, printed materials, and photographs about artists who were either represented by World House Galleries or in whom the gallery was interested. Artists for which files are found include Jean Dubuffet, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee and Georgio Morandi, among many others.
Inventory records include art inventory lists and notes, provenance documentation, and consignment records. Also found are financial records of sales and of purchases made abroad and within the United States.
Documents about Herbert Mayer's donations to Colgate University and other organizations and institutions, including the Art Students League and Parsons School of Design are in the Gifts series. These records include correspondence, printed materials, and copies of agreements and forms.
Auction records are found for sales through Christie's, Sotheby's and Parke-Bernet auction houses of World House Galleries art inventory, and Herbert Mayer's personal art collection. This series contains photographs of art, auction catalogs, correspondence, and other miscellaneous materials.
Shipping files contain documents such as statements, customs forms, and correspondence about shipments of art from around the world, mostly from Europe, to World House Galleries.
This collection is arranged as 7 series.
Series 1: Correspondence, 1962-1987 (0.8 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 2: Artist Files, 1927-1991 (4.6 linear feet; Box 1-6, 11, OV 12)
Series 3: Inventory Records, 1953-1986 (0.6 linear feet; Box 6)
Series 4: Sales & Purchases, 1956-1987 (0.4 linear feet; Box 6-7)
Series 5: Gifts, 1970-1987 (0.6 linear feet; Box 7, 11, OV 12)
Series 6: Auctions, 1956-1959, 1968-1988 (1.4 linear feet; Box 7-9, 11)
Series 7: Shipping Statements, 1958, 1968-1986 (1.4 linear feet; Box 9-10)
Biographical / Historical:
World House Galleries was founded by Herbert Mayer, Sr. in 1953 in New York City. The gallery operated until 1968, representing an eclectic group of artists from around the world.
Herbert Mayer (circa 1911-1993) was a lawyer, businessman and owner of the World House Galleries in New York City. He attended Colgate University in Hamilton, New York where he majored in English and graduated in 1929. After graduation, he traveled through Europe with Colgate English Professor Russell Speirs and the four months he spent in Paris studying art at the Louvre was a formative experience for Mayer. He went on to attend law school at the University of Wisconsin. He was lawyer in New York until the early 1940s, then began selling television sets which were more familiar to the U.S. public after the 1939 World's Fair. In 1944, Mayer stopped practicing law and became a television magnate. He founded the Empire Coil Company, which manufactured radiofrequency coils for television sets and stations. From 1949 through 1952, Mayer launched television stations in Cleveland, Ohio; Portland, Oregon; and Kansas City, Missouri.
In 1953, Mayer bid farewell to the world of television and founded the World House Galleries. The gallery was located on Madison Avenue in New York City's Carlyle Hotel, occupying a total of 6,900 square feet on two floors. Architect Frederick Kiesler was commissioned to design the space. Mayer's goal was to attract a wider audience to contemporary international art and, in his words, "express the thinking and feeling of contemporary artists everywhere — wherever unusual talent is discovered." Mayer worked closely with Colgate Professor Alfred Krakusin, who became the gallery advisor, and the two frequently traveled together in search of new art. On his trips abroad, Mayer also purchased art for his personal collection.
World House Galleries represented an eclectic group of European artists such as Jean Dubuffet, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paul Klee and Georgio Morandi in addition to lesser known artists. World House Galleries exhibitions included art for sale within the gallery, as well as art loaned from private collections and museums. The gallery represented an eclectic group of artists from Austria, France, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Mayer and Krakusin also collaborated on Sculptura, a business which created bronze casts of statues and plaques to be sold at the gallery.
World House Galleries had strong ties with Colgate University and Mayer arranged numerous exhibitions at his alma mater between 1956 and 1962. The exhibitions were held in the basement of Lawrence Hall and showcased art from World House Galleries and Mayer's personal collection. In 1958, Mayer donated the first of many gifts of art to Colgate University. His largest gift of almost 2000 paintings, sculptures, and drawings occurred in 1967 and became the core collection for what is now known as Colgate's Picker Art Gallery.
After World House Galleries closed in 1968 Herbert Mayer continued to sell art through auction houses and galleries as well as make donations to Colgate and various other organizations through the 1980s. In early 1971, Mayer contacted Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc. to arrange an auction of artwork from his personal collection. The bulk of his collection was sold through Parke-Bernet in 1984.
Mayer died in 1991, survived by his wife, Bet, and their five children. Through exhibitions which showcased art from different countries, World House Galleries exposed the New York art world to a more diverse vision of international modernism.
The World House Galleries records were donated in 2002 by Herbert Mayer, Jr., son of gallery founder Herbert Mayer.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
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World House Galleries records, 1927-1991, bulk 1953-1980. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.