AG Foundation Grant Funds Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts

NEW YORK, March 4, 2008 Agnes Gund, one of New York’s most generous patrons of the arts, has given the Columbia University Oral History Research Office a grant to record an oral history of women in the visual arts. The project will be named “The Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts” in honor of the recently deceased celebrated painter and printmaker.

Through the two-year project, the Oral History Research Office will conduct life and career histories of twenty women artists, collectors and curators whose contributions have impacted the art world in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  The interviews will be made available to the public through the Columbia University Libraries, as well as through deposit in museum and arts-based archives.

“The role of women artists such as Elizabeth Murray, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Louise Nevelson and more have altered the way in which art history will be written and interpreted, and yet the life stories and cultural conversations that accompanied the breakthrough of these women into the art world are not well known” said Mary Marshall Clark, director of the Oral History Research Office. “We are delighted that because of Agnes Gund’s generosity and vision we will be able to address that silence through recording the vital and historically unique stories of twenty women who have shaped the art world of the last half century.”

An advisory committee led by Agnes Gund will select the interviewees for the “The Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts.” The interviews will take place over two years and result in 200 hours of interviews. Each woman’s history will be approximately 10 hours in length, composed primarily of audio, but supplemented with video. Grace Glueck, former art writer, critic and reviewer for the New York Times, will be lead interviewer for the project.

“It seems so right to honor Elizabeth Murray by archiving the lives, the thoughts, the dreams and goals of other women who—­like herself—persisted in the visual arts, extending and enriching the world through their work,” said Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and renowned art philanthropist.

Elizabeth Murray (1940-2007) was a New York painter whose lively, cartoon-based paintings gave new shape to Modernist abstraction. She belongs to a generation of artists who emerged in the 1970s and whose exposure to Cubist-derived Minimalism and Surrealist-influenced Pop inspired experimentation with a new language of form that would bridge the gap between these two historical models.

The interviews will be publicly available through the Columbia University Libraries upon the completion of the project in 2009.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Columbia University Oral History Research Office is the oldest and largest organized university-based oral history program open to the public in the world. Founded in 1948 by Pulitzer Prize winning historian Allan Nevins, the oral history collection now contains 17,000 hours of taped memoirs, and 1,000,000 pages of transcript. The program is also a center for teaching and research, offering opportunities for students, visiting scholars and fellows. For additional information about the Oral History Research Office, please see:


03/04/08 LMK