Nam June Paik is a pivotal figure in the history of modern art. Arguably the most important video artist of all time and certainly among the most influential and prolific, he was a legendary innovator who had a profound impact on late twentieth century art through his transformation of the electronic moving image into an artist’s medium. The Paik Archive provides a locus where Paik’s art and ideas are studied and made accessible to a world-wide constituency.
The archive is comprised of the papers of the artist (his writings, notes, scores, plans and designs, photographs and assorted print ephemera), his library (books, magazines, trade catalogs, etc.), as well as three dimensional artifacts from his studio (objects, toys, televisions, radios, the artist's desk, etc.) and over 200 videotapes (the artist's single-channel videotapes, installation videotapes, and videotape records of performances and interviews).
The Nam June Paik Archive is a blend of traditional paper holdings (letters, writings, ephemera) and objects (studio effects, recordings, vintage electronics and other source materials). Each aspect of the collection gains strength from the other, and together they present a fascinating picture of the artist’s life, work and creative process.
The Archive includes the artist’s early writings on art, history and technology, performance scores, production notes for videotape and television projects, plans for video installations, vintage photographs and documentation of large-scale television projects such as Guadalcanal Requiem (1977/79) and The More the Better (1988).
Letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes and notes from friends and business associates reflect Paik’s association with a wide international circle of artists, including many of those associated with Fluxus. Biographical materials include vintage photographs, an early affidavit of support from Jonas Mekas for Paik’s temporary entry into the United States and the transcript of an interview conducted by Dick Higgins.
Additional materials that provide insight into Paik’s career include documentation of early Fluxus performances from before and after Paik’s move to New York City in 1964; printed announcements and programs for exhibitions, festivals, and performances. The Archive also includes a variety of early models of televisions and video projectors, radios, record players, and cameras. Toys, games, folk sculptures, over 300 books and magazines, and the desk where he painted in his studio are also part of the Archive.
The Nam June Paik Archive is a gift of the Paik Estate. Though the estate gift forms the core of the Archive, additional items from private collections have also been acquired and are welcomed, with the goal of enhancing research assets on this artist.
Support for the Nam June Paik Archive was received from the Smithsonian’s Collections Care and Preservation Fund.