The Foundation has assembled the most comprehensive archive of the presentation and evolution of Gonzalez-Torres’s work. The Foundation’s multi-pronged approach to archival practices responds both to the specific nature of experiencing Gonzalez-Torres’s work itself, as well as material that may support further understanding of the work. The guiding principles of the Foundation’s archival methodology draw directly from Gonzalez-Torres’s practice, and these principles also guide the framework of this website, which therefore prioritizes the Works section. We strive to maintain archival platforms that allow viewers and researchers to encounter and engage with the complexity of the work on their own terms.
The Foundation acknowledges that certain types of materials are best retained and accessed in the materials' own context, and honors that different archival structures, both within and outside the Foundation, serve important and diverse functions. While the Foundation is a repository of several significant archives, we are also committed to the ongoing project of creating an index of where all archival materials may reside— acting as a conduit for researchers to have access to these materials.
Current Exhibition Archival Requests Practices:
The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation encourages an approach to exhibition documentation that reflects exhibitors’ rigorous decision making around the manifestation and installation of Gonzalez-Torres’s work, and captures how the work may shift over the course of an installation. The Foundation recommends that exhibitors appoint one individual who appreciates the nature of the work and the depth of the decision making around the manifestation and/or installation to develop and oversee a strategy for fulfilling archival requests. The Foundation asks to be in contact with this individual in advance of the exhibition in order to discuss the nature and scope of archival requests.
Photographic documentation is a primary component of exhibition archival requests. The malleable nature of Gonzalez-Torres’s work — both in terms of how it appears from one installation to the next, as well as how the work may evolve throughout the duration of a single installation — necessitates a multi-pronged approach to photographic documentation. In order to record exhibitors’ unique decisions around the work and the nuanced changes that may occur, the Foundation encourages exhibitors to explore various methodologies for documentation, which may capture such things as: the process of installing the work, including techniques and tools; how the public interacts with and affects the work; how and by whom the work is maintained and/or replenished; how the form of the work may shift over the course of the exhibition, etc.
In order to achieve such in depth documentation, the Foundation is interested in receiving images and video from professional photographers as well as from exhibitors’ staff and members of the public (taken on a personal phone, camera or other device). For more information regarding public image submissions, see Submitting Images.
Another core component of exhibition archival requests are interviews with every individual involved in the decision making around each manifestation and installation of the work, to create records of both conceptual and practical decisions and any influential factors that may have contributed to the ongoing decision-making process. The Foundation requests the names and contact information of all individuals who contribute to the manifestation, installation, and maintenance of the work, and individuals who may interact with the work in any other significant way.
Manifestation and installation details and decisions may also be communicated via planning documents, floor plans, written notes, narrative description, etc.
Description of Archives and Archival Practices:
Photographic Documentation Archive
Many of the works in Gonzalez-Torres’s oeuvre cannot be adequately represented by a single, static image, as it is often the case that the works vary from manifestation to manifestation, with each exhibition, and throughout the course of an installation. Due to the mutable nature of many of the works, we strive to obtain photographic documentation that: represents the work at numerous points in the duration of each installation; reflects the owner's or curator’s rights and responsibilities to make decisions around the work; places the work within its context; illuminates the way that the works have been interacted with; as well as show how part of the work may move beyond the exhibition space. The Photographic Documenation Archive endeavors to approximate the experience of encountering and engaging with Gonzalez-Torres’s work. (Other archives in the Foundation are guided by a similar ethos to the Photographic Documentation Archive: e.g. a comprehensive archive of material samples from each manifestation; and the Exhibition Oral Interview Practice, which records the nature of owners’ and curators’ decision making around each manifestation.)
The Photographic Documentation Archive is intentionally comprised of images and video from a multitude of perspectives, including professional photographers, exhibitors’ staff, and members of the public, from both within and beyond installation contexts. For more information regarding public image submissions, see Submitting Images.
Please note that the Foundation is the sole licensor of copyright in and to all works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. To inquire about image use or reproduction, please visit Image Licensing.
Work and Exhibition Archives
The Foundation’s Work and Exhibition records constitute the most comprehensive archive of the presentation and ongoing evolution of all works in Gonzalez-Torres’s oeuvre. Like the Photographic Documentation Archive, the structure of the Work and Exhibition Archive is guided by and reflects the unique nature of Gonzalez-Torres’s work. As well as exhibition materials, this archive strives to represent the breadth of discourse and decision making involved in each installation.
In order to create a holistic and multifaceted perspective, the Work and Exhibition Archive brings together the Photographic Documentation Archive, the Exhibition Oral Interview Practice, material samples of the work from each manifestation (whenever possible), physical and/or digital exhibition materials, catalogues, press, exhibition-related correspondence, etc.
Please note that galleries associated with the representation of the Estate of Felix Gonzalez-Torres (Andrea Rosen Gallery and David Zwirner) also accumulate information and maintain independent archives on the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres and, in most cases, copies of this material are eventually donated to the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation.
Exhibition Oral Interview Practice
For each exhibition/installation of Gonzalez-Torres’s work, the Foundation attempts to conduct interviews with individuals involved in the decision making around the installation, manifestation (when relevant), and maintenance of the work throughout each presentation. (These interviewees may include curators, owners, fabricators, gallery or museum staff members, etc.) We are interested in documenting first-hand experiences with all aspects of the work. This practice is ongoing for both current and retroactive exhibitions.
Oral Archives Project
The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Oral Archives Project is an independent and long-term research project which records in-depth dialogues with individuals who knew the artist in his lifetime. The project prioritizes historical and personal accounts—including colleagues, collectors, friends, and family who were in direct dialogue with the artist about his work. As of 2020, over one -hundred interviews have been conducted and the project is actively ongoing. These Oral Archives will eventually be donated to the Foundation.
Archives of Related Materials
The Foundation attempts to maintain records on the full breadth of Gonzalez-Torres’s production. While the primary Work and Exhibitions Archive concentrates on the works within the artist’s oeuvre (as defined by the artist), bodies of related materials often give insight into Gonzalez-Torres’s practice and decision-making process. The two main categories of materials outside Gonzalez-Torres’s oeuvre are described as Non-Works and Additional Material (these categories were listed in the 1997 Catalogue Raisonné as “registered non-works” and “additional materials”). (The Foundation separately keeps records of Correspondence and Ephemera—see Correspondence Archives below.)
In order to make the Foundation’s expanded website publicly accessible as soon as possible while the Foundation continues to archive images and all related information of as many Non-Works and Additional Materials as obtainable, comprehensive sections corresponding to these categories will become accessible as part of the next phase of the website, which is already in progress. However, please note that in the Exhibitions section of the website, the Foundation has attempted to make a checklist accessible for every exhibition. These checklists include Non-Works or Additional Material that were included in such exhibitions. These checklists also provide access to images of such Non-Works and Additional Material, whenever available.
Non-Works are materials that Gonzalez-Torres included in exhibitions and/or publications, and/or had inventory records, but which Gonzalez-Torres ultimately decided he no longer considered works and removed from his oeuvre. Gonzalez-Torres did not make material in this category available for acquisition in his lifetime. The majority of Non-Works were destroyed by the artist.
Caption information when reproducing Non-Works: The first line of a Non-Work caption reads: Non-Work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The second line reads: Formerly titled: followed by the original format of the title. There are very few cases in which Non-Works have no recorded title, in these case the second line would read: [No recorded title]. Subsequent information can include: date, dimension, and any other information from the original caption. Each Non-Work has a specific cataloguing number. These cataloguing numbers can also be listed. The current format of catalogue numbers reads: N-W followed by a specifically assigned roman numeral [referred to in the 1997 Catalogue Raisonné as specifically assigned roman numeral]. For specific caption information for a particular Non-Work, please feel free to contact the Foundation.
Additional Material comprises diverse types of material such as: variations or precursors to works that Gonzalez-Torres considered part of his oeuvre, material dating back to the artist’s university years, proof sheets of photographs, as well as independent material. Some of this material was destroyed by Gonzalez-Torres and some remains in the world. Gonzalez-Torres often gave this material to others with some sense of assurance that it would exist in the world (as per the editor of the catalogue raisonné published in 1997: many of these materials bear dedications, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s name or his signature, but few are titled or dated). Gonzalez-Torres did not sell this material, apart from one example that we are aware of. Gonzalez-Torres deemed that all materials he produced prior to 1988 were not works, with the exception of nineteen works from 1987 and four works from 1986, and eight materials from 1987 and one from 1986 which Gonzalez-Torres categorized as Non-Works. (As per the catalogue raisonné: a document signed by the artist stated that no material made while he was a student at the Pratt Institute was to be considered a work, unless otherwise specified by him in writing.) (Also noted in the catalogue raisonné: from 1990 to his passing, none of the materials in this category were presented in an exhibition with the artist’s permission.) Much of this material may be an interesting point of reference to what Gonzalez-Torres ultimately deemed the work.
Caption information when reproducing Additional Material: The first line of a caption for Additional Material reads: Additional Material by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The second line in most cases reads: [No title]. There are a few cases where Additional Material have former titles, in which case the second line would read: Formerly titled: followed by the original format of the title. Subsequent information can include: any recorded date, dimension, or descriptions associated with the Additional Material. Each Additional Material has a specific cataloguing number. These cataloguing numbers can also be listed. The current format for the majority of catalogue numbers reads: AM specific catalogue number [Referred to in the 1997 Catalogue Raisonné as specific catalogue number]. There are a few cases in which Additional Material were not yet listed in the Catalogue Raisonné. In those cases, the catalogue numbers would simply read: AM specific catalogue number. For specific caption information for a particular Additional Material, please feel free to contact the Foundation.
Gonzalez-Torres had a prolific and significant correspondence practice, sending materials on an ongoing basis to a wide range of individuals in varying degrees of frequency and quantity. In addition to letters, this material often took the form of snapshots or postcards inscribed with notes. Often duplicates of the same snapshot were sent to various recipients. And, while there are instances of similar phrases written on duplicate snapshots, there are also many occasions where varying, or even contradictory, content accompanies the same image. This correspondence practice is rich in its own right, and also sheds light on both Gonzalez-Torres’s interest in the complexity of multiple points of view and a nuanced relationship to his art making practice.
While the Foundation works to create a comprehensive index of all such material in all of its locations, unlike other foundations who may attempt to acquire and house correspondence and ephemera, the Foundation honors that these materials belong to the individuals who are the recipients, and respects that each individual recipient has the right to determine if the material is best kept as part of their own archives or otherwise disseminated.
While such material exists in various repositories and significant archives, in 2018 The Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution made the commitment to becoming the leading repository, caretaker, and resource for as much Gonzalez-Torres correspondence and ephemera archive material as possible by creating an open call. The Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution — Felix Gonzalez-Torres Call for Submissions.