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SC 17

Wise, Howard, 1903-1989. Records of the Howard Wise Gallery, 1954 – 1989

Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
The President and Fellows of Harvard College

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: SC 17
Repository: Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
Title: Records of the Howard Wise Gallery, 1954-1989: A Guide
Date(s): 1954 – 1989
Quantity: 25 linear feet (52 legal size Hollinger boxes, 1 half-sized legal Hollinger box, 1 card box, 1 folio box, oversized materials)
Abstract: Personal and gallery correspondence, posters, advertisements, exhibition records created and collected by Howard Wise, art dealer, patron, and owner of galleries in Cleveland and New York City.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Barbara Wise donated the collection to the Harvard Art Museums in March 2007.

Processing Information:

The collection was partially processed in 2011 by Peter Laurence. The collection was fully processed in 2015 by Jill Morton with assistance from Megan Creamer and Megan Schwenke. The finding aid was encoded in 2016 by Megan Schwenke.

Conditions on Access:


Conditions on Use:

Copyright: The donor has transferred any copyright held in these papers to the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright in some papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museum Archives before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.
Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.


Howard Earl Wise was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 6, 1903, and was educated at Cleveland's University School and at the prestigious Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland. In the 1920s he studied art in Paris and later received a BA in History (1926) and International Law at Clare College, Cambridge University. Upon graduation he returned home to Cleveland to work for the family business, The Arco Company, which manufactured industrial paints and varnishes. After 25 years as president of The Arco Company, Wise sold the business, and in 1957 opened the Howard Wise Gallery of Present Day Painting and Sculpture in order to create a presence for modern art in Cleveland. Wise had limited success with the gallery in Cleveland and decided to open a second location in New York. In 1960, he established the Howard Wise Gallery on 50 W. 57th St. and permanently moved the gallery to that location in 1961, after closing the Cleveland gallery.
Wise started working in New York with Expressionist artists like Milton Resnick and George McNeil, but soon became interested in kinetic art, later moving into kinetic light sculpture and eventually video art. The first U.S. survey of kinetic art took place in his Manhattan gallery in early 1964 and was entitled "On the Move." It featured works by Yaacov Agam, Julio Le Parc, Vassiliakis Takis, and others, and was followed later that year by an exhibition of the "Group Zero" collective including Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker. In 1967 he presented "Lights in Orbit," an important survey of kinetic light sculpture that featured some of these same artists and others working in television and video art such as Earl Reiback, Thomas Tadlock, and Nam June Paik. Two years later Wise mounted his influential "TV as a Creative Medium" exhibition.
In 1971 Wise closed the gallery and founded the non-profit organization Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) to provide administrative and technical support to artists using video as a medium. Through his own personal interest and resources, Wise worked over many years as a dealer, gallery owner, and patron to assist artists and to further work in kinetic, light, and video art. Howard Wise married his first wife Jane Eiseman (born 1914) in 1933, and met his second wife Barbara (born 1929) in 1952. Wise had four children – two by his first marriage (Daniel and Jeremy) and two by his second (David and Juliet).
Howard Wise died in Wellfleet, MA on September 7, 1989. Barbara S. Wise, who continued on as president of the board of EAI and who donated these papers, died on March 23, 2011.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

The collection is arranged topically by series.

Scope and Content:

The Howard Wise Gallery records span from the mid-1950s to the late 1980s, with the bulk of material between 1960 and 1971 when Howard WiseHoward Wise ran his New York gallery. The collection consists of personal and gallery correspondence, business records, exhibition catalogs, advertisements, artist contracts, newspaper clippings, photographs, slides, posters, and a small number of speeches and manuscripts for publication. Early items pertain to the Cleveland gallery which opened in 1957 and closed in 1961, while later material often relates to Electronic Arts Intermix, the video arts organization Wise founded after closing the New York gallery in 1971. Business records document the interpersonal and legal aspects of representing artists, day-to-day operations that involve showing, loaning, transferring and storing works, and the gifting of works to other museums and galleries.
There are materials on artists exhibited at the Howard Wise Gallery throughout the collection. Series III. Gallery Artists exists in the order established by Wise, and contains most of the records on the artists he exhibited and represented. Series IV. Artist Reference Files contains the materials Wise collected on artists of interest to him, and is an accompanying series to the records contained in Series III. The collection also includes letters and clippings on political topics that were of interest to Wise, including his writings about art, personal and political interests, and later art activities as a resident of Cape Cod. Folder titles are attributed to Howard Wise unless otherwise noted through the use of brackets. Titles of original enclosing folders have been preserved followed by a colon and the title of the enclosed folder.

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