The Archive of 20th Century Avant-garde Art

Egidio Marzona

In addition to an extensive collection with focuses on conceptual art, minimal art, arte povera and land art, since the late 1960s gallery owner, publisher and collector Egidio Marzona has also spent his career amassing the Archiv der Avantgarden, an archive of 20th-century avant-garde art. The archive described as unique holds literature such as catalogues, artist books and art journals, materials such as letters, manifestos and photographs, also ephemera such as posters and exhibition invitation cards, but also collages, drawings, sketches, conceptions and works of prominent artists, as well as design objects and furniture. Represented in the extensive lot of more than 1.5 million objects containing materials on all artistic disciplines are the major art movements of the past century, from futurism and expressionism to post-modernism and the Junge Wilde of the early 1980s. Last year, its holdings were handed over to Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden by way of donation, where they are to be preserved in their entirety in a research centre and to be made accessible to science as well as a wider audience: offering new insight into artistic and creative thinking, developments and contexts, Marzona’s archive is to serve as a laboratory.

In this discussion, Egidio Marzona will provide details about genesis, structure, and particularities – in short: the potentially unruly – of the Archiv der Avantgarden. Also to be addressed in particular are questions on the status of the materials contained in this archive and the status of the archive as a whole: What is considered a document, what counts as a work of art? Or does the archive, in its concrete shape, mirror an indistinguishability that is inherent in the artistic processes documented therein? And if so, where in one's own collecting practice could be located the separation between art collection and archive? Finally but not least, it will be discussed what is behind the notion of the archive as a laboratory, and how it can be made a reality.