Sol LeWitt as a collector. An artist and his artists

ExhibitionsSol LeWitt as a collector. An artist and his artists

From 18 April to 2 September 2013

Locations : Galerie 3
Category : Exhibitions
Public : All ages

Sol LeWitt collector. An artist and his artists shows some one hundred works from the collection of the American artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007).

The author of some of the most influential texts on conceptual art, Sol LeWitt is known for his serial three-dimensional structures and for the one thousand two hundred wall drawings he produced between 1968 and 2007. He was also a collector and this aspect of his life sometimes influenced his own artistic output.

Sol LeWitt assembled a remarkable collection of more than 4,000 works, thus joining a long line of artist-collectors such as Arman, Robert Rauschenberg, Alfred Stieglitz or Giorgio Vasari. Most of the works in the LeWitt Collection came from trades with other artists, in particular young artists whom he encouraged and supported this way.

The exhibition focuses on minimal and conceptual works on paper, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s. It represents the diversity of the LeWitt Collection, ranging from mid-19th century Japanese prints to Aboriginal painting, as well as scores and recordings of music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Steve Reich.

This presentation of the LeWitt Collection at Centre Pompidou-Metz features a soundtrack of ten sound pieces composed by Sébastien Roux, directly inspired by Sol LeWitt's wall drawings shown in Galerie 2, and texts written by the artist Marcelline Delbecq.

Béatrice Gross, independent curator and art critic, New York.

Exhibition produced in collaboration with the LeWitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut (United States)
and in partnership with M.A.D.R.E. - Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples (Italy)

1928 Born in Hartford (CT), in the United States. As a boy, the future artist collected stamps.

1951 Served in the Korean War; spent time in Japan where he bought his first prints, dating from the 19th century.

1953 Moved to New York.

1956 Met Eva Hesse; the two artists became friends and exchanged numerous works.

1960-64 Worked at the Museum of Modern Art, (NY), at the book counter and at the night desk, where he met artists Dan Flavin, Robert Ryman and Robert Mangold who were employed as guards. First trades of works.

1968-69 First exhibitions of LeWitt’s works in Europe (Germany, then France and Italy); his personal collection took on international scope as he met new artists and gallerists.

1976 The collection, now with 600 works, was given as a long-term loan to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford (CT), where it was shown in some twenty temporary exhibitions and from 1982 on permanently in a dedicated gallery.

1977 First trip to Australia and the start of his interest in Aboriginal painting.

1978 Met Carol Androccio; the couple married in 1982 and continued collecting together.

1980 Sol and Carol LeWitt moved to Spoleto, Umbria (Italy).

1981 First exhibition of the LeWitt collection in Middletown, (CT).

1984-86 The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art curated a major traveling exhibition of the LeWitt Collection.

1988 The LeWitts returned to the United States and settled in Chester, (CT).

1998 Acquisition of a warehouse in Chester to store the collection.

2001 Some fifteen works from the LeWitt Collection were shown for the first time in Europe, in a group show at the Collection Lambert in Avignon.

2007 Death of Sol LeWitt, leaving a collection of 4,000 works by 750 artists.


“ Sol was a born collector. He collected stamps when he was a child, and had every block of four that was made between the 1890s and 1940, every single one of them. When he was in the service during the Korean War, he was stationed in Japan and started buying wood block prints. He used his weekly pay on print purchases. [...]

Sol was one of the artists of his generation that was never threatened by new ideas. One of my favorite lines by him is: ‘Ideas cannot be owned. They belong to whomever understands them.’ Sol was always very inspired by and supportive of young artists, which was extremely unusual in that generation. Unlike many of his peers, he collected all of the women, for example Eva Hesse, Jo Baer, Pat Steir, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Hanne Darboven, and Lee Lozano. Sol traded with them as peers, when other male artists were hardly paying any attention to them. Sol was very much an art world ambassador when he lived in New York in the 1960s and 1970s. He had a practice where he would work in the morning and walk around to everyone’s studio in the afternoon. He would go to see Eva [Hesse] and Tom [Doyle], he would go to Bob Ryman, he would go to the Mangolds… He had this circuit, he would just pop in and see what everybody was doing. Then he would go around and say: ‘You should really go look at that studio or you should show that artist.’ He had a great influence on Virginia Dwan in that sense. [...]

Later on, he would always say to dealers, ‘Why would I want money? Give me that work instead.’ Money was something he was not interested in at all. He was only interested in ideas and things, which was a fascinating way to live life.”

interviewed by Béatrice Gross (excerpt), April 25, 2011, LeWitt residence, New York


“Sol and I met at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) in 1962 and we soon developed a close friendship. The MoMA was a linking point between everybody in this group. Bob Ryman worked there, Flavin worked there. A lot of artists, including Sol, worked there. […]

As an artist, you create a body of work that’s totally unique and yours, and you keep making it. But what Sol brought into the mix is if you got the idea for something, you should do it without worrying about the audience’s expectations. The idea was really to follow your thoughts or ideas out and Sol’s idea was that his mind should be free. […]

Sol was really a liberating influence. He was an inspiration in a lot of ways, also because he was such a collector. The collection is encyclopedic because Sol collected what was going on in a very open way.”


interviewed by Béatrice Gross (excerpt), November 18, 2011, Mangolds’ residence, Washingtonville, (NY)


“Wherever Sol lived, his studio was stacked floor to ceiling with tapes. He was a great music lover, classical in particular, which he was very knowledgeable about. That’s something else a lot of people don’t know, and which proves he was somebody very special, you could say somebody complete. Every morning while he was working he would record some New York music radio station. He recorded everything, even if he never had time to listen to it all. He accumulated. He was a born collector. […]

Sol was one of the few American artists who would return a favor. He was certainly one of the few who used to talk about and circulate what he saw. He encouraged young artists. He would buy their work but never made a big deal out of it.”

interviewed by Béatrice Gross (excerpt), February 3, 2011, Baden-Baden, Germany


“Sol LeWitt would never let me do a portrait of him. He didn’t believe in the ‘cult of the artists;’ he only wanted the art to be known. He didn’t want to be photographed, didn’t want anyone to know what he looked like. This self-effacing attitude masked the fact that Sol was one of the most generous artists I have ever known. Everyone knows about his generosity to other artists of every stripe, many of whom were emerging or overlooked, and to every cause and charity. First and foremost, however, he was generous in his art, laying out for all to see the underlying concepts, rational underpinnings, and logical development within a piece and from piece to piece. He shared his vision, his passion for change, and his belief that following a process wherever it would lead would produce work that even this inventor of Conceptual art could not preconceive. We were free to travel along on this seemingly never-ending journey of discovery and share with him his obvious pleasure in permutation and change.”

in Susan M. Cross and Denise Markonish (ed.), Sol LeWitt: 100 Views, North Adams: MassMoCA/New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009