The Getty Research Institute has acquired the Robert McElroy archives, which document the New York art scene in the 1960s, particularly the advent of performance art. McElroy, who died in 2012, photographed happenings and performances by such artists as Jim Dine, Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, and Robert Whitman.
The archive contains some 700 vintage prints developed by McElroy, 10,000 negatives and contact sheets, and 2,000 recent prints produced by Pace Gallery for research into its 2012 exhibition Happenings: New York, 1958-1963. The acquisition in part purchase and part donation by McElroy’s widow, Evelyn McElroy.
A Chicago native, McElroy studied at Ohio University with fellow students Jim Dine and Paul Fusco. He moved to New York in 1958 and soon became a regular at various downtown art spaces. Between 1960 and 1965, McElroy documented several landmark events in the art world, including Dine’s Car Crash and Smiling Workman; Oldenburg’s Store Days I and II, Nekropolis I and II, and Circus: Ironworks/Fotodeath; Kaprow’s Apple Shrine, A Spring Happening, Words and Service for the Dead; and Robert Whitman’s American Moon and Mouth. McElroy also shot Kaprow’s celebrated Yard installation at Martha Jackson Gallery and documented the birth of Oldenburg’s soft sculptures. He also recorded the new phenomenon of pop art, photographing work by Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Arman, Christo, Yves Klein and others.