The First Five Years: 1999 - 2004

The mission of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation is to research, document, protect and share Roy Lichtenstein’s art and creative legacy. Consistent with Roy’s own high values and qualities, we interpret this to be both a guide and an expansive challenge leading to more complex and creative initiatives.

After our launch in June of 1999, we focused on establishing institutional authority, staffing and setting up offices in Roy’s West Greenwich Village studio. Our initial annual budget was about one-half million dollars, contributed by Mrs. Lichtenstein. After the first major transfer of assets to the Foundation in 2001, we became self-funding by investment income and the occasional art sale. This revenue allowed us to pursue more subtle and complicated agendas. Currently, our annual operating and special projects budgets combined are approximately one and one-half million dollars.

We focus not only on the ethical and philosophical expectations of an artist’s private operating foundation but also on the broader implications of Lichtenstein’s art with its global relations to historical process, critical fortune, museums, galleries, collectors, critics and students, young and old. Our multi-layered operations are facilitated by the support and encouragement of our Board and by the hard work of the Foundation’s dedicated staff and contract researchers.

We are proactive in finding and correcting the data of Roy Lichtenstein’s art and life. We are flexible about the interpretation or analysis of his art since we believe freedom of expression and diversity of evocative opinion are both desirable and realistic in a pluralist world. Yet, we do challenge fuzzy thinking, not as editors or censors, but as people committed to the integrity and excitement of Lichtenstein’s works of art.

We have commissioned various essays from writers new to Pop Art and Roy Lichtenstein and supported research by several advanced graduate students on their dissertations. We currently employ 14 art historians conducting international research for our catalogues raisonné. We have conceived and published at least one scholarly catalogue relating to a highly focused research exhibition every year. Further we have facilitated and placed Roy Lichtenstein’s work into the most distinguished national and international public and quasi-public collections. We expect informed comparison and analysis will result.

We believe in the critical necessity to nurture new, informed audiences. Since 1999 the Foundation has been directly involved in 42 public museum and university gallery exhibitions, 9 formal art press conferences, 16 gallery exhibitions, and 5 long-term loans to museums or universities. We have contributed information to scores of catalogues, scholarly articles or symposia, public articles and press kits. We have facilitated hundreds of objects being lent from the Estate, and, upon receipt of the entire studio archive, we have now incorporated, processed and updated more than 5,000 records and object files.

Our library has over 2,500 reference works. Our photographic archive holds more than 5,000 known images of the artist with his work. Our new Lichtenstein chronology runs for 25 single space typed pages with incredible depth of new information. Our website has 19 departments loaded with data and images and source material and is expanding daily with Lichtenstein’s full art oeuvre catalogue beginning with 1997 and 1996, working progressively backward in time. We constantly correct and augment data supplied by international public auctions.

We are in constant touch with major international museums to inquire about their interest in Roy Lichtenstein and his art, both for the present and future. We help museums catalogue their holdings of Lichtensteins. We offer technical advice on art preservation and conservation. We strive to help institutions and scholars by loading them with information, direct experience and our connoisseurship and expertise. We evaluate each emerging project to avoid repetition, exploitation or scheduling conflicts. We have joined the five major New York art museums at a high level of membership and have made financial contributions to various other national research foundations and art associations.

We have facilitated acquisition of major large scale Lichtenstein public sculptures from the Foundation for the collections of: the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; and the Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Oregon. We have made long term sculpture loans of: Brushstroke Group, 1996 to a public plaza in downtown Philadelphia (with Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fairmount Park Art Association oversight); and Coup de Chapeau II, 1996 and Galatea, 1990 to Les Jardins de Tuileries, Paris, France. The Foundation’s historically crucial Rouen Cathedral Set III, 1969 was acquired by the Eli and Edythe Broad Collection, Los Angeles. Our iconic Mirror in Six Panels, 1971 is destined for the Art Institute of Chicago. One of the Foundation’s bronze sculpture maquette casts was acquired by a private collector and will be bequeathed to The Art Museum, Princeton University. We are in active negotiation with several other American museums concerning additions to their collection, directly or with related donors. We have agreements in place with the National Gallery of Art, the Harvard Museums and the Whitney Museum of American Art to establish scientific archives of our donated Lichtenstein’s art materials. These materials are deemed critical to future conservation practices. At the same time the Foundation continues to reacquire important early, but under-recognized, work by Roy Lichtenstein. These strategic repurchases allow for both present preservation and future institutional placement in meaningful contexts and study collections.

We have facilitated Estate long-term loans to: New York’s City Hall, City Hall Park and Board of Education Headquarters in the Tweed Court House; Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain. We have facilitated major Estate gifts or transfers to: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the State of New York MTA, Times Square project; the Frederik Meijers Gardens, Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Even in its relative youth our Foundation has become well regarded by our peer artist foundations. As an initiating member of the national Council of Artist Foundations, we are frequently asked to relate our structure, experiences, designs and program. Our unusual catalogue raisonné format and research processes, website, oral history program, study facilities, storage and conservation ethic, physical plant, photographic, biographic and bibliographic archives, artist and art historical library and records are frequently mentioned, esteemed and consulted (and sometimes emulated) by other foundations, museums, universities, dealers and collectors.

The Past is Prologue. Over the past five years we have greatly expanded our independent view, intellectual range, credibility and direct involvements. We believe we are helping lay the groundwork for a more profound understanding of Roy Lichtenstein, his art and the art of his time, all in service to many more future generations. We are now discussing longer range plans and goals for even broader dissemination of catalogue raisonné information, Lichtenstein imagery, artwork, more direct engagement in scholarly processes and a formal authentications procedure. New affiliations will emerge. Exhibitions will be noteworthy and break new ground. Museum collections, the art world and the general public should benefit.

Roy Lichtenstein helped shape fifty years of twentieth-century art history. Our Foundation looks forward with confidence in our ability to foster an enhanced appreciation of all his art and his historic contributions to the benefit of the twenty-first century and beyond.

The Next Three Years: 2005 - 2007

Building upon our formative first five years, over the next three years the Foundation was directly involved in 29 museum exhibitions, 11 gallery exhibitions and numerous research publications (January 2005 to December 2007). New museum audiences experienced large and unusual focus exhibitions of Lichtenstein in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, France, Spain and diverse regional museums throughout the United States. Each exhibition was accompanied by a significant catalogue containing new in-depth information on the artist, his working methods and aesthetic interests. Lichtenstein sculpture, works on paper and pre-Pop media had expanded emphasis. We began work on five future museum focus exhibitions and one major international retrospective plus several gallery shows, all to occur between 2008 and 2013.

We added select staff to manage and expand archival files and source materials as well as chronology and photographs of the artist. Further, a full-time doctoral level art historian, based in Germany, was hired to search all European Lichtenstein collections and gather consistent documentation internationally. A part-time post-doctoral researcher was hired to travel and complete documentation on the Lichtenstein artworks in Asia. The Foundation’s oral history program director formally interviewed more than five dozen people during this three year period.

The Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon acquired the Foundation’s cast of Brushstrokes, 1996, a 30’ high sculpture as a major feature of its new sculpture garden and entry to the new museum wing. The Art Institute of Chicago acquired the Foundation’s important painting Mirror in Six Panels, 1971. Both purchases were facilitated by the Foundation’s flexibility and our desire to place Roy Lichtenstein’s art in distinguished public collections.

The Foundation partnered with the J. Paul Getty Museum Sculpture Conservation Department and the Getty Conservation Institute to conduct a comprehensive artistic and scientific study of all the paint materials, palette, techniques, procedures, glosses and surfaces of Lichtenstein’s outdoor sculpture. This open scientific database will help future conservators and curators make appropriate decisions when faced with restoration or repainting of any Lichtenstein sculpture.

In another long-standing relationship, the Foundation has donated a significant sampling of all Lichtenstein studio materials to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. The NGA’s painting conservation department will determine the chemical composition of the pigments, binders, primers, coatings and grounds and will add this information to their comprehensive Art Materials Collection which contains artist’s materials samples dating from the 13th century to today, with an emphasis on the 20th century.

We continued to discover previously undocumented early paintings and drawings by Roy Lichtenstein from the 1940s and 1950s. We acquired some of these archival early artworks and prototypes for our Foundation collection with the future goal of museum collection donations.

Authentication committee procedures were created and the committee responded to 3 dozen formal applications and a large number of verbal or informal inquiries. The majority of the applications concerned drawings but a number of early, pre-Pop paintings were also reviewed. Prints were not formally authenticated as we directed all those questions to the existing published print catalogue raisonné published by Hudson Hills Press and the National Gallery of Art. We shared our expertise with various local and Federal law enforcement agencies as they pursued contemporary print forgery rings and distributors. We continued to work with internet sales outlets and international auction houses to confirm attributions and cataloging data.

We doubled the size of the Foundation website over the last three years, with additional images of artwork and source materials. This involved significant expenses for new software and code. Designed to be a pre-catalogue raisonné, this dynamic electronic “oeuvre catalogue” [found on] is also our opportunity to test information accuracy, applicability and accessibility. Our websites run parallel to the Foundation’s continued educational commitment to supply thousands of high resolution Lichtenstein images to the global art image database ArtStor.

We sponsored public programming, docent tours and catalogue research for the Robert Rauschenberg “Combine” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were a lead donor in funding a two-year scholarly study by the Aspen Institute on the nature and complexities of artist-endowed foundations (in response to the phenomenal growth of artist foundations in the United States). The former is consistent with our mission to facilitate study of the art and artists of Roy Lichtenstein’s time and the latter evolves from our acknowledged visibility and cultural responsibilities as an artist-endowed foundation.

The Foundation helped offset other museums’ Lichtenstein exhibition expenses through some grants-in-aid and catalogue buy-backs. We continue to work with filmmakers and photographers to help them inventory, transcribe and preserve all film stock, outtakes, contact sheets and interviews from any documentary work done on or with Roy Lichtenstein.

The Foundation continued to refine its governance. We carefully expanded our board, adopted ethics statements and reports, launched internal and external audits and focused on compliance issues with increased management oversight. It remained our goal to serve as a proven example of Best Practices while not losing our ability to be opportunistic and creative. We trust we are useful and active members of our informal peer group: the Council of Artist Foundations.

Report of Activities: 2008 - 2009

June 2009 marked the 10th anniversary of the operational beginning of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and I must say we could never have predicted, planned or dared dream where we are now.  

Notwithstanding our hyper-growth from 1999 to 2007, it has been specifically during these past two years (2008-2009) that the Foundation has had its most dramatic expansion of mission, art holdings and programming.

Special Project 2008:
Foremost in the expansion of our total mission has been the acquisition in 2008, of the Harry Shunk [Shunk-Kender] Photographic Archive containing more than 100,000 photographs, contact sheets and negatives relating to more than 500 European and American contemporary artists working during the second half of the twentieth-century.  Funded through the generous gift by Dorothy Lichtenstein, we saved this historic archive of Shunk and Shunk-Kender photographs from dissolution and dismemberment. We are now preserving all its elements, archiving and scanning the images, preparing publication of the images on a future new dedicated website, and also beginning to devise a gifting program of the photographic prints to relevant museums and archives worldwide.  

The Foundation holds and manages the photographer copyright for all the Shunk and Shunk-Kender images.  Yet, we have decided to forego charging royalties for qualified scholarly, book publication or institutional use. We are increasingly researching the under-documented lives and creativity of Harry Shunk and Janos [Jean] Kender.

All of this Shunk/Shunk-Kender initiative has effectively become a new and compelling “second-half” of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation’s life.  As Dorothy Lichtenstein said in encouraging this expansion: “I’m sure Roy would be delighted, and relieved, to know that his foundation is not only about himself.”

Special Event 2009:
Of the most profound consequence in 2009 for the Foundation’s art holdings of Roy Lichtenstein was the Foundation’s receipt of an enormous gift of artworks and study materials from the artist’s family.  We worked closely with the heirs on the composition of this gift of almost 300 works from 1977-1987 to create both a robust study and lending archive of sketch books, drawings, maquettes, collages and notable paintings, plus the fabrication rights to major large scale sculpture from the period.  The art historical value of this gift is, of course, inestimable, and it will greatly facilitate our future museum and institutional programs. This gift has dramatically strengthened the Foundation for many years to come. We cannot sufficiently thank the family for this generous and far-sighted donation.

Other Projects 2008/2009:
We have continued to re-acquire, either at auction or through private purchase, archival and study pieces relating to Lichtenstein’s pre-and early Pop art years.  It remains our goal to discover, protect and study these works before eventual donation to museums.  In the so-called “matrix” items, these range, in just the last two years, from early 1950s woodblock plates hand-carved by the artists for his color woodblock prints to the historic screens used to produce Pop silkscreen prints and an early Pop paper maquette for a metal “explosion” sculpture. Further acquisitions include pre-Pop and Pop-era drawings plus a rare late 1970s tapestry. All of these works should be further enhanced by related future gifts of cognate materials from the Estate.

Concerning programming, the Foundation has been actively involved in 20 Lichtenstein solo exhibitions, via loans, documentation and assistance with institutions throughout the United States and in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Moscow, Japan and Puerto Rico. We are working forward on future additional major Lichtenstein research exhibitions in the United States, Italy, Austria and Great Britain.

We have facilitated important Lichtenstein long term loans to France, Denmark, Switzerland and a number of American museums.

We have supplied and/or approved publication Shunk/Shunk-Kender photographic images in a dozen museum catalogues, books and scholarly publications with numerous long lead-time projects planned for coming years.

We have created a comprehensive and long range conservation research study project in partnership with the Getty Museum Conservation Department, the Getty Conservation Institute and the Getty Research Institute to map all exterior paint systems for all Lichtenstein monumental outdoor sculpture worldwide.  Conservation guidelines and advice will be written, based on the works’ peculiarities as seen through good scientific method and expertise.  Another part of this project will result in a comprehensive film with Checkerboard Films documenting all stages of Lichtenstein sculpture creation, fabrication and their related technologies and considerations. This film will have various iterations, from short transmission via our website, to a full technical DVD to a smaller interpretive cut for museum educational screening.

We have expanded our work with graduate students and post-graduate researchers on not only Roy Lichtenstein but also Harry Shunk and Janos Kender.  

Our oral history project interviewed, recorded and transcribed 29 additional major sources of information and people who substantively knew Roy Lichtenstein during these past 2 years.  We have launched the establishment of a finding aid (soon to be added to our Foundation website) which will identify the most pertinent of these 200+ interviewed.  The project represents an enormous amount of new raw material for future art historians and critics.

We facilitated important partial purchase and/or partial gifts with the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art.

We continued to fabricate and then loan authorized but previously unrealized artist’s proofs of several monumental Lichtenstein public sculptures.

In our rapidly expanding community of peer artist-endowed foundations we have all joined to help fund a complex and scholarly research of twentieth century American artist endowed foundations under the auspices of the Aspen Institute.  This multi-year, multi-author project should be released in 2010.

In our foundation’s governance structure we have anticipated many of the new Federal and State reporting requirements. Aiming to exemplify best practices, we have engaged outside auditors and management and compensation consultants. We have expanded not only our public transparency but also instituted new policies concerning self-inurement, ethics and conflicts of interest.  Finally, we have initiated a strategic program of Board membership growth, adding new outside specialists and new points of view. These new members complement the existing Board by design and this expansion will continue for the next several years despite the fact that the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation governance team already goes well beyond that of the artist’s founding family members.

Jack Cowart
Founding Executive Director
1 January 2010