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Smithsonian's Archives of American Art acquires trove of 1970s' New York photographs by Cosmos
Cosmos in Cosmos Appearance Series #371, circa 1975. Photograph by Charles Denson. Cosmos Andrew Sarchiapone papers, Archives of American Art.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art has acquired the extraordinary photographic archive of Cosmos Andrew Sarchiapone (1931–2011)—or “Cosmos,” as he was known—including more than 40,000 images documenting New York’s avant-garde art scene, along with celebrity parties, concerts, openings and other occasions in the 1970s'. The collection contains black-and-white presentation prints, 4-by-5-inch work prints, negatives, contact sheets and photographic works of art, as well as rare printed materials about art-world events.

According to Milton Glaser, celebrated graphic designer and founder of New York magazine, “Cosmos was a brilliant photographer who was never without a camera….He was always everywhere. In terms of documentation of that period, there was no one like him.”

A conceptual artist, performance artist and photojournalist, Cosmos left his archive in the care of Catherine Morris, now a curator at the Brooklyn Museum, who met him when she was researching her 1998 exhibition on FOOD, the legendary artist-run restaurant in SoHo. Morris facilitated the donation of the archive to the Archives of American Art from Cosmos’ brother, Tom Sarchiapone.

Cosmos extensively photographed performances and installations at 112 Greene Street in SoHo, which was established by Jeffrey Lew, Alan Saret and Gordon Matta-Clark in a rag-picking factory. The self-curated, interdisciplinary art space nurtured the experiments of a number of now significant American artists, dancers and musicians, including Chris Burden, Vito Acconci, Suzanne Harris and Phillip Glass, all of whom appear in the archive. There are also hundreds of images of 112 Greene Street’s sister space, Matta-Clark’s FOOD, an artist-run eatery at the corner of Prince and Wooster Streets where exotic meals were offered up as both performance art and nourishment.

Cosmos photographed artist Joseph Beuys daily for one month in 1974. The archive holds more than 400 images of Beuys at 112 Greene Street and elsewhere in New York City, including the iconic image of the artist in a fur-collared coat that appeared on his Ronald Feldman Gallery announcement.

“Cosmos would appear, take these wonderful photographs, then disappear,” said Ron Feldman, longtime New York art dealer. “He didn’t ask for money, and we didn’t pay him. He enjoyed taking photos and making an historical record of people he admired. It’s so beautiful that the Archives of American Art has collected his archive. I’m thrilled with this news.”

As a freelance photographer for New York magazine and other mass-market publications, Cosmos photographed Andy Warhol and his circle, Halloween parties at the Waldorf, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon convention, the Jesus Joy Jubilee at Carnegie Hall, the Beat Poets’ reunion and private parties attended by Hollywood actors and directors, often capturing the overlapping worlds of art, movies and music.

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