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Steven Leiber: Catalogs

by Lawrence Rinder

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Beloved by collectors and scholars alike, Steven Leiber’s beautiful bookseller catalogs shaped the canon of publications by artists

Steven Leiber was a pioneering San Francisco art dealer, collector and gallerist who specialized in the dematerialized art practices of the 1960s and 1970s and the ephemera and documentation spawned by conceptual art and other postwar movements. To sell this material, Leiber produced a series of 52 iconic catalogs between 1992 and 2010. Far from your ordinary dealer catalog, Leiber’s catalogs paid homage to the kind of historic printed matter that he bought and sold, mimicking iconic publications like Wallace Berman’s Semina journal and the exhibition catalog for Documenta V (1972). Leiber’s reputation spread via these unique volumes, which included works by John Baldessari, Lynda Benglis, Ray Johnson, Lucy Lippard, Allan Kaprow, Yayoi Kusama, Claes Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha, Lawrence Weiner and many more.

Across 252 pages, this book documents the full set of 52 dealer catalogs produced by Steven Leiber between 1992 and 2010. Inspired by Leiber’s often humorous borrowing for his catalog designs, the book’s format references Sol LeWitt’s Autobiography and includes an essay and contextual notes by SFMOMA Head Librarian David Senior. Additional contributors include Ann Butler, Christophe Cherix, Marc Fischer, Adam Michaels, Tom Patchett, David Platzker, Marcia Reed, Lawrence Rinder and Robin Wright.

Steven Leiber (1957–2012) began to buy and sell ephemera while working as a private dealer selling prints, drawings and multiples in the early 1980s. Scrupulously organized and cataloged, Leiber’s collection―housed in his grandmother’s basement―became an important resource for scholars, curators and other enthusiasts. The collection included the work of some 1,000 artists and represented practically every major movement within late 20th-century avant-garde practice, including Fluxus, conceptual art, land art, mail art, performance and video.
  petervanbeveren | Dec 7, 2019 |
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