Library for the Performing Arts Receives Robert Wilson Archive


The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts announced that it has received a gift of the Robert Wilson Audio/Visual Collection from the Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation. This acquisition of 1,048 videotapes and films and 249 audio tapes will be housed in the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT) and in the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, respectively. The archive documents the theatrical and operatic work of Robert Wilson, who has been widely heralded over the last 30 years as one of the most significant and influential creative forces in staging productions.

"With the addition of this new collection, the Library for the Performing Arts, which has the largest and foremost collection of theatre-related moving images in the world, becomes the primary repository for audio/video documentation of Robert Wilson’s theatrical and operatic works," remarked Dr. Paul LeClerc, president of The New York Public Library. The collection comprises 580 recorded performances or partial performances; 308 workshops and rehearsals; 96 documentaries and interviews; 39 editing version tapes, excerpts, and auditions; and 25 unidentified videotapes. The archive spans from 1970 to the present.

Wilson was born in Waco, TX, in 1941 and was educated at the University of Texas in Austin where he studied business administration, and at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn where he studied architecture. By the late 1960s he had become a leading member of New York’s avant-garde theatre, and, with his 1976 opera Einstein on the Beach, written with composer Philip Glass, he achieved international acclaim.

Integrating movement, music, text, and other visual elements, Robert Wilson’s works come out of a non-linear tradition that breaks down the barriers between the various arts disciplines. They project a slow, dreamlike quality of time and space, and have been described as creating pictures in time. His numerous collaborators have included such artists as Laurie Anderson, William Burroughs, David Byrne, Lucinda Childs, Philip Glass, Jessye Norman, Lou Reed, Susan Sontag, and Tom Waits. Wilson’s drawings and sculptures have been shown in museums and galleries throughout the world.

Patrick Hoffman, director of the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive (TOFT), remarked, "It is entirely appropriate that the Robert Wilson Audio/Visual Collection become a part of the rich theatre heritage preserved by TOFT and housed here at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center. Researchers and students from around the globe will now have access to these important documents that have changed the way we view the performing arts."

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