The Archive as a Resource for Artists

Swiss artist and researcher Denise Bertschi discusses her interest in the Getty Research Institute’s Harald Szeemann Archive.

The Getty - Geometry, by Ian D. Keating, CC BY via Flickr

Event Details


Los Angeles Contemporary Archive
Asian Center, 709 N Hill Street, Suite 104-8 (upstairs), Los Angeles, California 90012 United States


August 20, 2019 from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm



The Getty Research Institute — a center for scholarly research — hosts a Swiss artist for a summer research residency. For one night at the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), Denise Bertschi will talk about her experience researching in Harald Szeemann’s archive — which has its origins in Switzerland — and the use of such a wide archival collection for artists.

She will be joined by Pietro Rigolo, Assistant Curator for Modern and Contemporary Collections at the Getty Research Institute, who is overseeing the archive of curator Harald Szeemann, and Hailey Loman, Co-Founder and Director of the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), an artist-run archive and non-circulating library in which contemporary creative processes are recorded and preserved. The evening will be moderated by Nicola Ruffo, Head of Public Programs at swissnex San Francisco.

As the largest single archival collection ever acquired by the Getty Research Institute, the Harald Szeemann Archive and Library is an essential resource for the study of 20th century art history. The Harald Szeemann Archive and Library contains a comprehensive record of Szeemann’s correspondence with major artists, curators, and scholars from the late 1950s until his death in 2005, as well as significant collections of material from the early 20th century. The archive encompasses approximately 1,500 feet of archival research files, containing letters, ephemera, prints, drawings, floor plans, date books, videotapes, and a complete photographic record documenting Szeemann’s projects and the artists with whom he was associated.

Archives are essential for researching in an art historical context. But what can an archive offer, beyond scholarly research? Bertschi is expanding her main field of artistic work in the massive collection of archival research files, with the goal “to chase the spirit of Szeemann’s strategies to create controversially discussed exhibitions, sometimes perceived as pure provocations in his home country — unsettling multi-layered discourses that reflect about the individual but also about broader societal co-inhabited spaces of community and national identity.”

Hailey Loman, on the other hand, houses and catalogues within LACA art-related objects, with a special focus on underexposed artistic modes of expression and ephemeral materials. Furthermore, the archive includes studio and performance ephemera, artists’ writings, audio-visual recordings, digital media files, and institutional archives of artist-run spaces.


7:30 pm –  doors open
8:00pm   – presentation/discussion
9:00pm –   drinks


Denise Bertschi, EPFL Lausanne 

Denise Bertschi Denise Bertschi lives and works in Switzerland. She is a doctoral candidate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne in collaboration with HEAD – Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design in Geneva. Her artistic research-based practice is reflected in video-installations, photographs and the format of publications. Building on the materials she collects during extensive research periods, in archives and elsewhere, she develops her own forms of narrative, in which the documentary begins to dissolve. Bertschi has been dedicating herself since several years to unmask Switzerland’s political neutrality as an impossible balancing act. Meanwhile, she examines how national identities are created through collective memories and cultural myths. Within this matrix she searches for that which is hidden, secret, overlooked and repressed, interwoven into subtle works.

Saida Largaespada, Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA)

Saida Largaespada is an archivist living and working in Los Angeles. She received her Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Her interests lie in art and non-traditional collections. Currently she is the archivist at a California-based musician estate, and the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA). She is an active member of Society of American Archivists (SAA) and the Los Angeles Archivists Collective.


Hailey Loman, Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA)

Hailey Loman is a multi-disciplinary artist working in sculpture, installation and performance. Her research attempts to expose memories and systems of cataloging the past as they intersect with political forces, resulting in complex levels of distortion and mythology. She is the Co-Founder and Director of Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA), an artist-run archive and non-circulating library in which contemporary creative processes are recorded and preserved. Her work has been shown at the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles; Human Resources Gallery, Los Angeles; and Queen’s Nails Annex, San Francisco. She received a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute.

Pietro Rigolo, Getty Research Institute 

Pietro Rigolo, Getty Research Institute, photo Riccardo BanfiPietro Rigolo earned a Doctorate in Art History from Università degli Studi di Siena / Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane. In 2013 he joined the GRI as the subject expert in the team processing the Harald Szeemann papers, and has been part of the curatorial team of the exhibition Harald Szeemann: Museum of Obsessions, which opened at the GRI in February 2018 and is currently on view at Castello di Rivoli Museo d’arte contemporanea. At the GRI, Pietro also cataloged the archives of Barbara T. Smith, Maurice Tuchman, Juan Fassio, and of the Margo Leavin Gallery. He has published numerous papers and catalog essays for the Istanbul Biennale, Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Pirelli HangarBicocca, Castello di Rivoli among others, and participated in panel and lectures in the United States, in Europe and in the Middle East.

Nicola Ruffo, swissnex San Francisco 

Nicola Ruffo is a Swiss curator, writer and journalist. He studied international relations and film at the University of Zurich and Berlin. His work focuses on digital and urban culture. He has realized several exhibitions and film programs for galleries, foundations like the LUMA Foundation and institutions such as the Swiss Architecture Museum. Since January 2018 he works as Head of Public Programs at swissnex San Francisco, to connect Swiss creatives and scientists with the US West Coast. 



Header Photo: The Getty – Geometry, by Ian D. Keating, CC BY via Flickr.