The internationally renowned American artist and illustrator, Barbara Nessim has donated a collection representing some of her most significant artworks to the V&A in London.
Nessim’s distinctive line and style have graced the cover of nearly every major American magazine, including Time, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. Her work ranges from provocative drawings and paintings that represent her underlying feminist views, to advertising campaigns for companies including Levis and Ralph Lauren. She was also one of the first professional illustrators to use the computer as an artistic tool. In a career that spans more than 50 years, Nessim is still actively working on new projects.
Nessim has given the V&A around 100 objects, mostly works on paper, which represent the incredible breadth of her output. Key works include Star Girl (1966), created whilst sharing an apartment with Gloria Steinem; the controversial WomanGirl series (1970s), used to illustrate censorship; shoe designs for Carber (1973); early computer graphics such as Ode to the Statue of Liberty (1984); an iconic cover image of John Lennon for Rolling Stone magazine (1988); and recent works for her Model Project (2009).
A display of the artist’s work, Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life, will be shown at the V&A from 15 February to 19 May 2013. It will be the artist’s first solo show in London and will present around 80 works spanning her output from the 1960s to the 2000s. It will include sketchbooks, prints, drawings, photographs, computer graphics, ceramics, artist’s books and other printed publications.
Martin Roth, V&A Director, said: “The V&A is delighted to acquire such a fabulous range of Barbara’s work, from the 1960s to the present day. The highly distinctive drawings and watercolours she produced in the 60s and 70s are a wonderful evocation of the New York art, fashion and music scene. Her early computer graphics will greatly enhance the Museum’s growing collection of digital art and design, whilst her fashion illustrations will certainly appeal to a wide range of visitors.”
Coinciding with the display at the V&A is a new book, Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life, edited by the art writer and critic David Galloway, and published by Abrams in February 2013. The book explores her versatile career with essays by a dozen international authors, including the fashion critic Elyssa Dimant, the German art historian Christoph Benjamin Schulz, and Douglas Dodds, curator of the display at the V&A. Friends and colleagues such as Gloria Steinem, Milton Glaser, Ali MacGraw and Zandra Rhodes have also contributed their own reminiscences.
“Work simply poured out of her.” —Gloria Steinem
“Barbara, in all her work, in teaching, in her friendships, and in image-making, binds her universe together into that rare and most powerful form of human connection that we’ve come to call art.” —Milton Glaser
Barbara Nessim’s images of female figures, originating in the counterculture of the 1960s, place her in a tradition of American iconography that extends from Norman Rockwell to Keith Haring. Her work ranges from provocative drawings and paintings that represent her underlying feminist views, to prominent magazine assignments and advertising campaigns. A constant innovator and pioneer, Nessim incorporates fashion, photography, and computers in her work. She was one of the first artists to employ the computer as an artistic tool.
Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life (Abrams; February 2013; U.S. $60.00/Can. $69.00; ISBN was edited by art writer and critic David Galloway. It is the first monograph on an innovative graphic stylist who also maintained an impressive career as a studio artist. The book spans five decades of Nessim’s art and illustration, ranging from sketchbooks that are the wellspring of her art to magazine assignments, such as a Rolling Stone cover of John Lennon, to elaborate large-scale installations. It also captures the life that carried her from New York’s high bohemia as a young artist to the world of cutting-edge visual journalism. Essays by a dozen international authors, including former roommate, journalist, and activist Gloria Steinem; graphic designer Milton Glaser; magazine designer Roger Black; and fashion critic Elyssa Dimant explore various aspects of Nessim’s versatile career.
Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life is published in conjunction with an exhibition opening at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in February 2013. The one-person exhibition, rarely granted to a living artist, will present around eighty works covering Nessim’s output from the 1960s to the present. It will include sketchbooks, prints, drawings, photographs, computer graphics, ceramics, artist’s books, and other printed publications
Barbara Nessim is a Bronx-born artist and an influential educator at New York’s School of Visual Arts and at Parsons, The New School for Design. She is a studio artist who has worked in a wide variety of mediums, an illustrator and in her early career, a fashion designer. Among her most recent achievements is an installation of 13 digital paintings, one of them 28-feet-high, for the ballroom floors at Manhattan’s Eventi, A Kimpton Hotel. Nessim was appointed the first Artist Laureate at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
The display runs from 15 February to 19 May 2013 in the V&A’s gallery 74 – Admission: FREE