Sol LeWitt’s art collection reveals friendships and artistic resonances

The Drawing Center displays a selection of the 4,000 works amassed by the ‘natural-born collector’

Drawings from the collection of the American Minimalist and conceptual artist Sol LeWitt are at the centre of an exhibition opening at the Drawing Center in New York. The show offers a peak into the more than 4,000 works by around 750 artists LeWitt amassed before his death in 2007. Drawing Dialogues: Selections from the Sol LeWitt Collection (15 April-12 June) includes more than 100 works by artists including Mel Bochner, Hanne Darboven and Alighiero Boetti.

“A lot of his friends say he was a natural-born collector,” says the co-curator, Béatrice Gross, who organised the exhibition with Claire Gilman. LeWitt collected art even before he became a mature artist himself. In the early 1950s, when he served as a US soldier during the Korean War, LeWitt began collecting Japanese woodblock prints on his modest soldier’s pay, Gross says. His interests broadened after he moved to New York in 1953 and started to build friendships with artists like Dan Flavin, Robert Mangold and Sylvia Plimack Mangold, who are also represented in the exhibition.

In some cases, Gross says, there is a clear correspondence between the artists LeWitt collected and the work he made. In 1970, while he was installing a wall drawing exhibition in Paris, his close friend, the sculptor Eva Hesse, who is known for her organic, post-Minimalist work, died in New York. “It was probably brewing in his mind for some time, but on the spot, he adopted what he called a ‘not-straight’ line,” Gross says. The resulting work, Wall Drawing #46 (1970) still employs a rigorous system like the rest of the works in the series, but also has traces of the artist’s hand, Gross says. (Works by Hesse are in the show.)

The show is supported by a range of dealers and collectors including Marian Goodman, William and Donna Acquavella and Emily Rauh Pulitzer.