When Naum Gabo left Russia in 1922, he did not know that he would never return. Like many of his contemporaries, circumstances forced him to move from his new home in Berlin to Paris, London and Cornwall, before finally settling in the United States. Nonetheless, he accumulated, and carried with him, an extraordinarily complete body of archive material, encompassing drawings, sketches, models, photographs, correspondence, diaries and writings from the First World War onwards.
Gabo’s personal papers are shared between the Tate Archive, the Beinecke Library at Yale University, and the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin, in accordance with the family’s wishes.
Supported by the Getty Foundation, Tate will catalogue more than sixty boxes of material held in the Tate Archive. Russian texts will be translated into English or summarised. Tate will host a new website devoted to the archive, including key images from Gabo’s archives held at Tate, Berlin and Yale, and a learning resource developed by the Tate Modern Learning team.
As well as providing greater insight into the artist’s life and work, Gabo’s archive raises questions about the role an archive plays in maintaining identity in uncertain circumstances. To mark the completion of the project and the beginning of academic exploitation of the archive, Tate hosted a one-day conference on the theme of emigré artists and their archives, with particular though not exclusive reference to Gabo, in November 2009.