Forbes Pigment Collection
Harvard Art Museums, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies
Harvard University, Massachusetts
Historic pigments in their original glass containers at Harvard (Photo: Jenny Stenger; © President and Fellows of Harvard College)
This collection of around 2,500 pigment samples ranges from the ancient—like pigments found at Pompeii—to recent scientific discoveries such as Vantablack, the darkest material ever made. Some are not for the squeamish: Mummy Brown, which was popular with the pre-Raphaelites, contains ground-up mummified human and feline remains. The collection is primarily used for research and authentication. In 2007, the archive helped reveal that a group of disputed Jackson Pollock paintings contained pigments synthesised decades after the artist died.
Eva Hesse Archives
Allen Memorial Art Museum
Oberlin College, Ohio
Eva Hesse, photographed around 1969 (Photo: Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College)
The artist Eva Hesse spent two days at Oberlin as a visiting artist in 1968. After her death two years later, aged 34, her sister Helen Hesse Charash left her archives to the college’s Allen Memorial Art Museum. Charash felt the institution—the first ever to acquire a sculpture by Hesse—had always been supportive of her sister’s work. (The museum acquired Laocoön (1966) the same year Hesse died.) The 1,300-item archive includes sketchbooks, notebooks, diaries, photographs and letters. The Allen also owns around 120 works of art by Hesse.
Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union
Zimmerli Art Museum
Rutgers University, New Jersey
Sergei Sherstiuk's The Cosmonaut's Dream (1986) (Photo: Peter Jacobs 2014)
You have to visit a university 4,700 miles from Moscow to find the world’s largest collection of Soviet Nonconformist art, or work made outside of state-sanctioned socialist realism in the USSR. The late US economist Norton Dodge amassed over 20,000 pieces directly from artists and during business trips to the USSR in the 1960s and 70s. He gave the collection to the Zimmerli Art Museum in 1991 (aptly, the same year the USSR dissolved).