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Simone Swan Archive

Collection Summary
Director: Chrissy Mcmillan

Series 1- Simone Swan Personal Files
Size: approx. 28 linear feet.

The largest and most extensive series, Simone Swan’s personal files consist of a wide variety of documents including biographical materials, correspondence with and/or related to architects, artists, filmmakers, scholars, writers, and elected officials. The files reflect Swan’s close personal relationships with cultural figures particularly Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Dom Helder Camara, Jean-Marie Drot, Frances Farenthold, Morton Feldman, Louis Kahn, Congressman Mickey Leland, Rene Magritte, Charles Moore, Steve Reich & Beryl Korot, Roberto Rossellini, and includes personal correspondence with Edward Albee, Michelangelo Antonioni, Szymon Bojko, Evans Chan, Chryssa, Maurice English, Chris Genik, Charles James, Carlos Jimenez, Jasper Johns, Ray Johnson, Jean Dethier, Ivan Illich, Grace Glueck, Winthrop Knowlton, Norman Mailer, Youakim Moubarac, Max Neuhaus, Betty Parsons, Genevieve Picon, Niki de Saint Phalle, Ronald Rael, Larry Rivers, Mark Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg, Arden Scott, Andrei Scrima, Tom Shannon, Brother David Steindt-Rast, Hedda Sterne, Paul Van Hoeydonck, Andy Warhol, Sylvia Whitman, Lavinia Williams, among many others. The files include photographs by Balthazar Korab, Marc Riboud, and images of Rene Magritte by Duane Michals. Films include Super 8 footage of Andy Warhol, the Menils, Howard Barnstone, Fred Morrissey, and Fred Hughes at the Montreal Expo in 1967, Andy Warhol filming at Frances Miller’s Residence, and Andy Warhol at Waldo Balart’s residence with Edie Sedgwick, Ondine, Waldo and friends. Files include correspondence and documentation from Withers Swan, a public relations agency specializing in international cultural media information and promotion founded by Simone Swan in 1964 in New York City. Clients included the Menil Foundation, Museum of Art Houston, Moderna Museet (with information about Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely, Andre Kertesz, Friedrich St. Florian, etc), Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design, New York State Council for the Arts (featuring photography of ‘Contemporary Voices in the Arts’ series with participants John Cage, poet Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, engineer Billy Kluver, kinetic sculptor Len Lye, painter Jack Tworkov and filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek), E.A.T. Experiments in Art and Technology, Franco Maria Ricci, the Young Filmmaker’s Foundation, the epic television series of Roberto Rossellini, the Rothko Chapel, plus causes such as the Comite de Defense de la Cinematheque Francaise (featuring correspondence with Henri Langlois and Fritz Lang) and the “Save Les Halles” effort among others. Also conserved are gallery announcements and invitations, documentation reflecting personal interests in human rights, economic development, housing, and emerging environmental causes; Swan’s personal art collection, her support of contemporary cultural projects (Smithson), documentation and press regarding her residence Swan House in Southold, NY, designed by Charles Moore, personal writing about her encounters with artists and cultural figures such as Roberto Matta, John Cage, and Bob Whitman among others and her potential defamation lawsuit over “Cowtown” a song by Carly Simon falsely based on Simone Swan’s life.

Series 2 – Menil Files
Size: approx. 3’1″ linear feet

Records focus on the Menil Collection, the Menil Foundation and documentation regarding Jean and Dominique de Menil with the bulk of the material from 1964 -1977 the period in which Simone Swan worked closely with the founders and served as the Executive Vice President of the Menil Foundation. The Menil Foundation was constituted in 1954 with the goal of supporting and advancing religious, charitable, literary, scientific and educational purposes, primarily through the arts, and acting as the governing body of the Menil Collection. Files contain extensive correspondence with Jean and Dominique de Menil and documentation such as personal notes, transcriptions of interviews with the Menils, and memoires. Records for the Menil Collection include documentation on acquisitions, projects such as Art Investments Ltd, and photography of the collection as well as of exhibitions and openings at Rice University and earlier at St. Thomas University, Houston. Files for the Menil Foundation focus on the operations of the organization including internal correspondence and a complete listing of all projects. The records also include information on collaborations with the Afro-American community, especially with the founder, Deloyd Parker, of SHAPE, Self-Help for Africans through Education, and support for the urban social work developed by the local Black Panthers. Nearly half the files are dedicated to the creation and development of the Rothko Chapel comprisinging extensive correspondence within the foundation, documentation with the architect Howard Barnstone, the dedication of the chapel, guest list, public relations, press releases and documentation regarding the sculpture Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman. Subsequent events at the Rothko Chapel included the concert featuring a composition created at Swan’s instigation for the chapel by noted composer Morton Feldman, human rights colloquia held at the chapel featuring , Dom Helder Camara, Robeto Rossellini, Dr. Jonas Salk, Ivan Illich, Yusef Ibish, among others, and a poetry reading by Stanley Kunitz.

Series 3- Hassan Fathy Files
Size: approx. 2′ 7″ linear feet

Records include extensive documentation regarding the work and legacy of renowned Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy (1900-1989). Files include correspondence with the architect himself and in reference to his work, efforts to create publications and film projects about the architect’s work, a collection of his unpublished papers, a translation of his manuscript, Le Pays d’Utopie, lectures and presentations given by Simone Swan on Fathy’s solutions for cooperative owner-built housing for the unsheltered, for refugees and the exiled. The files also feature photographs of the architect , his plans, and his projects.

Series 4-Adobe Alliance Files
Size: approx. 4’10” linear feet

Files primarily focus on the organization, Adobe Alliance, Inc., a nonprofit founded by Simone Swan in the Chihuahuan desert at Presidio, Texas, dedicated to helping communities create low cost, salubrious, energy efficient, sustainable housing with earth architecture. Documents include the organization’s operations, housing projects, environmental/ construction research, promotional efforts, and educational outreach from its inception in 1993 (prior to 1997 organization operated under various aliases before the official adoption of the name Adobe Alliance) to present day. Photographs and correspondence largely focus on the construction of adobe housing (including the construction of Simone Swan’s adobe house in Presidio, TX), proposals, and unrealized projects. Further documentation includes publicity on Adobe Alliance, correspondence regarding the building by hand of woodless roofs in the configuration of vaults and domes, adobe practices, educational workshops taught by Simone Swan on adobe construction techniques and the organization’s efforts to inform the general public of the economic benefits of non-toxic adobe construction, with little recourse to industrial materials. Additional correspondence and documents exist electronically on Simone Swan’s computer.