McLaughlin & Stern Represents Nam June Paik’s Estate in Major Gift to Smithsonian
When the estate of celebrated video artist Nam June Paik recently gifted the artist’s archives to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, it turned to McLaughlin & Stern Partner T. Randolph Harris to represent its interests. Mr. Paik, a video art pioneer, spent more than five decades creating robots, musical compositions, video sculptures and installations and was among the first to recognize the artistic possibilities of technology, coining the phrase “electronic superhighway” as early as 1974. He also compiled a vast and coveted archive that includes his early writings on art and technology, correspondence with other artists and collaborators, such as composer John Cage, a complete collection of videotapes used in his work, and various production notes, sketches, notebooks, models, and plans for video installations.
Given its breadth and influence, receipt of Mr. Paik’s archives was considered “the art world equivalent of winning the lottery.” In arriving at its determination, the Estate asked museums to submit proposals detailing how they would use the archive. The Smithsonian, which will catalog and organize the archive, create exhibitions from it, and establish a Paik center, won out over other significant institutions such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Highlights of the archive – which includes early-model black-and-white televisions and video projectors, radios, record players, Polaroid cameras, musical instruments, and even folk sculptures – include Mr. Paik’s hand-drawn plans for the Paik-Shuya Abe video synthesizer, as well as documentation of large-scale television projects like “Guadalcanal Requiem” (1977—79), one of his best-known videos about history, time and memory, shot in the Solomon Islands at the site of a devastating World War II battle. Mr. Paik’s installation “The More the Better”, a 1988 three-channel video work that employed 1,003 television monitors, is also included.
Mr. Harris is a Partner in the Trusts and Estates Department at McLaughlin & Stern, LLP, a New York-based full-service law firm that provides transactional, dispute resolution, estate planning, and other services to corporate and individual clients worldwide.