Adolf Konrad, packing list, December 16, 1963. Adolf Ferdinand Konrad papers, 1962–2002. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution.

Making a to-do list makes you feel better. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, of “getting things done.” This is a known fact. Human beings throughout time have loved to-do lists so much, have spent hours making such painstakingly intricate and creative ones, that they can never get anything done because of how exhausted they are after a day of hearty list-making. I mean, we might as well just put the words “To-do list” on our to-do lists, and call it a day. Turns out, that’s not such a crazy idea. The Morgan Library and Museum, which houses large collections of historical manuscripts, early and rare printed books, and old master drawings and prints, has an exceedingly charming collection of laundry lists from prominent figures on view until 2 October.

The exhibit, Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, takes to-do lists to a whole new level, and challenges us amateur list makers to crank it up a notch. It also serves as a fun reminder that you can tell a lot about a person from what they consider “list-worthy.” For instance, I currently have “Download an instant party” on my Gmail tasks list. Who am I?

From the Morgan Library and Museum: 

From the weekly shopping list to the Ten Commandments, our lives are full of lists—some dashed off quickly, others beautifully illustrated, all providing insight into the personalities and habits of their makers. The exhibition celebrates this most common form of documentation by presenting an array of lists made by a broad range of artists, from Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder to H. L. Mencken, Eero Saarinen, Elaine de Kooning, and Lee Krasner. With examples such as Picasso’s picks for the great artists of his age (Gris, Léger, etc.), H. L. Mencken’s autobiographical facts (“I never have a head-ache from drink”), and Robert Smithson’s collection of quotations about spirals, the items on view are intriguing, revealing, humorous, and poignant.

Awesome! Do you think Calder’s is just, like, “1. Fiery hula hoop for wind-up lion (?)”? I hope so.

Deets for your to-do list:

Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

The Morgan Library and Museum
225 Madison Ave. 
at 36th St.
New York, NY 10016
212-590-0300
On view 3 June – 2 October 2011

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