Barbara Nessim, American (1939 - )

Barbara Nessim

A display of the artist’s work, Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life, was shown at the V&A from 15 February to 19 May 2013. The show presented around 80 works that cover her output from the 1960s to the 2000s. It includes sketchbooks, prints, drawings, photographs, computer graphics, ceramics, artist’s books and other printed publications.

Martin Roth, V&A Director said:

“The V&A is delighted to acquire such a fabulous range of Barbara’s work, from the 1960s to the present day. The highly distinctive drawings and watercolours she produced in the 60s and 70s are a wonderful evocation of the New York art, fashion and music scene. Her early computer graphics will greatly enhance the Museum’s growing collection of digital art and design, whilst her fashion illustrations will certainly appeal to a wide range of visitors.”

Coinciding with the display at the V&A was a new book, Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life, edited by the art writer and critic, David Galloway. It was published by Abrams in early 2013. The book explores her versatile career with essays by a dozen international authors, including the fashion critic Elyssa Dimant, the German art historian Christoph Benjamin Schulz, and Douglas Dodds, senior curator of the display at the V&A. Friends and colleagues such as Gloria Steinem, Milton Glaser, Ali MacGraw and Zandra Rhodes have also contributed their own reminiscences.

A newly commissioned film recorded in Nessim’s New York studio is also available on the V&A Channel –

An expanded version of the V&A exhibition was shown on three floors of The Bard Graduate Center Gallery in New York City from 19 September 2014 to 11 January 2015.

Internationally-renowned artist, illustrator and educator Barbara Nessim has been a vital contributor and influential trendsetter in the art world over the past several decades. With an extensive resume of accomplishments and a portfolio of work that go beyond one's ability to mention, Barbara has always been visionary in her thinking, and unprecedented in her creativity.

Inspired by her mother, a clothing designer, Barbara put herself through college by supporting herself as a freelance fashion illustrator in the Garment Center. After receiving her education at Pratt Institute in the Department of Illustration and Fine Art, she was quickly recognized for the freshness and uniqueness of her work, and for being one of the few female freelance illustrators of her time. While she initially designed everything from shoes and apparel to textiles, Barbara ultimately became more selective in her creations, and more sophisticated in her style.

Barbara's passion for her work and desire to continually bring more to her craft set the stage for what would become a long and illustrious career that greatly influenced other artists along the way. Over the years, her paintings and drawings in her distinctive signature avant-garde style have not only donned the walls of prominent museums and galleries, but have been part of numerous public and private collections around the globe.

In 1980, Barbara was known for breaking another important mold in the execution of illustration art by embracing the use of the computer, a topic upon which she has frequently lectured to audiences worldwide. Never short of inspiration, she attributes the ongoing creativity in her work to her foundation as a fine artist, and relies solely upon her earlier sketchbooks to generate new ideas.

Among the many showcases of Barbara's work include:

• Eventi Hotel, New York City
• DFN Gallery, New York City
• Sienna Gallery, Lenox, MA
• The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England (permanent collection)
• The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. (permanent collection)
• The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA (permanent collection)
• Lund konsthall, Lund, Sweden (permanent collection)
• Szepmuveszeti Museum in Budapest, Hungary (permanent collection)
• The Kunst Museum in Dusseldorf
• The Louvre in Paris
• The Centro Colombo Americano in Bogota, Colombia (solo exhibition)
• Publications and covers of Time, Rolling Stone and Frenkfurter Allgemeine,
among others

In addition to her status as world-famed artist, Barbara has also lent her talents in the classroom at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where she taught in the MFA Computer Arts Program, and at Parsons The New School for Design as a Professor in the Illustration Department. Barbara also served as the Chairperson of Illustration at Parsons from 1992-2004. Barbara was recently appointed the first Artist's Laureate by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.

Today Barbara's main focus is her large-scale work on several commissions for public spaces in New York City buildings, most recently the Eventi Hotel at 851 6th Avenue in Manhattan's North Chelsea neighborhood.

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