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The Ray Johnson Estate Archives

As of May 1, 2017, the Ray Johnson Estate and its Archives are exclusively represented by Adler Beatty. Chairman of Adler Beatty, Frances Beatty has stewarded the Estate since the time of Ray Johnson's death in 1995. The Estate includes an extensive archive of materials including, but not limited to, correspondence, mail art, collages, documentary photographs, objects, and memorabilia. The Estate encourages scholarship and is open to researchers by appointment, however the Estate will be closed to research appointments until February 2023. To reach out to the Estate, contact


Maria Ilario, Director of Collections & Archives

Maria Ilario holds an MSLIS from Pratt Institute with a focus on archives in art institutions. Ilario is an art historian with a background specializing in gallery and museum work. Contact her for inquiries, research requests, finding aids, and appointments.

William S. "Bill" Wilson,

"Ray Johnson's Archivist"

(1932 - 2016)

William S. "Bill" Wilson (1932 - 2016), born to artist May Wilson in Baltimore, was one of Johnson’s closest friends and his unwavering champion. He generously welcomed students and scholars to his Johnson archive and wrote essays that provided deep insight into Johnson, his era and his work. Always generous with sharing his profound knowledge, Bill returned questions posed to him from all over the world through ever inspired and voluminous emails, phone calls and letters. The Ray Johnson Estate is profoundly grateful for the many thrilling conceptions and inceptions, on Ray Johnson and in all of his art scholarship, with which Bill has left us.

Bill Wilson graduated with Honors in Philosophy of Science from the University of Virginia, then went on to Yale University where he received an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature. He taught at Queens College, Columbia University, The Cooper Union, and the School of Visual Arts. Wilson also lectured on Eva Hesse at the Jeu de Paume, Tate Modern, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the College Art Association. His novel Birthplace: moving into nearness, was nominated for a Pen-Faulkner Award. He received an N.E.A. art-writer’s grant of $10,000.00, and a $40,000.00 Warhol Foundation Grant, 2012, for a book about the life and art of Ray Johnson. In addition to Ray Johnson, Bill published articles or essays in the following publications: American Book Review, Antaeus, Art & Artists, Art in America, Art Journal, Artforum, Artnews, Arts magazine, Artspace, On Paper, The Paris Review, Studio International and others on artists including: Mel Bochner, Paul Cezanne, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse, Ralph Humphrey, Alison Knowles, Joseph Levi, Henri Matisse, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Smithson, Paul Thek, Andy Warhol, John Willenbecher, and his mother May Wilson (1905-1986) – an artist whose work is still regularly exhibited. Bill also photographed the following artists, their studios, their performances and/or their exhibitions: John Cage, Christo & Jeanne Claude, Marcel Duchamp, Philip Glass, Alison Knowles, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman, Joseph Raffael, Robert Rauschenberg, May Wilson and others.

The Ray Johnson Estate mourns the passing of William S. “Bill” Wilson, who died on February 1, 2016. We are profoundly grateful for the many thrilling conceptions and inceptions, on Ray Johnson and in all of his art scholarship, with which Bill has left us. The art world, this Estate, and his many friends and family, have lost a cherished friend and mentor.

In the Fall of 2018, the William S. Wilson Collection of Ray Johnson was acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago, and in 2021 Ray Johnson c/o was curated by Caitlin Haskell and Jordan Carter in honor of the acquisition. 

Selected Scholars

Benjamin Kahan, 2022 Curatorial Research Fellow at the Ray Johnson Estate
Benjamin Kahan is a Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Louisiana State University. He has held fellowships from Washington University in St. Louis, Emory University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Sydney, the National Humanities Center, the Reed Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He is the author of Celibacies: American Modernism and Sexual Life (Duke, 2013) and The Book of Minor Perverts: Sexology, Etiology, and the Emergences of Sexuality (Chicago, 2019).

Kahan has been exploring and writing about the work of Ray Johnson since 2011 and has lectured on Johnson’s work at Brown University, University of Sydney, Australian National University, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University at Buffalo, and at the Modernist Studies Association. He has published two pieces on Johnson, both featured in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities; the first is entitled, “Ray Johnson’s Anti-Archive: Blackface, Sadomasochism, and the Racial and Sexual Imagination of Pop Art” and the second is entitled, “On Ray Johnson’s Sexuality, Loves, and Friendships: An Interview between William S. Wilson and Benjamin Kahan.” During his time as a fellow, he will be at work on a book exploring the entwinements of race, sexuality,
and capital in Johnson’s oeuvre.

Caitlin Haskell, Ray Johnson Collections and Research at the Art Institute of Chicago
Caitlin Haskell, the Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, has been announced as the museum’s Director of Ray Johnson Collections and Research. In this additional position, Haskell will guide and promote scholarship and interpretation of the Art Institute’s Ray Johnson holdings and act as a liaison between the museum and the Ray Johnson Estate. Working cross-departmentally in collaboration with colleagues in the museum’s Archives and Research Center, as well as Modern and Contemporary Art, Prints and Drawings, and Conservation and Science, she will coordinate the museum’s stewardship and growth of this art and archival collection to serve as a central resource to external scholars on the artist’s practice.

A scholar of twentieth-century art, Haskell’s research and writing address the production, critical reception, and legacies of the historical avant-gardes in Europe and the Americas. Her most recent exhibitions include Ray Johnson c/o, curated with Jordan Carter for the Art Institute of Chicago, and René Magritte: The Fifth Season for SFMOMA. She holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA from Davidson College.

Johanna Gosse, Emeritus Curatorial Research Fellow at the Ray Johnson Estate
Johanna Gosse was the inaugural Curatorial Research Fellow at The Ray Johnson Estate. Gosse is an art historian specializing in experimental film and media. She is currently Assistant Professor of Art History & Visual Culture at the University of Idaho and the Executive Editor of Media-N: Journal of the New Media Caucus. Previously, Gosse held postdoctoral and visiting positions at Columbia University and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Gosse contributed four essays to the catalogue for the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition Ray Johnson c/o (Yale University Press): "Black Mountain", "Elvis", "New York Correspondence School", and "Moticos". Her monograph in-progress on Johnson was awarded an Arts Writers Grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Gosse's publications appear in academic journals including Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, Camera Obscura, Millennium Film Journal, Art Journal, MIRAJ: Moving Image Review and Art Journal, Oxford Art Journal, Radical History Review, and Journal of Art & the Public Sphere. With Timothy Stott (Trinity College Dublin), she co-edited the new book Nervous Systems: Art, Systems, and Politics since the 1960s (Duke University Press, 2022). You can read more about her research and recent publications at

Julie J. Thomson is an independent scholar and curator, and co-editor of the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies. She is editor of That Was the Answer: Interviews with Ray Johnson (Soberscove Press, 2018). In 2017 she curated the exhibition Begin to See: The Photographers of Black Mountain College at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Julie's essays about Ray Johnson have been published in the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies and Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center publications for the exhibitions From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson and Something Else Entirely: The Making of Ray Johnson’s 'Paper Snake'. You can read more about her research and writing at

Elizabeth Zuba, Editor of Frog Pond Splash: Collages by Ray Johnson with Texts by William S. Wilson (Siglio Press, 2020) and Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson 1954-1994 (Siglio Press, 2014). Elizabeth Zuba has translated or edited over ten books of artists’ writings, including several by Marcel Broodthaers ­— Pense-Bete (Granary Books), 10,000 Francs Reward (Printed Matter), While reading the Lorelei (for exhibition, MoMA), Marcel Broodthaers: My Ogre Book Shadow Theater Midnight (Siglio Press) with Maria Gilissen — as well as works by Nicolás Paris, Anouck Durand, and writings by Duchamp, Picabia, Satie, and other contributors to Dada magazine The Blind Man (Ugly Duckling Presse). Elizabeth is also the author of two books of poetry. She contributed the catalogue essay for Ray Johnson's Art World in 2014.

Ina Blom is a Professor at the Institute of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo. Her fields of research and teaching are modernism/avant-garde studies and contemporary art and aesthetics, with a particular focus on media art practices and media aesthetics. She is head of the Seminar of Aesthetics, University of Oslo, and is currently directing the interdisciplinary NFR-funded research project The Archive in Motion. A former music critic and radio DJ, she has also worked extensively as an art critic and curator. She has been a senior curator at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Oslo (2000), and the curator of the Fluxus/Intermedia Collection at the Henie Onstad Art Center in Oslo (1988-93), producing a number of exhibitions on art from the 1960’s onwards. She is a member of the international editorial board of Konsthistorisk Tidsskrift, London: Routledge, and contributes to Artforum, Parkett, Afterall and Texte zur Kunst. Her book publications include On the Style Site. Art, Sociality and Media Culture. New York: Sternberg Press, 2007 (2nd edition 2009), The Name of the Game. Ray Johnson's Postal Performance, Kunsthalle Fridericianum Kassel, Stedelijk Museum Sittard, 2003, Joseph Beuys, Oslo: Gyldendal, 2001 and The Cut Through Time. A Version of the Dada/Neo-Dada Repetition, Acta Humaniora, 1999.

Frédérique Joseph-Lowery holds a Ph. D. from Emory University. She is a regular contributor for Art Press magazine. An authority in Dalínian studies, she wrote several articles examining Dalí’s world in relation to Marcel Duchamp’s work. She is the author of a critical edition of the French manuscripts of La Vie secrète de Salvador Dalí (L’Age d’homme, 2006) with a foreword by Jack Spector. Contemporary Dance and performance was the subject of her book Dalí et Béjart: Danser “Gala” (ed.Notari, 2007) as well as of several exhibitions she curated in Europe and the United States: Dalí Dance and beyond (Salvador Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, FL , and Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College CUNY, 2007) and Dalí et Béjart: danser “Gala”(Maison Bergevin, 2007). Joseph-Lowery was the guest editor of a special issue on Dalí (La Revue des Sciences humaines “Lire Dalí”) and she directed two international colloquium: Dalí. Sur les traces d’éros (Cerisy-La-Salle, 2007) and Dali Today (Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY and Catalan Center, New York University, 2010.

Ray Johnson... Dali/Warhol/and others... ‘Main Ray, Ducham, Openheim, Pikabia...’ Edited by Frances F.L. Beatty, Ph.D. New York: Richard L. Feigen & Co., 2009.

Clive Phillpot knew Ray Johnson from 1981 until his death in 1995, at the time he was Director of the Library at the Museum of Modern Art. They talked and corresponded intermittently from 1981, but regularly from 1988-1994. Phillpot published Ray Johnson On Flop Art: Fragments from Conversations... (London: Fermley Press, 2008). Phillpot’s other essays have been published in Lightworks #22, 2000, New Observations #126, 2000, Art Monthly #239, 2000, Voids: a Retrospective (Zurich: JRP/Ringier, 2009), and several other publications. Phillpot and Johnson co-edited Ray Johnson: Jean Dubuffet Fan Club (Nassau County Museum, 1988). Clive Phillpot now lives in London, England.

Sophie Cras is a Ph.D. candidate at the Sorbonne University (Paris) under the direction of Prof. Philippe Dagen. She holds a Master's degree in finance (Sciences Po Paris, 2008) and a Master's degree in Art History (Sorbonne, 2009). Among other distinctions, she was a Terra Foundation predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2011. Her dissertation, entitled L’économie au miroir de l’art, deals with artworks of the 1960s that address and question economics (including price, money, finance, and monetary exchange in general) with artistic means. In this framework, she studies the recurring motif of money in Ray Johnson’s work, in particular his dollar-bill collages in contrast to his correspondence art, seen as an alternative, non-monetary kind of circulating currency.

Kate Dempsey Martineau Ph.D. is an independent scholar. Her dissertation titled Ray Johnson in Correspondence with Marcel Duchamp and Beyond focused on Johnson's relationship to the French artist. Her current work investigates Johnson and his milieu in New York during the 1950s-70s. Codes, counter cultures, gylphs, and language come up frequently. Kate has published essays in The Journal of Black Mountain College Studies and several exhibition catalogs including From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson and Inventing Marcel Duchamp: The Dynamics of Portraiture. In 2018 Dempsey published Ray Johnson: Selective Inheritance with University of California Press.

Miriam Kienle is an Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Kentucky, specializing in modern, contemporary, and American art. Her current book project, "Unworked Network: The Queer Connectivity of Ray Johnson's Correspondence Art" (under contract with University of Minnesota Press) analyzes Johnson’s role as an initiator of the international correspondence art movement through the lenses of network studies, queer theory, and histories of interpersonal communication. Her writings on Johnson and other artists have appeared in such publications as Oxford Art Journal, Archives of American Art Journal, Feminist Studies, Media-N, Panorama, Nierika, and Artl@s Bulletin, among others. Additionally, Kienle has curated an exhibition of Johnson's work at the Krannert Art Museum (Champaign, IL) and a survey of mail art entitled Pushing the Envelope the Smithsonian Archives of American Art’s Fleischman Gallery (Washington, DC). Her teaching and research have been supported by grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), Henry Luce Foundation, J. Paul Getty Foundation, Association of Historians of American Art (AHAA), Great Meadows Foundation, University of Kentucky’s Vice President for Research, and Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH).

Gillian Pistell is a Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at the Graduate Center, the City University of New York. She received her BA in History and Art History from Colgate University in 2008, and her MA from the Graduate Program in the History of Art from Williams College in 2010. She is currently a Research Assistant for the Modern and Contemporary Art Department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Pistell’s forthcoming dissertation will identify Ray Johnson as an “artist-archivist.” "Ray Johnson: Artist as Archivist." Interventions Journal, July 3, 2014.

Anatasia H. Rygle is an independent curator, editor, and writer based in New York City. Her research focuses on the New York avant-garde ca. 1950-1965 with particular emphasis on Andy Warhol and his milieu. Anastasia is the co-editor of two book length monographs: Billy Name: The Silver Age, photographs from Warhol’s Factory and Brigid Berlin: Polaroids published by Reel Art Press, London. She is currently curating two exhibitions: Andy Warhol Prints from the Collection of Jordan Schnitzer for the Portland Art Museum opening September 2016 and Brigid Berlin for Invisible Exports opening October 2015. Anastasia has worked for numerous institutions including The Andy Warhol Museum, The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Wurtembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, and the Dia Foundation for the Arts as well as many single artist archives and private collections. At the Andy Warhol Museum, she assisted on the exhibitions Warhol Live! Music and Dance in Andy Warhol’s Work, Canis Major: Andy Warhol’s Cats and Dogs, and Recette Satire: Andy Warhol and Suzie Frankfurt. Additionally in 2007 she curated an exhibition of Ray Johnson’s work from Warhol’s personal archive. In 2012 she received her Master’s Degree from the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College where her written thesis, “Ray Johnson: The Dover Street Years, 1953-1960” was accompanied by an exhibition featuring nearly 70 works. In 2014, as Assistant Curator at the Queens Museum, she organized 13 Most Wanted: Andy Warhol and the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

Michael von Uchtrup is a freelance curator, archivist, and researcher, has worked since 1987 with artists and arts institutions in the US, Europe and Japan, contributing to the creation of magazine articles, books, television documentaries, and exhibitions; over a dozen colleges and museums have hosted his lectures. He began cataloguing archives of Ray Johnson's artworks and mail art in 1999, focusing on those of Ray's earliest friends, William S. Wilson in particular. An article on Ray's early years by v.Uchtrup - “I Plan To Send Startling Letters” - appeared in the Black Mountain College Journal in 2012. v.Uchtrup was awarded a fall 2012 residency grant by the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice to begin work on a Ray Johnson biography. In 2015, he curated Something Else Entirely: The Making of Ray Johnson’s 'Paper Snake' at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, and guest edited an issue of the journal of Black Mountain College Studies celebrating the Paper Snake's 50th anniversary, with contributions by Barbara Moore, Clive Phillpot, Julie Thomson, Bill Wilson, and others.