Anthology Film Archive Stages Fundraiser Auction to Pay for Expansion

Simon de Pury will wield the gavel.

A rendering of what the AFA will look like after expansion. Photo: courtesy Anthology Film Archive.

New York’s Anthology Film Archives has unveiled plans to add a library and café to its East Village headquarters, the institution’s first expansion since its founding in 1970.

Spearheaded by 94-year-old AFA co-founder Jonas Mekas, the ambitious $6 million project aims to build an additional floor on top of the current building to house the institution’s extensive archival material, which contains film, video, audio, and documents. The archive includes gems such as Orson Welles’s original shooting script for his iconic 1941 film Citizen Kane and Joseph Cornell’s work materials.

“The construction of the library space has become more than urgent due to the amount of unique material that Anthology has accumulated on the history of cinema, on the individual film-makers, thousands of film posters, photos etc., and the demand by the students and scholars to make it all accessible,” Mekas told artnet News in an email. “Presently, most of it is in storage due to lack of space. In addition, taking care of paper, photo, and audio materials demands proper archival library conditions.”

Mekas went on reveal that the expansion will also encompass an overhaul and renovation of the existing structure, which will improve accessibility for disabled patrons. In addition, AFA has its eye on an empty alley adjacent to the building, which will become a café that will help in subsidizing the organization’s overhead costs.

Jonas Mekas, Cindy Sherman. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFA.

Jonas Mekas, Cindy Sherman. Photo: Billy Farrell/BFA.

A generous donation from Maja Hoffmann’s LUMA Foundation has pledged $3 million towards the library, whilst the AFA aims to raise the remaining $3 million with a charity auction taking place on March 2.

Organized by Josh Wood Productions and led by star auctioneer Simon de Pury, a large number of artists have donated works to the sale, including star names such as Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman, Robert Frank, Chuck Close, Jenny Holzer, Matthew Barney, Elizabeth Peyton, Richard Prince, Christo, Francesco Clemente, Joe Bradley, and Alex Katz, among others.

“Among the world’s film archives, Anthology Film Archives takes a unique place being dedicated primarily to the poetic, avant-garde, and independent varieties of cinema,” Mekas said. “All other film archives and film museums are dedicated primarily to the ‘commercial,’ ‘public’ cinema.”

As the nonagenarian puts it, “To run a movie house these days is not a business—it’s a full time senseless, mad dedication.”

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