RIP Steven Leiber, Independent Curator Known for His Passion For Artist's Archives

RIP Steven Leiber, Independent Curator Known for His Passion For Artist's Archives
Steven Leiber
(Courtesy Sperone Westwater)

Steven Leiber (b. 1957), a private art and art book dealer as well as a dedicated bibliophile in the esoteric realm of printed art ephemera, died in San Francisco on January 28 after a long illness at the age of 54.

With an unusual academic background, including an art history degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a J.D. in law from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, Leiber entered the art world in the late 1970s as the director of the now-shuttered Simon Lowinsky Gallery, also in San Francisco.

Known for his work as an independent curator, Leiber organized the important artist publication and exhibition “Extra Art: A Survey of Artists’ Ephemera, 1960-1999” at the California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco, in 2001. Accompanied by an authoritative, hard-cover catalogue of the same title published by Smart Art Press, the project offered a comprehensive overview of some 1,500 pieces of fascinating ephemera. The collection ranged from Alighiero Boetti’s gorgeous 1967 exhibition announcement card from Galleria Christian Stein in Turin to Lynda Benglis’s infamous, bare-assed announcement card from the Paula Cooper Gallery in 1974 (the photo of the artist was shot by Annie Leibovitz).

Leiber’s longterm obsession with printed matter made him a world-class expert in appraising such collections, including the archives of the General Idea collective (comprised of artists A.A. Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal), Art Metropole, Claes Oldenburg, Allan Kaprow, and Avalanche Magazine.

Leiber was especially noted for his publication of some 40 scholarly sales catalogues offering art, artist’s books, multiples, and art documentation of practically every post-war stripe and nuance since 1992. The catalogues are currently on view at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, in the museum's Library & Archives, through April 27.

The art historian's work can also be seen online at his Web site Steven Leiber Basement, named after the location of his unrivaled archive stored in the lower part of his San Francisco home. Since 2000, Leiber taught curatorial practice as an adjunct professor at CCA (California College of the Arts). He is survived by his wife, Leigh Markopoulos of San Francisco, his parents Arlene and Paul Leiber, and siblings Mitchell Leiber and David Leiber, the latter a partner in New York’s SperoneWestwater Gallery.