Sunday, August 31, 2014
Cloaca Toilet Paper
New York City, USA: The New Museum, 2002
10.5 x 10.5 x 11.5 cm
Edition size unknown
Published in conjunction with the Belgian artist's first North American museum exhibition, Wim Delvoye: Cloaca, at the New Museum, this roll of toilet paper is adorned with the Cloaca logo – a cross between the Ford Logo and the Mr Clean Man (with his intestines showing).
Cloaca is a room-sized installation, a machine that - thru a series of chemical beakers, electrical pumps, cylinders and plastic tubes - mimics the human digestive system. You feed it, and it shits.
Xiu Xiu / David Horvitz
Los Angeles, USA: Doggpony Records, 2006
7” 33 1/3 rpm record
Edition of 600
Based on the way that this picture disc is advertised, it was seemingly designed as a collaboration between artist David Horwitz and California band Xiu Xiu. Websites for both are included on the enclosed postcard, which begins: “this is dip 024. music by xiu xiu. photographs by david horvitz."
Xiu Xiu (pronounced 'shoe shoe') takes its name from the 1998 directorial debut of Chinese actress Joan Chen, Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl, about a 15 year old traveling the countryside of Tibet. The band was formed in 2000 by singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart, who remains the only constant member of the group (and who plays virtually all of the instruments on this recording).
Their breakthrough came in 2003, with the release of their second album A Promise. The disc was given 8.6/10 on Pitchfork.com and gained notoriety for its cover image (taken by Stewart) of a nude young, gay Vietnamese prostitute. The record included a stripped down version of Tracy Chapman’s hit Fast Car, which also led to increased attention. Subsequently, the band has covered songs by Bauhaus, Big Star, Bjork, David Bowie, New Order, Nina Simone, The Smiths and Throwing Muses. The group's discography lists fifteen albums (including two compilations and a live disc) and twenty-five singles and EPs (some of them split with other artists, such as Devendra Banhart).
Artist David Horvitz, known for his artists' books and mail art projects, has reportedly served as the group's tour manager, and previously published a book of polaroids of the band. He also plays koto on the b-side track Saint Pedro Glue Stick (the only performer other than Stewart).
Labels: David Horvitz
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
I will not look at any more boring art
Los Angeles, USA: Freeway Eyewear, 2013
Edition of 200
An entirely unnecessary update to Baldessari's classic I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (which he had previously been revisited for the printed wallet that read I Will Not Buy Any More Boring Art), available in an edition of 100 black with white text and 100 white with black text and green lenses.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Art historian and curator Jean Sutherland Boggs died last Friday, at the age of 92. Boggs worked as a curator at the AGO, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was the first female director of the National Gallery of Canada. The gallery released the following statement:
"Jean Sutherland Boggs is a key personality in the history of the National Gallery. The acquisitions of international art that she championed are among the most beloved of Canada's national collection. She established photography as a new collecting area for the Gallery, initiating a collection that is now among the finest in the world. Moreover, Jean Boggs was given the responsibility to deliver a grand new home for Canada's national collection; the success of that project was such that its architect, Moshe Safdie went on to build many more art museums. She is among my heroes and we strive daily to maintain the standards of excellence that she established," said NGC Director and CEO, Marc Mayer."
Marilena Bonomo, pictured above with Hidetoshi Nagasawa, Lorenzo Bonomo, Mel Bochner, Sol Lewitt and (separately) Joseph Beuys, an Italian art dealer who ran Galleria Bonomo Bari, died on Sunday August 24th. Bonomo founded the gallery in 1971 and was influential in promoting and supporting the early careers of artists such as Alighiero Boetti, Sol LeWitt, and Mimmo Paladino.
Lorenzo Madarao, writing for La Reppublica, called Bonomo a “fundamental figure in contemporary art” whose gallery was “celebrated in Italy and abroad for its avant-garde work.”
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
StampsNew York City, USA: Robert Watts Studio Archive, 1999
28 x 21.5 cm.Edition size unknown
Commissioned by the Newark Museum for the Rutgers University exhibition OFF LIMITS and the Avant Garde, 1957-1963, this sheet of perforated postage stamps contains a selection of reprints from the artist's 1960s originals.
"Robert Watts is considered the "father" of stamp art. His earliest stamps - beginning in 1960 - were dispensed in stamp machines that he loaded with his own stamps. Several of the machines and the sheets he created are in major art collections world wide.
The stamps on this sheet are reprints from the original sheets of the earliest stamps : SAFEPOST/K.U.K - FELDPOST/JOCKPOST (W.C.Fields) (1961); YAM-FLUG 5-POST-5 (1962) and BLINK (1962-63). The Blink stamp image is a collaboration of Robert Watts, George Brecht and Alison Knowles."
- Publisher's blurb
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
An excerpt from Toronto poet Moez Surani's عملية Operación Opération Operation 行动 Oперация, an inventory poem that collects the names of military operations by UN-member countries from the founding of the United Nations to the present, appears in the current issue of Harpers.
The excerpt, titled Noms de Guerre, features a selection of names since the year 2000. The full poem spans 193 countries and 69 years, and contains the names of over 2,300 operations.
Sunday, August 24, 2014
New York City, USA: The Museum of Modern Art, 1999
2 1/8 x 3 1/2"
Edition size unknown
Produced in conjunction with the exhibition The Museum as Muse: Artists Reflect, this crystal paperweight features an image of Marcel Duchamp's earliest (Assisted) Readymade, Bicycle Wheel, in situ at the museum.
Armstrong, Canada: By The Skin of Me Teeth, 2009
18 pp., 16.5 x 11.5 cm., sewn-bound
Edition of 26 numbered copies
Hand-bound with greeting card covers with a Letraset title, and housed in a printed envelope, this book of eleven short poems is published by poet, artist, and performer kevin mcpherson eckhoff. By The Skin of Me Teeth is his "minuscule press dedicated to publishing the absolute dullest writing by both emerging & established authors", which produces chapbooks and artists' books in very limited editions. eckhoff is in town for a performance at Videofag last Thursday.
Author rob mclennan, born and currently residing in Ottawa, has written nearly thirty books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. He won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012.
His forthcoming poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks) launches Thursday the 25th September at Pressed Café (750 Gladstone Avenue, Ottawa) at 7:30 PM.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Chicken Feet, Duck Limbs and Dada Handshakes
Vancouver, Canada: Western Front, 1984
64 pp., 7-1/8" x 5-1/2", softcover
Edition of 500
Produced during a residency at the Western Front in September 1984, this book tells the story of Fluxus artist Williams meeting various members of the Dada movement. He recounts shaking hands with Tristan Tzara, Max Ernst, Hans Arp, Man Ray, Richard Hulsenbeck and Marcel Duchamp. He never met, shook hands or laid eyes on Picabia, but notes that he shook hands with many of his mourners, on the afternoon of his funeral.
The text is handwritten by Williams and the book is illustrated with his doodles (similar to the cover) and with prints made by using chicken and duck feet as rubber stamps. The artist is photographed with a hammer in hand and a duck's foot in the other, in his 1992 autobiography My Life in Flux and Vice Versa.
"So much happened during month-long residency at the Western Front cultural centre that I recall it as a simultaneity, with no sense of chronology...Kate Craig, curator of the Front's video productions suggested that we work up a video project, but I was so busy seeking out gourmet Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, and making my book".
- My Life in Flux and Vice Versa
The only copy on ABE is listed at $195 (here), but still available from the publisher for $30.00, here.
Friday, August 22, 2014
Quatuor à cordes n°3
Paris, France: Self-published, 2014
18 x 13 cm, audio postcard
Edition of 250 signed and numbered copies
Paris-based artist Rainier Lericolais published this two-minute-and-fifty-four-second audiowork on the occasion of his exhibition Fossils at galerie Frank Elbaz, which ran from April 26th to May 31st of this year.
The show examined tropes and technologies of the avant-garde past, celebrating obsolete technologies. The vinyl postcard represents two such fading everyday items. Despite the sales of vinyl records tripling in the past five years, the total still amounts to less than three percent of total music sales, making the term 'resurgence' a bit of an overstatement. Email, texting and twitter have all obviously replaced the short messages that postcards conveyed - apparently sales have dropped to below 1932 levels, which was not only during the Great Depression, but when the population was less than a third what it is now.
This lo-fi format, typically used for goofy promotional items, with its inevitable additional background noise, contains the work String Quartet #3, which is entirely built from string quartet sound samples.
Visit the artist's gallery page, here.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
Ger van Elk
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Art & Project, 1971
4 pp., 11.7 x 8.3", folded
Edition of 800
The 33rd (of an eventual 156) Art & Project Bulletin announces the Ger van Elk work Paul Klee - Um Den Fisch, 1926 (Around The Fish) from 1970, which consists of eight colour slides projected onto a wooden table with a white cloth. The slides document the artist consuming a meal based on a Klee painting. Van Elk reconstructed Klee’s work with tangible objects, replacing abstract designs with tangible items.
In addition to producing more Art & Project bulletins than any other artist (numbers 19, 33, 55, 65, 74, 100, 132, and 139), Ger Van Elk was also played a crucial role in introducing the Amsterdam gallery and publisher to numerous Los Angeles artists, including Bas Jan Ader (issues 44, 89), William Leavitt (58 and 80) and Allen Ruppersberg (67 and 105).
Van Elk moved from Amsterdam to Los Angeles in 1961, with his father, Peter Van Elk, an animator for Hanna Barbera, who worked on several episodes of the Flintstones. Here he befriend artists such as William Wegman, John Baldessari, and Robert Indiana. He was previously close with Bas Jan Ader, and when Ader also relocated to LA the two shared an apartment together on Sunset Boulevard.
"We wanted to be movie stars," Van Elk told Christophe Cherix in 2008. Their cohabitation was cut short when a neighbour set their house on fire and Ader moved in with his future wife, Mary Sue.
Van Elk had several solo exhibitions at the Art & Project gallery from 1970 to 1987, and (together with Marinus Boezem, Wim T. Schippers and Jan Dibbets) is seen as one of the main representatives of the conceptual art and arte povera movements in the Netherlands. His work was included in Documenta 5, in 1972, and in the influential exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form” in 1969.
Ger van Elk died on Sunday (August 17th) at the age of 73.
Bulletin 33 is available for $99 from FTN Books, here.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Entre Le Chien Et Le Loup
Toronto, Canada: Doris McCarthy Art Gallery, 2014
120 pp., 22.6 x 14.7 x 2 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown
A handsomely designed catalogue to accompany the travelling exhibition of the same name, which began at the Doris McCarthy Gallery in February of 2013 and wraps up at Saint Mary's University Art Gallery later this month. It was also hosted by the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, the Kenderline Art Gallery (Saskatchewan) and the Ottawa Art Gallery. All venues are co-publishers of the book.
The title phrase “entre chien et loup” translates literally into "between dog and wolf" but is used to describe a time of day, just before night, when the light is so dim one cannot distinguish the two animals. It also expresses that limit between the familiar, the comfortable versus the unknown and the dangerous, the domestic and the wild. It is an uncertain threshold between hope and fear.
Harper's first monograph is a white clothbound book (with a discreet foil stamped cover) held in a die-cut cardboard slipcase, designed by Lauren Wickware. It features an introduction from Doris McCarthy Director/Curator Ann MacDonald and the essays "The Magic of The Handmade Thing" by Lise Stone & Jim Zanzi, "My Life as a Placeholder" by Jan Peacock, "All at Once" by Crystal Mowry and "Whether Pigs Have Wings" by Robin Metcalfe.
The final stop on the tour opens this Saturday (August 23rd) and runs until the 5th of October at the Saint Mary's University Art Gallery in Halifax. Visit the gallery site, here.
The catalogue will be part of a joint-launch with the pace of days, which documents Monica Tap's recent exhibition at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre. The event takes place on September 2nd, from 7 to 9 pm at MKG127.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
No Junk Mail
Toronto, Canada: Paul + Wendy Projects, 2014
13 x 13 cm.
Edition of 100 (+12 APs) signed and numbered copies
An overly earnest sign commanding No Junk Mail always seems worse than actual junk mail, so this David Shrigley work is the perfect functional multiple.
The porcelain enamel on steel sign is the most recent (23rd) edition from Paul + Wendy projects, who have also published prints, books and multiples by The Royal Art Lodge, Kay Rosen, Jonathan Monk, Micah Lexier, Maggie Groat, Daniel Eatock, Derek Sullivan and many others. The sign is housed in a cardboard box and is accompanied by a letterpress card with the artists signature. It's available from the publishers, here, for $250 CDN., while supplies last.
Monday, August 18, 2014
Jonas Mekas (ed), George Maciunas (designer)
Film Culture 44, Spring 1967
New York City, USA: Film Culture, 1967
78 pp., 26.5 x 21 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown
Founded in 1955 by Jonas Mekas and his brother Adolfas, the New York-based magazine Film Culture is regarded as the seminal avant-garde cinema magazine. It began by covering Hollywood films and evolved into the primary voice of independent and avant-garde cinema, continuing on until 1996.
Film Culture took up offices in the 80 Wooster Street building that friend and fellow Lithuanian George Maciunas converted into the "creative co-op" that first brought artists into SoHo, changing the area forever, and earning him the epithet “Father of SoHo”. Maciunas was was the designer for nine of the seventy-nine issues of the journal. He responsible for the typography and layout of issues 14 - 18, 30, and 43 - 45. (Maciunas' design for Mekas' book Reminiscences can be seen here).
Maciunas bound issue #30 in corrugated cardboard and issue #43 was a newspaper dedicated to Fluxus, but #44 remains the most accessible (read: still available for under $150), while still showing the hallmarks of Maciunas' design. These include an envelope containing facsimile reproductions of hand-written notes to Mekas, his stylized interplay between image and typography and his own contribution “USA Surpasses All Genocide Records”.
"Maciunas was a highly skilled typographer and graphic designer. He did commercial work to seek out a living, but used non-commercial venues to experiment with new ways of representing ideas in graphic form. His multi-disciplinary studies in architecture, art and graphic design at Cooper Union, in architecture and musicology at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, and in art history at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, exposed him to an array of visual information—from musical scores to architectural blueprints—giving him the tools to develop his unique graphic style. We see this early on in his ambitious information charts, begun in the late 1950s, which trace developments in the histories of art and world events, covering antiquity to the present.
Well-versed in the history of the avant-garde from Dada to Lettrism, Macuinas continued these groups’ interests in the visuality of text, often as a means to explore the conceptually challenging spaces in which semiotics break down. Fluxus, in particular, but also journals such as Film Culture, were where his most inventive designs came to light."
- Tomas Schmit
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Les Rassembleurs, curated by Dean Baldwin, closes a week from today at MKG127. It is the gallery’s fourth “artist-curated” summer exhibition, following Toolkit by Germaine Koh in 2012, Chopped and Screwed by Hugh Scott-Douglas in 2011 and A - B, by Micah Lexier in 2010.
The exhibition includes the work of 14 artists on the loose topic of intoxication and indulgence (Dean’s professional area of expertise). Several of the artists (Ken Nicol, Roula Partheniou, Michael Dumontier, Kristan Horton) have appeared on this site (see tags below) many times before. Other artists include Valérie Blass, Karen Kraven, and Roy Meuwissen from Montreal), Dean Drever from Kingston, John Marriott and Margaux Williamson from Toronto, Radames "Juni" Figeroa (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Poonam Jain (Mumbai) and Sarah Peters (New York).
I have two works in the show. One is a silkscreen text piece called Red Nose Semiotics, about a 1905 ballad which became a popular trope in early British comedies. Before one could show a character vomiting or urinating in public, the song Nellie Dean was the fastest cue to the character’s inebriation.
The other work is titled The Piano Has Been Drinking, after the Tom Waits song of the same name. Here an altered 45 rpm record plays the song off-axis, continuing the fiction of the lyrics, in which the singer claims to be sober. The audio for the piece can be heard here.
Friday, August 15, 2014
A Large Slow River
Oakville, Canada: Oakville Galleries, 2001
46 pp.,13 x 15 xm., hardcover
Edition size unknown
This catalogue and audio CD is long out-of-print, but the commissioned walk is still active at Oakville Galleries' Gairloch Gardens, where one can sign out an MP3 player, put on the headphones and follow the instructions of the audio tour.
Those with their own copy of the 18-minute track could visit the work outside of gallery hours, or if the rumours of the gallery transitioning out of the garden space ever come true, after it is gone.
The book includes an essay by Oakville Galleries curator Marnie Fleming, who retires this year after 20 years at the space. Her final exhibition You've Really Got a Hold on Me, continues until August 30th.
"A Large Slow River has a beautiful site. It is set on Lake Ontario, with the waves hitting the rocks all day. Water was a major element in this walk. While working on the script, I was writing a fictional account of a man slipping at the top of a waterfall and falling to his death. I decided one Sunday while working on it that I needed to go to record the sound effects for the waterfall so we drove for over an hour to Waterton National Park in Alberta, just north of the Montana border. When we got to the small town where the waterfall was located, we decided to have lunch. Just as we were finishing lunch, I said to George that we had to get going, he had to hurry up. I was really impatient and intense. So we left the restaurant in a hurry and drove the two blocks to the waterfall. Just as we arrived at the site, 3 young people were walking slowly across the top of the 40-meter waterfall on a log that had become lodged above it. Everyone was watching this scene and thinking that the kids were crazy. It was a very dangerous thing to do. They all got across safely and the audience at the bottom was shaking their heads at the craziness of youth. I started to set up my recording gear in the van. As I was doing this, one kid who was still up above realized that he had made an impression on the audience below so he started dancing on the rocks at the top of the falls. Just as I was all set up and pressed the button to record I heard screams and yelling. I turned around to see that the boy had slipped off the rock and plunged the forty meters to the bottom. One of the strangest things is the way George looked at me at that moment and said ‘how did you know ?’ as if I had caused it. It took two teams of mountain climbers 3 days to get the boy’s body out from between the rocks where it had become stuck. No one had fallen or died at this waterfall since the late ’60s. I still wonder why it happened at that moment. I have a recording sitting on a shelf in my studio of the boy’s girlfriend crying, screaming crowds, men yelling instructions about getting ropes, and the sound of the sirens with the ambulance arriving. The crash of the waterfall is behind all of this like white noise. I never did use that part of the script or any of the recordings from that day."
- Janet Cardiff
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Brussels, Belgium: Yves Gevaert Editeur, 1991
9 x 75 cm.
A plastic portable game with only one outcome. Also available (though less common, I believe) in white.
Available from Antiquariaat Paul Nederpel, here, for only $35 US.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
One of Two
Edinburgh, Scotland: Show and Tell Editions, 2003
30 x 21 cm
Edition of 65 signed and numbered copies
One of Two is one of two thumb print rubber stamps produced by the artist (the other, featuring his left thumbprint is titled Two of Two). The wooden rubber stamp is accompanied by a signed and numbered certificate.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Artist's Poster Committee of Art Workers Coalition
Q. And babies? A. And babies.
New York City, USA: Self-published, 1970
63.5 x 96.5 cm.
Edition size unknown
One of the most enduring images from the Art Workers' Coalition (see previous post) is their iconic anti-Vietnam War poster And Babies. It features the now infamous My Lai Massacre picture taken by combat photographer Ronald L. Haeberle on March 16, 1968, and first published in Life magazine in December of 1969.
The text, in an enlarged, distressed font, comes from a Mike Wallace CBS News interview with a US Soldier named Paul Meadlo, who participated in the massacre:
Q. So you fired something like sixty-seven shots?
Q. And you killed how many? At that time?
A. Well, I fired them automatic, so you can’t- You just spray the area on them and so you can’t know how many you killed ‘cause they were going fast. So I might have killed ten or fifteen of them.
Q. Men, women, and children?
A. Men, women, and children.
Q. And babies?
A. And babies.
It has been estimated that over 500 unarmed civilians were killed - some raped, tortured and mutilated before their deaths - as part of the March massacre in South Viet Nam. The massacre caused global outrage when it became public knowledge in November of 1969. Eventually twenty-six US soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only one was convicted. Despite being found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he served only three and a half years under house arrest.
The poster was produced by AWC and GAAG members Frazer Dougherty, Jon Hendricks and Irving Petlin, along with Museum of Modern Art members Arthur Drexler and Elizabeth Shaw. Unexpectedly, the MoMA had agreed to fund and circulate the poster, but it was eventually vetoed by the president of the Board of Trustees, William S. Paley (chief executive office of the CBS radio and television networks). He and fellow board member Nelson Rockefeller were both "firm supporters" of the war and had backed the Nixon administration.* Paley reportedly "hit the ceiling" when he saw the poster proofs. Funding was cancelled and the MoMA's press release stated that the project was outside the "function" of the museum, which could not take a position on any matter not directly related to a specific function of the institution.
"We picketed and protested in front of Guernica, published 50,000 posters on our own and distributed them, free, via an informal network of artists and movement people; it has turned up all over the world," wrote AWC member Lucy Lippard in November of 1970. The poster image was broadcast on television and reprinted in newspapers, as well as carried in protest marches around the globe.
The AWC press release stated "Practically, the outcome is as planned: an artist-sponsored poster protesting the My-Lai massacre will receive vast distribution. But the Museum's unprecedented decision to make known, as an institution, its commitment to humanity, has been denied it."
Shortly afterwards, the poster was included in two major MoMA exhibitions: Kynaston McShine's 1970 exhibition of conceptual art, Information; and Betsy Jones' The Artist as Adversary in 1971.
The work is included in the gallery's permanent collection.
* In the years that followed Paley would shorten a second instalment of a two-part CBS Evening News series on the Watergate, based on a request by Charles Colson, an aide to President Richard M. Nixon, and order the suspension of a critical analyses by CBS news commentators following Presidential addresses.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Art Workers Coalition
New York City, USA: Self-published, 1969
142 pp., 8.5 x 11", thick side-stapled wrappers
Edition size unknown
On the afternoon of January 3rd, 1969, the Greek sculptor Takis Vassilakis, accompanied by Willoughby Sharp and a few other accomplices, visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York to unplug and de-install the artist’s own work, Tele-Sculpture. The piece, owned by the Museum, was included in the exhibition without consultation by the artist, who felt that it no longer represented his practice. They placed a call to alert the museum's director, and staged a sit-in protest in the Museum's garden. Hundreds of handbills were distributed to gallery goers, with a list of four complaints:
1. The exhibition of living artists without their consent.
2. The degree of control exercised by museums, galleries and private collector over the works of living artists.
3. The lack of consultation between museum authorities and artists, particularly with regard to the maintenance and installation of work.
4. The unauthorized use of photographs and other material for publicity purposes.*
Director Bates Lowery came down to meet with the group, and agreed to the permanent removal of the piece from the exhibition. He also told them that he would "seriously consider" the group's demands that the Museum host a public hearing to discuss their concerns over "the current relationship between artist and museum".
This event marked the birth of a group that would later be known as the Art Workers Coalition, or AWC, and would come to include over 300 artists, critics, writers, and arts administrators who sought the reform of large cultural institutions and fought for the rights of artists.
In the fliers that Takis distributed, he called the protest “the first in a series of acts against the stagnant policies of art museums all over the world.” He continued: “Let us unite, artists with scientists, students with workers, to change these anachronistic situations into information centres for all artistic activities,” thus tying his personal discontent to a larger disenfranchisement artists felt in relation to museums and institutions. By the end of the month the original six were joined by art critic Gregory Battock, and several artists from the Howard Wise gallery, including Hans Haacke and Wen-Ying Tsar.
The new expanded group submitted a list of thirteen demands to Lowery, which included calling for free admission to museums, opening hours that can accommodate working people, and better representation regarding race and gender. Lowery responded a couple of weeks later that he was recommending to the Board of Trustees that a Special Committee on Artist Relations be appointed.
On February 22, the group, now joined by Carl Andre, Joseph Kosuth and Lucy Lippard, held the first of many meetings at the Chelsea Hotel, to determine their next move. Further letters were exchanged with Lowery, but his responses were deemed unsatisfactory so the group staged increasingly large protests outside of the MoMA (including the distribution of counterfeit admission tickets designed by Joseph Kosuth),
The Open Public Hearing on the Subject: What Should Be The Program of The Art Worker’s Regarding Museum Reform, What Should be Done to Establish the Program of an Open Art Workers’ Coalition was announced for April 10th, with a flyer that read:
“East [sic] person who wishes to speak will be assigned, upon arrival, an approximate time for speaking. Any witness who does not wish to wait or return for his turn, may give the secretary a brief statement to be read at the appropriate time.”
The event attracted an attendance of almost 400, and over 80 art workers read statements. Richard Artschwager used his two minutes at the podium to light small firecrackers.
The 1969 publication Open Hearing features a collection of mimeographed copies of artists’ statements from the event, as well as letters and other documents pertaining to the AWC. The index lists the following categories:
Structure of the Art Workers’ Coalition
Alternatives to Museums and Art Institutions
Reforms of Art Institutions
Legal and Economic Relationships to Galleries and Museums
Specific Proposals of Action
Artists’ Relationships to Society and other Philosophical Considerations
Black and Puerto Rican Artists’ rights
with most writings falling under multiple categories.
Carl Andre contributes a text entitled A Reasonable and Practical Proposal for Artists who Wish to Remain Free Men in these Terrible Times, Jean Toche calls for artists’ participation in the running of all museums and Hans Haacke suggests the MoMA has become “an art-historical mausoleum”. Kosuth quotes Oscar Wilde.
Seth Siegelaub notes that the only seemingly unique aspect of an artist is that he makes art and no one else does, and “this is where your leverage lies”.
Hollis Frampton, Ken Jacobs and Michael Snow co-sign a letter demanding full autonomy for the MoMA’s film department, and reasonable purchase and screening fees, as well as supporting other ideas popular within the group (free admission to the museum, for example).
Critic Alex Gross (who had previously written about the initial Takis Vassilakis protest for the
The East Village Other) discusses a common situation in which secondary market works sell for exorbitant prices while the artist continues to live penniless, and suggests that an artist retains a “propriety interest in his work even after he has sold it”. He proposes a royalty of between 10 and 33 percentage. Sol Lewitt argues that a living artist should retain rights over their works and that collectors would “in a sense, be custodians of that art”.
Faith Ringold contributes a questionnaire on the topic of the museum experience for black and Puerto Rican visitors. The six questions can be answered YES, NO or UNCERTAIN. The document also calls for a Martin Luther King Jr. wing of the MoMA, as do several of the other contributions.
Lucy Lippard, while striking a somewhat more conciliatory tone, suggests that “the conventional museum is by nature too big, too bulky, too slow to keep track of and keep up with the studios in a time of such rapid change”. Robert Barry notes that the very first word in the name MoMA is a lie, and suggests it could be abandoned altogether: “Why not work outside it and leave it to those who want it?”.
Lee Lozana’s handwritten contribution reads: “for me there can be no art revolution that is separate from a science revolution, a political revolution, an education revolution, a drug revolution, a sex revolution, or a personal revolution. i cannot consider a program of museum reforms without equal attention to gallery reforms and art magazine reforms which would aim to eliminate stables of artists and writers. i will not call myself an art worker but rather an art dreamer and i will participate only in a total revolution simultaneously personal and public.”
These varying approaches ultimately led to the end of the AWD, in late 1971. Hans Haacke: “What one wants, the other objects to strenuously; e.g. one wants to destroy museums, the other wants to reform them or to use the museums as they are for his own artistic ends, and the third simply wants a piece of the pie.” Lucy Lippard wrote: “By the end of 1971, the AWC had died quietly of exhaustion, backlash, internal divisions . . . and neglect by the women, who had turned to our own interests.”
While the activities of the AWC lasted less than three years, many splinter groups continued: GAAG (the Guerilla Art Action Group, which consisted of Jean Toche, Jon Hendricks and Poppy Johnson), PRAWC (the Puerto Rican Art Workers’ Coalition), Women Artists in Revolution, The Emergency Cultural Government, Artists Meeting For Cultural Change, The Ad Hoc Women’s Artist Committee and the Art Strike.
The latter had organized the October 15th 1969 protest, Moratorium of Art to End the War in Vietnam, convincing the MoMA, the Whitney Museum, the Jewish Museum and a large number of commercial art galleries to close for the day. The Metropolitan Museum and the Guggenheim did not comply, but the MET did postpone an exhibition opening scheduled for that day, and the Guggenheim was picketed.
The coalition's activities eventually led to changes in how museums interact with artists, a contribution to the art world that is considered lasting in spite of the coalition's short three-year existence. The appointment of artists as trustees on Museum board of directors is increasingly commonplace.
The group can count many other successes, both directly and indirectly, immediate and long-lasting:
MoMA officially affiliated with the Museum Division of the Distributive Workers of America union, in May 1971. Their two-week strike in August of that year resulted in a wage increase, job security, and a greater voice for staff in policy decisions.
The New York State Council on the Arts created the “Ghetto Arts Program” aimed at black and Puerto Rican artists. Some of the language and approaches used are cringe-worthy now, but can be viewed as initial steps towards building community-based arts programming.
A direct result of the Art Workers’ agitations, MoMA began a free admission day in February of 1970. On the first of these the museum tripled its attendance, and the New York Times reported that the crowd “was younger and less white than usual, and included many family groups.” Many New York City museums now offer free admission on select days (for a list, click here) and there are over 50 museums in the UK with a completely free admission policy (click here).
In Toronto, The AGO has free entry (to the permanent collection) on Wednesday nights from 6 - 8:30 pm. A few years ago the Power Plant accepted sponsorship to ensure free admission during the summer, and recently this has been expanded to a year-round policy, courtesy of BMO Financial Group.
Other than token evenings, gallery hours still seem aimed at vacationing tourists and those with non-9 to 5 employment. How contemporary art hopes to compete with other culture (cinema, television, music, sporting events, drinking, etc.) and close at 6pm continues to baffle.
In 1976, California enacted the Resale Royalty Act, which (under certain conditions) ensured that artists were paid 5% of resale prices for the duration of their lifetime, and 20 years afterwards (when the proceeds would go to their heirs). The law was struck down as unconstitutional in 2012 and is currently pending appeal.
Almost 60 countries now, including most of Europe, have laws that allot a small percentage of the hammer price of resold art works to the artist. The figure varies from a fraction of a per cent to five per cent, depending on the sale price. The notion of "droit de suite," or the artist's resale right was first proposed in France in 1894 and became law in 1920. but was only introduced to the U.K. in 2006, means that an artist, who has previously sold works for low prices, can profit from rising prices on subsequent sales of those pieces. The law applies after death too, so that an artist's heirs would get a share until copyright expires, 75 years after death in most of these countries.
In terms of the initial concern by Takis, there has been considerable movement within institutions towards consultation with living artists. The Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) affords artists certain moral rights regarding their work that they did not have before, including “the right to prevent distortion, mutilation, or modification that would prejudice the author's honor or reputation” . In Canada, the (Michael) Snow v. The Eaton Centre Ltd in 1982 case awarded artists rights over the integrity of their work, which continues to reverberate today.
Regarding issues of race and gender, it is noteworthy that one of the few recent titles to tackle the activities of the AWC, Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era by Julia Bryan-Wilson, largely omits the contributions of black and Puerto Rican artists, who (as can be seen in Open Hearing) played critical roles in the efforts of the group. The fight for the rights of women artists was contentious even within the group, and reportedly many objected strongly to the addition of the word ‘sexism’ in the name New York Art Strike against War, Repression, Racism and Sexism.
A fairly recent study of eight selected museums notes that in the 2000s only 28% of museum solo exhibitions were by women artists. This figure, while outrageous, is still a better gender balance than index of this publication.
The legacy of the AWC can also include subsequent New York City art activism, ranging from the Guerrilla Girls to Occupy Museums, a branch of the Occupy movement who have held several protests inside MoMA. Their mission statement:
WE OCCUPY MUSEUMS TO RECLAIM SPACE FOR MEANINGFUL CULTURE BY AND FOR THE 99%. ART AND CULTURE ARE THE SOUL OF THE COMMONS. ART IS NOT A LUXURY!
and actions against union-busting practices of auction houses whose board members also sit on the MoMA board, indicate a continuity with the work of the AWC more than four decades prior (visit their site, here).
In addition to Open Hearing, The AWC self-published another volume, titled Documents 1. Both are available as PDFs at the Primary Information site, here.
Lucy Lippard notes, in her firsthand account of the AWC, The Art Workers’ Coalition: Not A History (November 1970), that the proceeds from these two publications (around $500) were given to “a Biafran woman who delivered a particularly stirring plea at an AWC meeting”. Lippard’s Not A History was reprinted in her book Get the Message: A Decade Of Art For Social Change, which can be read here.
* A similar battle was waged in Canada, more than a full year prior to the AWC. In the fall of 1967, the National Gallery of Canada wrote to 130 Canadian artists requesting permission to reproduce their artwork in slide images for an exhibit entitled 300 Years of Canadian Art.
Painter Jack Chambers noticed that the letters also indicated that if the artist’s permission was not received in time, the project would continue with their assumed support. He replied with a request for compensation, pointing out that the gallery would profit from the reproduction of his work, even as an educational product. He copied his reply to other artists asked to participate and encouraged them to also reply in kind. Because of the pressure from this letter writing campaign the National Gallery was forced to respond. By cancelling the project.
Chambers, aided by Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje, continued to promote the idea that artists should be paid for their work. “The first time that Kim and I went up to Montreal and met with the Canadian Art Museum Directors’ Organization,” Urquhart recalls, “they said ‘We agree, yes it’s a wonderful thing, but our institution just doesn’t have the budget.’ They played violins.” He proposed to the Montreal Museum Director that instead of hosting twenty contemporary exhibits in a year, they host nineteen and use the last budget to pay the artists.
This led to the founding of CARFAC (Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens) in 1968. By 1975, the Canada Council for the Arts made it a requirement for museums to pay fees as part of their funding eligibility criteria. Canada was the first country to adopt this standard, and other countries such as England and Australia followed suit by paying similar fees to artists.
(below: the other AWC publication, Documents 1, as seen in the Library collection of, ah, the MoMA,
Kosuth's forged Annual Pass, the 13 Demands and images of the AWC and later Occupy Museums protests).