Allan Sekula

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Allan Sekula (January 15, 1951 – August 10, 2013) was an American photographer, writer, filmmaker, theorist and critic. From 1985 until his death in 2013, he taught at California Institute of the Arts.[1] His work frequently focused on large economic systems, or "the imaginary and material geographies of the advanced capitalist world."[2]


Sekula's principal medium was photography, which he employed to create exhibitions, books and films. His secondary medium was the written word, employing essays and other critical texts in concert with images to create a multi-level critique of contemporary late capitalism. His works make critical contributions on questions of social reality and globalization, and focus on what he described as "the imaginary and material geographies of the advanced capitalist world". He was a film/video-maker, frequently collaborating with film theorist Noël Burch on projects such as The Reagan Tapes (1984), and The Forgotten Space (2010).[3]

Sekula received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Getty Research Institute, the Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) and the Atelier Calder.[4] With his work Aereospace Folktales (1973), he began mixing his photographic series with long texts, a form for which he would be particularly well-known. Fish Story (1995) explores the world maritime and forms the basis for much of The Forgotten Space.

He was named a 2007 USA Broad Fellow and granted $50,000 by United States Artists. He served on the faculty of the Photography and Media Program at the California Institute of the Arts.[5]


Sekula was born in 1951 in Erie, Pennsylvania, of Polish and English descent. His family moved to San Pedro, California in the early 1960s.[1] He began making art in the early 1970s, staging performances, building installations, and producing photo series. Sekula practiced what he called "critical realism", informed by Marxist thought, documentary photography, and conceptual art.[6]

Sekula died on August 10, 2013, aged 62, following a long struggle with gastric-esophageal cancer.[6]


2013: Mécaniques des fluides, group show curated by Marie Muracciole, Gallery Cécile Fakhoury,[7] Abidjan, Ivory Coast

2013: The Dockers' Museum (curated by Jürgen Bock), Lumiar Cité, Lisbon, Portugal (solo)

2013: This ain't China, solo show (curated by Bill Jeffries), Simon Fraser University Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (solo)

2013: Critical Episodes (1957-2011), group show, Barcelona, Spain

2013: Voices of the Sea, group show, Musée des Beaux-arts de Calais, Calais, France

2013: Learning for Life, group show, Henie Onstad Art Center, Oslo, Norway

2013: Uchronie, ou des récits de collection, group show (curated by Le Bureau), [clarification needed] Saline Royale, Senans, France

2013: Balea Negra (curated by Pedro de Llano), group show, Museo de Arte Contemporeana de Vigo, Vigo, Spain

2012-2013: Californian Sequences, solo show (curated by Marie Muracciole), Galerie Michel Rein, Paris, France (solo)

2012: Black Tide, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo, Spain (solo)

2012: Allan Sekula: Disassembled Movies 1972–2012, Akbank Art Center (curated by Marie Muracciole and Ali Akay), Istanbul, Turkey (solo)

2012: The Dockers Museum (curated by Jürgen Bock), La Criée centre d'art contemporain, Rennes, France (solo)

2011: California Stories, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo)

2011: Polonia and…, Galerie Michel Rein, Paris, France (solo)

2011: Ship of Fools, cur. Kirsten Lloyd, Stills Center for Photography, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK (solo)

2011: Polonia and Other Fables, cur. Karen Downey, Belfast Exposed, Belfast, Northern Ireland (solo)

2011: Retrospective of Sekula films, Palau de la Virreina, Barcelona, Spain (solo) 2011: ZZNot for sale, Passage de Retz, Paris, France

2011: L'énigme du portrait, Neuflize collection, Musée d'art contemporain de Marseille, France

2011: oceanomania: souvenirs des mers mystérieuses, de l'expédition à l'aquarium (curated by Mark Dion), Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, Monaco.

2011: Angry, Young and Radical, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, Netherlands

2011: 1979, a movement to radical moments (curated by Carles Guerra), La Virreina, Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona, Spain

2011: Serious Games. War – Media – Art, Institute Mathildenhöhe Darmstadt, Germany 2010: ANTIPHOTOJOURNALISM, La Virreina Centre de la Image, Barcelona, Spain

2010: Le peuple qui manque, Centre Pompidou, France

2010: The Forgotten Space, Nederlands Film festival, Utrecht, Netherlands; Viennale, Vienna, Austria; Doclisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

2010: Là où nous sommes - oeuvres de la Collection Neuflize Vie, Maison d'art Bernard Anthonioz, Nogent-sur-Marne, France

2010: Les Rencontres d’Arte Contemporain, La Chantrerie, Cahors, France

2010: En cada instante, ruptura, Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros, Mexico City, Mexico 2010: Ship of Fools, 29th Biennial de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

2010: The Image In Question. War-Media-Art, Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

2010: Taipei Biennial 2010, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

2010: This Ain't China, e-flux, New York, New York

2010: Allan Sekula: Polonia and Other Fables, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary

2010: Ship of Fools, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp, Belgium

2010: Media City Seoul 2010, 6th Seoul International Biennale of Media Art, Seoul, South Korea

2010: Nether Land, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art at the Dutch Cultural Center, Shanghai, China

2010: How Many Billboards?, MAK Center, Los Angeles, California

2010: "…In A Most Dangerous Manner", SPACES Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio

2010: Global Design, Museum für gestaltung, Zurich, Switzerland

2010: Berlin-Paris Un échange de Galeries - galerie Michel Rein @ Carlier I Gebauer, Berlin, Germany

2010: Les Tubes, group show, Le Quai, Angers, France

2010: European Cross-curating, station 2 (curated by Jūrgen Bock), artist residency and solo show in 2011, La Criée, Centre d'Art Contemporain, Rennes, France (solo)

2009: Retrospective, Zacheta Gallery, Warsaw, Poland (solo)

2009: LES TUBES, group show, Le Quai, Angers, France

2009: Zacheta Gallery, Warsaw, May–June 2009 (retrospective) (solo)

2009: San Diego, Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art, Culver City, California

2009: Polonia, Renaissance Society, Chicago, Illinois

2008: The Way Things Are, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria

2008: Street Art, Street Life (curated by Lydia Yee), Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, New York.

2008: No Room, curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California

2008: Universal Archive: The Condition of the Document and the Modern Photographic Utopia, MACBA, Barcelona, Spain

2008: The Quiet in the Land, Luang Prabang, Laos

2008: Edit Nine, commissioned work to coincide with This Side of Paradise, The Huntington, San Marino, California

2008: Polonia and Other Fables, Renaissance Society, Chicago, Illinois, Autumn 2008 (solo)

2008: Travailler plus pour gagner plus, galerie Michel Rein, Paris, France (solo)

2008: Lost Paradise, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, Switzerland

2007: 10th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey

2007: L'Europe en devenir, Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris (curated by Michel Ritter)

2007 Documenta XII, Kassel, Germany

2007 Existencias, MUSAC (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León), Spain

2007 UN/Fair Trade, Neue Galerie Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria (curated by P. Weibel & G. Holler-Schuster)

2007 The Quiet in The Land, Luang Prabang, Laos

2007 Collection, Generali Foundation, Vienna, Austria

2007 For a special place: documents and works from the Generali Foundation, Austrian Cultural Forum, New York, New York

2007 World Factory (curated by Hou Hanru), San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California

2007 In the poem about love, you don't write the word love, Overgaden, Institut for Samtidskunst, Copenhagen, Denmark

2007 MACBA in Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

2007 Informacion contra informacion, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporanea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

2007 Shipwreck and Workers, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo)

2007 John Q. Public and Citizen Jane: Private Americans in the Political Domain, San Diego State University, San Diego, California

2006 Busan Biennale 2006: Everywhere, Busan, South Korea

2006 In the Poem about Love You Don’t Write the Word Love, Artists Space, New York, New York

2006 The Quiet in the Land, Luang Prabang, Laos (solo)

2006 Full House: Views of the Whitney's Collection at 75, Whitney Museum, New York, New York

2006 Dark Places, Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, California

2006 Allan Sekula, Fish Story Chapter One, FRAC Bretagne, Maison de l'Etudiant, Université du Havre, Havre

2006 Los Angeles 1955-1985, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

2006 Concept has never meant horse, Generali Foundation, Vienna, Austria

2006 Carnets du Sous-Sol, galerie Michel Rein, Paris, France

2006 From Mini-FM to hacktivists: A Guide to Art and Activism, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand

2005 In the Poem about Love you didn't write the word Love, Center for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

2005 Inward OUTward, FLACC - Casino Modern, Belgium

2005 Dear Bill Gates (poster version) installed throughout Leuven in conjunction with Meunier, a dialogue. Contemporary art meets Constantin Meunier and Leuven, Belgium

2005 Facing the Music, the gallery at REDCAT in Disney Hall, Los Angeles, California

2005 Emergencies, MUSAC (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla y Leon), Madrid, Spain

2005 How do we want to be governed? (Figure and Ground), Miami Art Central, Miami, Florida

2005 Occupying Space, TENT Centrum Beeldende Kunst, Rotterdam, Netherlands

2005 Shipwreck and Workers, Museum in Progress, Vienna, Austria (solo)

2005 Aerospace Folktales, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo)

2005 TITANIC's wake, Camera Austria/Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria (solo)

2005 Shipwreck and Workers: Verson 2 for Leuven, STUK Arts Center, Leuven, Belgium (solo)

2005 Shipwreck and Workers, STUK Kunstcentrum, Leuven, Belgium (solo)

2004 TITANIC's Wake, Harn Museum, Gainesville, Florida (solo)

2004 Freeway to China & Black Tide/Marea negra, National Museum, Zadar, Croatia (solo)

2004 Prayer for the Americans, Galerie Michel Rein, Paris, France (solo)

2004 Situations Construites, Attitudes, Geneva, Switzerland

2004 How do we want to be governed ? (curated by Roger M. Buergel and Ruth Noack), Miami Art Central

2004 L'Ombre du temps, galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France

2004 Paysages Invisibles, Musée départemental d'art contemporain de Rochechouart, France

2004: U-topia, Frac Centre, Orléans, France

2004: Diaporama 04, MACBA, Barcelona, Spain

2004: Conditions urbaines, galerie Donzévansaanen, Lausanne, Switzerland

2004: Die Universität ist eine Fabrik, Kunstraum der Universität Lüneburg, curators: Roger M. Buergel, Ruth Noack, Lüneburg, Germany

2004: reGenerations: Environmental Art in California, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, California

2004: The L.A. Years, Part 1, 25th Anniversary Exhibition, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California

2004: The Big Nothing, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

2004: Jamaica Flux: Workspace & Windows, Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, Jamaica, Queens, New York City

2004: The Quiet in the Land, Luang Prabang, Laos

2003: High Tide, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington

2003: Collecció MACBA, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

2003: After the news, Postmedia Documentaries, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

2003: AT WORK: The Art of California Labor, San Francisco State University Fine Arts Gallery, San Francisco, California

2003: Contemporary Photography from the Harn Museum Collection, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

2003: Histoires contemporaines, Les 20 ans des Frac, Frac Rhônes-Alpes, Villeurbanne, France

2003: Witness. Contemporary Artists Document Our Time, Barbican Art, London, England, UK

2003: Vigo Visions. Coleccion fotografica do concello de Vigo, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Vigo, Spain

2003: Singuliers voyages, Domaine départemental de Chamarande, Chamarande

2003: The politics of Place, The Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland; Länsmusteet Västernorrland, Härnösand, Sweden

2003: Black Tide/Marea Negra, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo)

2003: Allan Sekula, Performance under Working Conditions, Generali Foundation, Vienna, Austria. Retrospective exhibit with catalogue interview by Benjamin Buchloh (solo)

2002: Irrational Exuberance, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo)

2002: Waiting for Tear Gas (white globe to black), Camera Austria, Graz, Austria (solo)

2002: Fish Story, Dokumenta XI, Kassel, Germany (cat.)

2002: The Politics of Place, BildMuseet, Umea Universitet, Sweden (cat.)

2002: Empire State, Whitney Museum, New York, New York

2002: Sans commune mesure, Centre national de la photographie, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne, Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France; Le Fresnoy, Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing, France

2002: Regarder la mer. Repenser le monde, Le Grand Café, St-Nazaire, France

2002: Trade - Waren, Wege und Werte im Welthandel heute, Nederlands Foto Instituut, Rotterdam, Netherlands

2002: shadow Festival 3, Amsterdam, Netherlands (cat.)

2002: Open City, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain

2002: Open City: Street Photography Since 1950, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.

2001: Open City: Street Photography Since 1950, MoMA Oxford, England

2001: Visual Worlds, Richard L. Nelson Gallery, UC Davis, Davis, California

2001: Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama, Japan

2001: Yokohama 2001, International Triennale of Contemporary Art, Yokohama, Japan (cat.)

2001: Antagonismes. Casos d'estudi, Museu d'Art Contemporain de Barcelone, Barcelona, Spain

2001: Fin de la classe ouvrière?, Centre photographique de Cherbourg-Octeville, France

2001: Contemporary moments, MACBA, Barcelona, Spain

2001: Trade - Waren, Wege und Werte im Welthandel heute, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland

2001: TITANIC's wake (curated by Jürgen Bock), Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal (solo)

2001: Galerie Michel Rein, Paris, France (solo)

2001: Dead Letter Office, CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, New York (solo)

2001: School is a Factory 1978/80, Ecole Régionale des Beaux-Arts, Valence, France (solo)

2000: Titanic's wake, CCC, Tours, France; Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California (solo)

2000: Rotterdam Foto Biennial, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

2000: Die Regierung/The Government, Alte Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, Germany

2000: Desert and Transit, Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany

2000: Charm Offensive,Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles, California

2000: Flight Patterns, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California

2000: Seascape, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica, California.

1999: Fish Story, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington

1999: Trace: Liverpool Biennial. Liverpool, England, UK

1998: Scratches on the Surface of Things, Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

1998: Port and Corridor: Work Sites in Los Angeles: Robbert Flick and Allan Sekula, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California

1998: La mer n’est pas la terre, Le Criée, Rennes, France

1998: Voyage, Museé de Valence, Valence, France.

1998: Dismal Science: Photo Works 1972-1996, University Galleries, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois; traveled to Palmer Museum, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania; daadgalerie, Berlin; Camerawork, London; Nederlands Foto Instituut, Rotterdam; Kunstverein Munchen, Munich, Germany; Curtain University Art Gallery, Perth; Atlanta College of Art, Atlanta; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels

1998: Deep Six/Passer au bleu, Museé des Beaux Arts et de la Dentelle, Calais Galerie Michel Rein, Paris

1997: InSite 97, San Diego/Tijuana, Centro Cultural de Tijuana, Tijuana, Mexico

1996: Face a l'Histoire, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

1996: Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

1996: Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, Netherlands. Traveled to Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; Tramway, Glasgow; Le Channel and Musée des Beaux-Arts, Calais; Santa Monica Museum of Art, Santa Monica, California.

1995: Aerospace Folktales and Canadian Notes, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

1994: Proposition I, One-Five, Brussels, Belgium

1993: Trade Routes, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, New York

1993: University Art Museum, Berkeley, California

1993: 1993 Biennial Exhibition, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York

1992: Proof: Los Angeles Art and the Photograph 1960-1980, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California

1992: Wasteland: Landscape from Now On, Fotografie Biennale, Rotterdam, Netherlands

1991: Critical Realism, Perspektief, Rotterdam

1991: The Power of Words: An Aspect of Recent Documentary Photography, PPOW Gallery, New York

1991: A Dialogue about Recent American and European Photography, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

1991: Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

1989: Geography Lesson: Canadian Notes, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (solo). Traveled to Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles; A Space, Toronto; P.S. 1, Long Island City, Queens, New York; Amelie Wallace Gallery, State University of New York, Old Westbury, New York; Washington Project for the Arts, Washington, D.C.; Mendel Art Gallery; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario; Western Front, Vancouver, British Columbia.

1989: If You Lived Here: Home Front:, Dia Art Foundation, New York, New York

1987: Vormen van Documentaire Photografie in de jaren '80, Galerie Perspektief, Rotterdam, Netherlands

1987: Forum Stadtpark, Graz, Austria (solo)

1985: San Francisco Camerawork, San Francisco, California (solo)

1984: Art and Ideology, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York

1983: Westbury. Traveled to State University of New York, Cortland Game, Amelie Wallace Gallery, State University of New York, Old Westbury. Traveled to State University of New York, Cortland, Cortland, New York

1983: Susan Meiselas and Allan Sekula, Film in the Cities Photo Gallery, St. Paul Minnesota

1981: Likely Stories, Castelli Graphics, New York, New York

1981: Absage an das Einzelbild, Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany

1981: Erweiterte Fotografie: Fifth International Vienna Biennale, Vienna Secession, Vienna, Austria

1980: Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula, Anna Leonowens Gallery, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia

1977: Social Criticism and Art Practice, San Francisco Art Institute (co-curated by Roy Ascott and Victor Burgin)

1977: American Narrative/Story Art 1967-1977, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas

1976: New American Filmmakers Series: Connell, Sekula and Torres, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York

1975: Video: Martha Rosler and Allan Sekula, The Kitchen, New York, New York

1974: Brand Library Art Center, Glendale, California (solo)

1973: Socialist Realism: Photo-Text Works by Fred Lonidier and Allan Sekula, Gallery A-402, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, California

Selected Public Collections[edit]


  • Facing the Music: Documenting Walt Disney Hall and the Redevelopment of Downtown Los Angeles (forthcoming, East of Borneo Books)
  • A Dialogue with Allan Sekula (2005)
  • Performance under Working Conditions (2003)
  • Titanic's Wake (2003)
  • Seemannsgarn (2002)
  • Dead Letter Office (1997)
  • Fish Story (1995)
  • Photography Against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works 1973–1983 (1984)


  • The Forgotten Space (2010)
  • A Short Film for Laos[9] (2006)


  1. ^ a b ""Allan Sekula, 1951-2013"". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Notice of death of artist Allan Sekula, 1951–2013". Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  3. ^ Icarus Films website
  4. ^ "Allan Sekula obituary (1951–2013)". Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Allan Sekula". Retrieved August 13, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Allan Sekula, R.I.P". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 13, 2013. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Allan Sekula". Artnet. Retrieved August 13, 2013. 
  9. ^ Film description

External links[edit]