Artists Space is a non-profit art gallery and arts organization first established at 155 Wooster Street in Soho, New York City. Founded in 1972 by Irving Sandler and Trudie Grace and funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), Artists Space provided an alternative support structure for young, emerging artists, separate from the museum and commercial gallery system. Artists Space has historically been engaged in critical dialogues surrounding institutional critique, racism, the AIDS crisis, and Occupy Wall Street.
Artists Space has provided a platform for many notable artists, including Laurie Anderson, John Baldessari, Judith Barry, Ericka Beckman, Ashley Bickerton, Barbara Bloom, Andrea Fraser, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Lyle Ashton Harris, Peter Halley, Jenny Holzer, Joan Jonas, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler, Robert Longo, Anthony McCall, Ericka Beckman, John Miller, Adrian Piper, Lari Pittman, Tim Rollins, Cindy Sherman, Jack Smith, Michael Smith, Haim Steinbach, Stuart Sherman, Laurie Simmons, and Fred Wilson.
During its first year, 21 prominent artists were chosen to produce a one-person exhibition, and chose three unaffiliated artists to show work simultaneously. Artists such as Romare Bearden, Vito Acconci, Dan Flavin, Nancy Graves, Sol LeWitt, Philip Pearlstein, Dorothea Rockburne, Lucas Samaras, and Jack Youngerman were among those chosen to exhibit and select artists. The system provided artists with a great amount of curatorial agency, and the opportunity for emerging artists to gain visibility.
Several artists support services were also established early on, including the Visiting Artists Lecture Series, the Emergency Materials Fund, and the Independent Exhibitions Program. These programs were designed to provide visibility and financial assistance to artists, as well as opportunities to exhibit outside of Artists Space. The Emergency Materials Fund provided grants to artists to present their work at an established non-profit venue, while the Independent Exhibitions Program supported the needs of unaffiliated artists who were producing and presenting their work without institutional sponsorship.
In 1974, The Unaffiliated Artists File was established, later shortened to the "Artists File" in 1983. The file was originally composed solely of unaffiliated, New York-based artists, then was expanded to include artists across the United States, and eventually, to include 3000 artists located internationally. The Artists File was both a free database open to the public as well as a service for representing a wide range of independent artists. Artists Space regularly organized group exhibitions entitled Selections, which featured registered artists from the File. The Artists File was one of the largest artists registries in the world, with more than 10,000 users. It was digitized in 1986.
Notable Exhibitions and Programming
In 1974, Edit DeAk organized PersonA, a photo and video performance series focusing on autobiography and institutional critique of the art world. Laurie Anderson, Eleanor Anton, Jennifer Bartlett, Dennis Oppenheim, Adrian Piper, Alan Sondheim and Kathy Acker, Peter Hutchinson, Jack Smith, Scott Burton, Roger Welch, and Nancy Kitchell exhibited works. The series took place over four consecutive evenings.
In 1977, Douglas Crimp curated Pictures, an exhibition featuring the work of Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine and Robert Longo. The show featured multimedia works including photography, film, performance as well as painting, drawing, and sculpture. After first being exhibited at Artists Space, the exhibition traveled to the Allen Art Museum, Oberlin, the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, and the University of Colorado Museum, Boulder. Crimp stated about the show:
"In choosing the word pictures for this show, I hoped to convey not only the work's most salient characteristic-recognizable images-but also and importantly the ambiguities it sustains. As is typical of what has come to be called postmodernism, this new work is not confined to any particular medium....Picture, used colloquially, is also nonspecific: a picture book might be a book of drawings or photographs, and in common speech a painting, drawing, or print is often called, simply, a picture. Equally important for my purposes, picture, in its verb form, can refer to a mental process as well as the production of an aesthetic object."
In 1978, Artists Space served as a site of inception for the No Wave movement, hosting a punk subculture-influenced noise series. The festival led to the Brian Eno-produced recording No New York, which documented James Chance and the Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, and DNA.
In 1979, the gallery hosted an exhibition of black-and-white photographs and charcoal drawings by white artist Donald Newman entitled "Nigger Drawings". Linda Goode Bryant of Just Above Midtown Gallery and her colleague Janet Henry mobilized a coalition of artists and critics including Lucy Lippard, Carl Andre, May Stevens, Edit DeAk, Faith Ringgold, and Howardena Pindell, who acted as the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and published an open letter criticizing the exhibition. They also organized two "teach-in" demonstrations, but only one was successfully held as the gallery locked its doors. Another coalition of artists and critics including Roberta Smith, Laurie Anderson, Rosalind E. Krauss, Craig Owens, Douglas Crimp, and Stephen Koch published an open letter defending the exhibition and the choice of its title. Director Helene Winer argued that the context of the title was not racist in intention, and that art is "a territory where everything can be explored, discussed, revalued.” She apologized, stating, “We were not politically or socially sensitive to the implications of using that title in a publicly funded art gallery. I feel very badly for those who were legitimately offended.” Artists from the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition insisted on Artists Space being held accountable for the show in the "reality of social-political structure", while artist John Chandler called on Artists Space to "become the alternative space it is truly meant to be" and not "mirror the subtle racism that exists throughout the art world."
In 1987, Artists Space held the exhibition We the People, a group installation of Native American artists, including Pena Bonita, Jimmie Durham, Peter Jemison, Alan Michelson, Jolene Rickard, and Kay Walkingstick. The name was chosen with "deliberate irony", as the exhibition coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the United States Constitution, the preamble of which had been "appropriated from the Iroquois federation". The exhibition experimented with the "reflection of the [white] colonial ethnographic gaze" onto indigenous traditions, and adaptation of new technologies as a result of European settlers.
In 1988, Artists Space hosted Min Joong Art: A New Cultural Movement from Korea, an exhibition of multi-disciplinary work and video by South Korean artists, curated by Wan Kyung Sun and Hyuk Um. It was organized to coincide with the Summer 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. The title of the exhibition translates to "art of the people", and represented a "counterpoint to the abstract and minimal work exhibited in the extensive cultural exhibitions planned for the Olympics."
In 1989, Nan Goldin curated the exhibition Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing at Artists Space, bringing together works from her friends that were impacted by the AIDS epidemic. About the exhibition, Goldin stated, "Over the past year four more of my most beloved friends have died of AIDS. Two were artists I had selected for this exhibit. One of the writers for this catalogue has become too sick to write. And so the tone of the exhibition has become less theoretical and more personal, from a show about AIDS as an issue to more of a collective memorial." After one of the artists, David Wojnarowicz, published an essay criticizing right wing politicians for failing to fund HIV research and effectively furthering the spread of AIDS, the National Endowment for the Arts withdrew their $10,000 grant for the exhibition. The grant was later partially re-issued.
In 1990, Cornelia Butler and Micki McGee organized A Day Without Art, where the gallery closed its regular exhibitions to present a one-day video program and installation investigating the body and the body politic in relation to medical, ethical, and social conditions of AIDS treatment.
In 1991, the exhibition Japan: Outside/Inside/InBetween was a three-part video program investigating representations of Japan.
In 1996, Artists Space presented Mr. Dead & Mrs. Free: A History of Squat Theatre (1969-1991), collaborating with its founding members Eva Buchmüller and Anna Koós to produce a retrospective of its work.
In June 2003, Artists Space hosted a survey of architect Zaha Hadid’s work as part of the Architecture and Design Project series. The show featured both completed and conceptualized projects by Hadid, and coincided with the opening of her commissioned Price Arts Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
From November to December 2003, Artists Space organized Superstudio: Life without Objects in collaboration with the Pratt Manhattan Gallery and the Storefront for Art and Architecture. The show explored the work of Superstudio, an Italian avant-garde architecture and design group that was influential to the radical period of the 1960s and 1970s in Italy.
In 2011, Artists Space offered its resources to movements like Strike Debt and Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E), holding a series of lectures and meeting inciting dialogue on art's indisputable relation to politics. Artists Space formed a research partnership with W.A.G.E that led to the development of W.A.G.E's current certification program, which credits non-profit art organizations that commit to paying artists fees that meet their minimum payment standards.
In 2015, Artists Space presented a survey of Hito Steyerl's work from 2004 onwards, displayed across both its main gallery and Books & Talks location. The self-titled exhibition also encompassed lectures and film screenings, and also hosted various pieces of Steyerl's writing online.
From January to March 2016, Artists Space hosted the exhibition 91020000 by Cameron Rowland, wherein Rowland purchased various units from an affordable manufacturing company named Corcraft that relies on underpaid prison labor. The exhibition title referred to the gallery's customer account number: 91020000. For another work, Disengorgement, Rowland purchased 90 shares of Aetna, who previously issued slave insurance to slaveowners in order to establish the “Reparations Purpose Trust.” The trust states that it is to be held until “the effective date of any official action by any branch of the United States government to make financial reparations for slavery.”
From September to December 2016, Decolonize This Place conducted a residency at Artists Space, where the Books & Talks location (55 Walker Street) functioned as a headquarters and meeting place for artists and organizers across New York City, many of whom were tied to decolonial resistance at national and global scales.
In 2018, just before the closing of its 55 Walker Street location, Artists Space hosted Jack Smith: Art Crust of Spiritual Oasis, the first institutional retrospective of Jack Smith's work in over 20 years.
- 155 Wooster Street (1972–1977)
- 105 Hudson Street (1977–1984)
- 223 West Broadway (1984–1993)
- 38 Greene Street (1993–2016)
- 55 Walker Street (2016–2018)
- 80 White Street (2019)
Timeline of Directors
- Trudie Grace (1973–1975)
- Helene Winer (1975–1980)
- Linda Shearer (1980–1985)
- Susan Wyatt (1985–1991)
- Carlos Gutierrez-Solana (1991–1993)
- Claudia Gould (1994–1999)
- Barbara Hunt (2000–2005)
- Benjamin Weil (2005–2008)
- Stefan Kalmár (2009–2016)
- Jay Sanders (2017–present)
- Gould, Claudia; Smith, Valerie (1998). 5000 Artists Return to Artists Space: 25 Years. Distributed Art Publishers. p. 27.
- Colucci, Emily (October 4, 2017). "Did The AIDS Epidemic Change the Way We Understand Art?: Sophie Junge's "Art About AIDS"".
- McCanne, Michael (December 5, 2016). "Causes and Effects: Decolonize This Place at Artists Space". Art in America.
- "Mission and History". Archived from the original on 2019-06-03. Retrieved 2019-05-30.
- Grace, Trudie (Summer 1975). "Artists Space". Art Journal. 34: 323–326 – via JSTOR.
- Gould, Claudia; Smith, Valerie (1998). 5000 Artists Return to Artists Space: 25 Years. Distributed Art Publishers. p. 322.
- Gould, Claudia; Smith, Valerie (1998). 5000 Artists Return to Artists Space: 25 Years. Distributed Arts Publishers. p. 321.
- "PersonA: Organized by Edit DeAk". Archived from the original on 2017-07-28. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
- Russeth, Andrew (November 11, 2013). "That Time That Jack Smith Said That Artists Should Throw Themselves Down Stairs".
- Crimp, Douglas (Spring 1979). "Pictures". October. 8: 75–88.
- James Chance interview | Pitchfork
- "The Nigger Drawings, Donald". artistsspace.org. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
- Mitter, Siddhartha (March 29, 2017). "Revolutionary Sisters: Artwork Forged in the Crucible of Battle over Feminism".
- "Open Letter to Artists Space".
- Trescott, Jacqueline; Trescott, Jacqueline (1979-05-02). "Minorities and the Visual Arts: Controversy Before the Endowment". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
- Glueck, Grace (April 14, 1979). ""Racism" Protest Slated Over Title of Art Show". The New York Times.
- "Sources of Harm: Notes on the Alternative Artworld". Hyperallergic. 2014-09-11. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
- Blair, Eileen (April 26, 1979). "Pure Art or 'Brutality Chic': Artists Space Accused of Racism over Exhibit Title". The Village Voice.
- "We the People". Artists Space.
- Fisher, Jean. "We the People: Notes on Curating Contemporary American Indian Art In the 1980s".
- "Min Joong Art: Press Release". Artists Space.
- "Interview with Nan Goldin". Whitney Museum of American Art.
- "Witnesses: Against our Vanishing, November 16, 1989 to January 6, 1990".
- "Japan: Outside/Inside/InBetween".
- "A New World Order I: Choice Histories: Framing Abortion".
- "Mr. Dead & Mrs. Free: A History of Squat Theater".
- "Architecture & Design Project Series: Zaha Hadid".
- "Superstudio: Life Without Objects".
- "Danh Vo: Autoerotic Asphyxiation".
- "Artists Respond to W.A.G.E. Open Forum with Hans Abbing". Rhizome. January 24, 2012.
- "Hito Steyerl".
- Trouillot, Terrence (March 4, 2016). "CAMERON ROWLAND 91020000".
- Rowland, Cameron. "91020000: Cameron Rowland".
- Rodney, Seph (March 3, 2016). "The Products of Forced Labor in US Prisons".
- "Jack Smith: Art Crust of Spiritual Oasis". Archived from the original on 2019-06-03. Retrieved 2019-05-28.
- "History of Artists Space Locations". Archived from the original on 2019-05-08. Retrieved 2019-05-09.
- Gould, Claudia; Smith, Valerie (1998). 5000 Artists Return to Artists Space: 25 Years. Distributed Art Publishers. pp. 326–327.
- Official website
- Guide to the Artists Space Archive: 1973-2009 at Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University
- Guide to the Artists Space Collection of Artist Files, Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University