Sturtevant, 1989 by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Elaine Frances Horan
August 23, 1924
Lakewood, Ohio, United States
|Died||May 7, 2014 (aged 89)|
|Known for||Appropriation art, conceptual art|
|Awards||La Biennale di Venezia Golden Lion, 2011|
Elaine Frances Sturtevant (née Horan; August 23, 1924 – May 7, 2014), also known professionally as Sturtevant, was an American artist. She achieved recognition for her carefully inexact repetitions of other artists' works.
Early life and education
Elaine Frances Horan was born on August 23, 1924, in Lakewood, Ohio, near Cleveland. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Iowa, followed by a master’s in the field from Teachers College of Columbia University. In New York, she also studied at the Art Students League.
Sturtevant's earliest known paintings were made in New York in the late 1950s. In these works, she sliced tubes of paint open, flattened them, and attached them to canvas. Most of these works contain fragments from tubes of several colors of paint, some have additional pencil scribbles and daubs of paint. Sturtevant was close friends with Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, both of whom own paintings from this period.
In 1964, by memorization only, she began to manually reproduce (or "repeat") paintings and objects created by her contemporaries with results that can immediately be identified with an original, at a point that turned the concept of originality on its head. She initially focused on works by such American artists as Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol. Warhol gave Sturtevant one of his silkscreens so she could produce her own versions of his Flowers paintings, Warhol Flowers (1969–70). When asked about his own technique, Warhol once said, "I don't know. Ask Elaine." After a Jasper Johns flag painting that was a component of Robert Rauschenberg's combine Short Circuit was stolen, Rauschenberg commissioned Sturtevant to paint a reproduction, which was subsequently incorporated into the combine. In the late 1960s, Sturtevant concentrated on replicating works by Joseph Beuys and Duchamp. In a 1967 photograph, she and Rauschenberg pose as a nude Adam and Eve, roles originally played by Marcel Duchamp and Brogna Perlmutter in a 1924 picture shot by Man Ray.
In the early 1970s, Sturtevant stopped exhibiting art for more than 10 years. Pushback on her conceptual practice had begun, in fact, with Claes Oldenburg and his dealer, Leo Castelli, being publicly upset at her restaging The Store by Claes Oldenburg (1961) as The Store of Claes Oldenburg in 1967, just a few blocks away from where Oldenburg's original had been staged. As critic Eleanor Heartney wrote, "Sturtevant found her work met with resistance and even hostility. Her frustration culminated with a 1973 show at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. Titled “Sturtevant: Studies done for Beuys’ Action and objects, Duchamps’ etc. Including film,” the exhibition encompassed three rooms of objects and three of her early films that played off Warhol, Beuys and Duchamp. It was met with a deafening silence from the art world, precipitating her withdrawal."
From the early 1980s she focused on the next generation of artists, including Robert Gober, Anselm Kiefer, Paul McCarthy, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. She mastered painting, sculpture, photography and film in order to produce a full range of copies of the works of her chosen artists. In most cases, her decision to start copying an artist happened before those artists achieved broader recognition. Nearly all of the artists she chose to copy are today considered iconic for their time or style. This has given rise to discussions among art critics on how it had been possible for Sturtevant to identify those artists at such an early stage.
In 1991, Sturtevant presented an entire show consisting of her repetition of Warhol's Flowers series.
Her later works mainly focus on reproductions in the digital age. Sturtevant commented on her work at her 2012 retrospective Sturtevant: Image over Image at the Moderna Museet: "What is currently compelling is our pervasive cybernetic mode, which plunks copyright into mythology, makes origins a romantic notion, and pushes creativity outside the self. Remake, reuse, reassemble, recombine—that's the way to go."
After feeling misunderstood by critics and artists, Sturtevant stopped making art for a decade. Her 2014 exhibition at MoMA was the first significant exhibition in the US in decades. Her last large-scale installation, The House of Horrors, has been on temporary display at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris since June 2015.
Sturtevant had her first her solo exhibition in 1965 at the Bianchini Gallery, in New York. In 1975, a show was dedicated to her by the German art dealer Reinhard Onnasch in his New York gallery.
Solo exhibitions of her work have since been mounted at:
- Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart (1992)
- Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (1992)
- Villa Arson, Nice (1993)
- Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main (2004)
- Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2010)
- La Biennale di Venezia (2011)
- Moderna Museet (2012)
- Kunsthalle Zurich (2012)
- Serpentine Galleries (2013)
- Museum of Modern Art (2014) 
- Sturtevant. Drawing Double Reversal: Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main/Albertina, Vienna/Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
- Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (2015) 
Awards and recognition
In 2007, an original Crying Girl by Roy Lichtenstein sold at auction for $78,400; in 2011, Sturtevant’s canvas reworking of Crying Girl—the only Sturtevant painting of its kind in existence—sold for $710,500. In 2014, Lichtenstein, Frighten Girl (1966) sold at Christie's for $3.4 million. Shortly after, Warhol Diptych (1973) was sold for $5,093,000 at Christie's in New York.
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- Lescaze, Zoë (July 15, 2019). "The 25 Works of Art That Define the Contemporary Age". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
- Eleey, Peter (2014). Sturtevant. New York, NY: MoMA. p. 53. ISBN 9780870709494.
- Main, MMK, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am (2005). Sturtevant : catalogue raisonné, 1964-2004 : Gemälde, Skulptur, Film und Video = painting, sculpture, film and video. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Hatje Cantz. p. 44. ISBN 9783775714853.
- Searle, Adrian. "Elaine Sturtevant: queen of copycats" The Guardian, Retrieved 9 March 2014.
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- Holland Cotter (November 13, 2014), Taking Copycatting to a Higher Level – ‘Sturtevant: Double Trouble,’ a Career Retrospective at MoMA The New York Times.
- Bagley, Christopher. "Sturtevant: Repeat Offender". W Magazine.
- Heartney, Eleanor (November 1, 2014). "Re-Creating Sturtevant".
- Dagen, Philippe (2014-05-09). "L'artiste américaine Sturtevant est morte". Le Monde.fr (in French). ISSN 1950-6244. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
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- Gareth Harris (October 9, 2013), Not for Sale: A Curator’s Guide to Diversity of Postwar Art International Herald Tribune.
- "Sturtevant : [Ausstellung, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, 25.6.92 - 2.8.92 ; Deichtorhallen Hamburg, 13.8.92 - 27.9.92 ; Villa Arson Nice, 5.2.93 - 27.3.93]". www.bmvr.marseille.fr. Retrieved 2016-12-19.
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-  Retrieved 4 December 2014.
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-  Retrieved 18 May 2015.
- MOCA (2015-04-09), Sturtevant's Repetitions, retrieved 2016-12-18
- "Past Awards: 2008" Archived 2015-04-02 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- ""La Biennale di Venezia Golden Lion 2011"". Archived from the original on August 30, 2011.
- "Art 2011 - Sturtevant (premiazione)". la Biennale di Venezia ©2016. Retrieved 2016-12-18.
- "Sturtevant" Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- Margalit Fox (May 16, 2014), Elaine Sturtevant, Appropriation Artist, Is Dead at 89 The New York Times.
- Sturtevant, Warhol Diptych (1973) Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 13 May 2015, New York.
- Anne Dressen et al. Sturtevant - The Razzle Dazzle of Thinking (Paris: Paris Musées, 2010).
- Lena Maculan (Ed.). Sturtevant. Catalogue Raisonné (Frankfurt/Main: Museum für Moderne Kunst and Ostfildern Ruit: Hatje-Cantz, 2005).
- Bruce Hainley. Sturtevant: Shifting Mental Structures (Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2002).
- Rikard Ekholm. Identical, But Still Different: On Artistic Appropriation in Visual Art (Dissertation. Uppsala University: The Department of Philosophy).
- In Paris with Sturtevant (frieze magazine video)
- Elaine Sturtevant - Ein Portrait (German Film)
- "Elaine Sturtevant" by Ivan Ogilvie, Nowness