Then & Now: Art Workers' Coalition

Detail from the Art Workers' Coalition's Open Hearing, 1969. Courtesy

This past week, a number of artists participating in the “Spaces: Antenna, The Front, Good Children Gallery” exhibition have initiated protest actions directed at the Contemporary Arts Center. These actions have ranged from the removal of individual artworks to the writing of open letters to the CAC’s Executive Director Jay Weigel and its board. Local outlets including the Times-Picayune and NOLA Defender have been covering the events, which were precipitated in part by the resignation of Amy Mackie as Director of Visual Arts and the CAC’s decision to allow a film rental to disrupt its planned exhibition schedule. But neither situated these actions within a broader discussion of artist-initiated protest practices and institutional critique. With this in mind, Pelican Bomb offers a link to two primary documents of the Art Workers' Coalition (AWC).

Formed after the artist Vassilakis Takis removed one of his kinetic sculptures from the Museum of Modern Art in 1969, AWC was a loose group of artists, writers, and creative allies. Its principal aim was to draw attention to artists’ working conditions, especially as they related to New York City's museums, while directly calling for reform in exhibition policies and public accessibility.

Among its wide-ranging activities, AWC issued a list of 13 demands, one of which was that the director of MoMA hold an open hearing on museum reform. It was refused. The meeting was instead held at the School of Visual Arts on April 10, 1969.

Editor's Note

To download the collected statements published in book form as Open Hearing, click here.

To download Documents 1, which consisted of letters, press, and ephemera documenting AWC’s formation and its dialogue with MoMA, click here.