An opening reception, January 30, 6-9pm, kicks-off the exhibition and celebrates the Artists Space Archives coming to the Fales Library Downtown Collection
In November 1972 the Committee for the Visual Arts was founded as a pilot project of the New York State Council on the Arts, with its gallery Artists Space opening in 1973, serving as an “alternative” support structure for artists to the established museum and commercial gallery system. In Artists Space’s 40th anniversary year, the Fales Library and Special Collections at New York University’s Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, Third Floor, NYC, mounts an exhibition of archival material from the four decades of the organization’s history. The exhibition marks the inclusion of the Artists Space Archive in Fales’ Downtown Collection, and its availability for public access and research.
"I could not imagine a better context for the Artists Space Archives than the Fales Library Downtown Collection,” said Stefan Kalmár, Executive Director & Curator of Artists Space. “Artists Space's work over the past 40 years has always been characterized by thinking beyond the often narrow constraints of the art context. Our work has always had social and political implications, and therefore having our work preserved in such an outstanding collection – that seeks to document the Downtown cultures of the past 50 years – is within the spirit of Artists Space's history and role.”
As an “original” member of the founding years of the alternative space scene that defined downtown New York in the 1970s, Artists Space stands also as an example of how the ethos, necessity, and viability of such spaces has shifted across four decades, echoing the broader changes in the social and cultural landscape during the same period. The question of how to define the organization’s role in relation to those changes is one that has been continually revisited across its forty-year history.
Since the early 1970s Artists Space has functioned as an exhibition space; a venue for talks, meetings, screenings and performances; an open registry for artists’ work; and a source of emergency grants to artists. Retaining across these different functions its core mission as ‘a space for artists’, the organization has equally shifted between different emphases: from the artist-led to the curatorial, the polemical to the practical, and the local to the international.
"The alternative spaces that sprang up in SoHo during the 1970s radically changed forever the face of the art world,” said Marvin J. Taylor, Director, Fales Library and Special Collections. “No single space was more important than Artists Space. The addition of this extensive archive to the Downtown New York Collection makes the Fales Library the premier place to study the artists and artists’ collectives that were pivotal to the alternative space movement.
The exhibition at Fales Library includes a broad scope of material from the organization’s archives, from promotional material and documentation of exhibitions, to internal documents, commentaries and records.
“We are hugely grateful that Fales has taken on the maintenance of the Artists Space archive to the highest standard, making it accessible to future generations of scholars, as well as the public at large,” said Kalmár.
Plotting key moments in Artists Space’s formation – from its ongoing support of artists, curators and writers who have become prominent figures beyond a local context, such as Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Louise Lawler, Douglas Crimp, Mark Morrisroe and David Wojnarowicz; to periods of crisis in relation to the organization’s mission, such as the NEA’s withdrawal of funding for the exhibition Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing – the exhibition highlights the importance of addressing the history of the institution when considering how contemporary art functions, is presented and perceived today.
40 Years of Artists Space has been organized by Fales Library, and researched and curated by independent curator Stephanie Harris, in discussion with Artists Space curators Stefan Kalmár and Richard Birkett. The exhibition also constitutes a body of archival research that will form the bedrock of a critical reader on Artists Space’s history, which will be published by Artists Space in Fall 2013.
About Fales Library and Special Collections: The Fales Library, comprising nearly 255,000 volumes, and over 12,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food and Cookery Collection and the general Special Collections of the NYU Libraries. The Fales Collection was given to NYU in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel. The Downtown Collection documents the downtown New York art, performance, and literary scenes from 1975 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects. The Food and Cookery Collection is a vast, and rapidly expanding collection of books and manuscripts documenting food and foodways with particular emphasis on New York City. Other strengths of the collection include the Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll Materials, the Robert Frost Library, the Kaplan and Rosenthal Collections of Judaica and Hebraica and the manuscript collections of Elizabeth Robins and Erich Maria Remarque. The Fales Library preserves manuscripts and original editions of books that are rare or important not only because of their texts, but also because of their value as artifacts.
About Artists Space: Founded in 1972 in downtown Manhattan, Artists Space has successfully contributed to changing the institutional and economic landscape for contemporary art, by lending support to emerging artists and emerging ideas alike, often controversially contributing and critically challenging the intellectual and artistic status quo in New York City and beyond. From this platform have come new voices and movements from artists and writers such as David Armstrong, Gregg Bordowitz, John Baldessari, Andrea Fraser, Jack Goldstein, Félix González-Torres, Jenny Holzer, Peter Hujar, Mary Kelly, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Mark Morrisroe, Carlos Motta, Elizabeth Murray, Damien Ortega, Richard Prince, Manuel Rocha, Mauricio Rocha, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Philip Smith, Dee Williams, Fred Wilson, and David Wojnarowicz, among many others. Today, the programming is focused on exhibitions, which take place at Artists Space : Exhibitions in 7,500 sq ft at 38 Greene Street, and more discursive programming which takes place at Artists Space : Books & Talks, a new 5,000 sq ft venue located at 55 Walker Street.