Seth Siegelaub

Jo Melvin

Contexts / 19.06.2013
A selection of index cards from the ‘955,000’ exhibition catalogue, self-published by Lucy R. Lippard, 1970. Courtesy Chelsea College of Art and Design Library, University of the Arts London

We have all, at Afterall, benefited from Seth Siegelaub’s ingenuity, generosity and frankness over the years. My most recent encounter took place when Lucy Lippard was due to come to London for the launch of From Conceptualism to Feminism, an Exhibition Histories book dedicated to critical reflection on her ‘numbers shows’. Already in Europe, she was staying with Siegelaub in Amsterdam while speaking at the Stedelijk. She worked closely with him on the first two numbers shows, in Seattle (1969) and Vancouver (1970). In the card catalogue that accompanied these exhibitions, Lippard credited Siegelaub's role in their development from inception; and in archival letters to the host institutions she flagged his key responsibility for packing, printing and business in general’. So I admit I smiled when I received an email on the eve of the London book launch that read, in its entirety: ‘We need urgently the booking reference for Lucy Lippard's flight today. Advise ASAP. Thanx, Lucy via Seth / 9 April 2013’. I like that he was still taking care of some of her business in general. The conversation between him and Jo Melvin that was published in From Conceptualism to Feminism gives some indication of the key role he played in New York in the 1960s. He will be hugely missed for everything then and since.

– Lucy Steeds, 20 June 2013

Seth Siegelaub in conversation with Jo Melvin1

Curator, dealer and publisher Seth Siegelaub worked closely with Lippard on the preparation for ‘557,087’ in Seattle in 1969. Siegelaub pioneered new strategies for the presentation and distribution of contemporary art in the 1960s under the trade name International General. His most radical policy shifted emphasis to the catalogue as an exhibition space, where the page showed the work itself, absent of commentaries.2 What in fact was a temporary dispensation from the need for gallery space, freed thinking for a re-evaluation of how artworks could be accessed differently and distributed cheaply through publications – whether catalogues, artists’ books or magazines – and mail art.

Jo Melvin: Were you aware of Lucy Lippard’s curatorial work in 1966? Did you see, for example, ‘Eccentric Abstraction’ or ‘Primary Structures’?3

Seth Siegelaub: We’re talking about 45 years ago. My awareness of Lucy’s work was as a writer, a critic, not so much an exhibition organiser… in terms of independent curating, the rise of that process was just on the cusp. And in part it wasn’t until my work and her evolving project that the idea of an independent curator came to exist as a possibility. We obviously had a lot in common: man-woman attraction, but intellectually too. The aesthetic project, the intellectual project of what’s now become Conceptual art, took form during these contacts, which of course included Lucy.

JM: And you knew her before anyway…

SS: And I knew of her too – not just knew her. We spoke to each other at openings or at the bar after openings. You’re talking about a small avantgarde community of probably one hundred people and five, maybe ten, galleries. Everybody saw everything. You can say that, as a premise, you had to be sick or out of town not to see things.

JM: Can we talk about the New York milieu and where the connections occurred? Tell me about the Lannis Gallery, which artist Joseph Kosuth founded in 1967, for example. Kosuth and his assistant director (and also artist) Christine Kozlov had an interesting line up of trustees – Lucy Lippard, Klaus Kertess, Dan Graham, John Gibson, Kasper König, John Weber…

SS: Yes, but that was also a political thing. If you spoke to anybody at that time, those were the people at the cutting edge. Kasper was involved with On Kawara; John Weber came out of Dwan Gallery; and Klaus Kertess, who ran Bykert Gallery in 1966, was an up-and-coming dealer. What would be surprising is if they had refused to take part.

JM: Something that concerns me about studies of this period is that often they don’t mention the political context, for example the Vietnam War.

SS: Yes, that was my criticism of [Benjamin] Buchloh’s text in connection with the Paris show on Conceptual art two decades ago – that history had been evacuated from it.4 Maybe this continues today, in a way that explains the lack of attention given to Iraq in the art world.

In any case, it is shocking that Buchloh didn’t mention Vietnam, even as a footnote, and that he kept exclusively to New York, being very partial but with a pretence at being universal. It’s probably a justification for the politics of that time, and for the fact that much of the US and Europe now think it is perfectly natural to have a critically removed attitude.

JM: Do you mean there’s a refusal to think about what’s going on politically and socially?

SS: Yes, a tendency to be cut off from what’s going on around, and to focus instead on the formalism of art. Conceptual art has a role in relation to the general development of capitalism and the growth of the service sector, as part of the shift from the manufacturing industry and the making of objects to office work and to some of the great goals of US capitalism, and the advertising, communication and entertainment industries. To be able to make a comprehensive picture of Conceptual art, you have to fit together many of these tenets and aspects, as part of the whole process and a reflection on it. And to construct a history of that period without even mentioning these components is extraordinary.

JM: Lippard says it was during her 1968 trip to Argentina, where she had been part of a jury for a show, that she had what she calls her ‘wake-up call to politics’, after contact with the artists there and in particular the Rosario Group. Whilst travelling in Argentina and Peru she contemplated what she described as a ‘suitcase show’, in which all the work would be easily portable and could be taken from country to county by artists using free airline tickets. But then, as she continues to describe it, on returning to New York she found out that you were already employing these strategies.5 On her return from Argentina she was invited, with Robert Huot, to organise a show at Paula Cooper’s gallery, a benefit for the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.6

SS: It was the gallery’s opening show, and it was also done with Ron Wolin.

JM: Was Wolin responsible for the contact with party politics?

SS: Yes, he was a member of one of the Trotskyite organisations, the Socialist Workers Party, and very involved with the anti-Vietnam War movement.

JM: So this was quite a statement for the opening show.

SS: Cooper got a lot of points for that. Maybe for other things too, but certainly for that show.

JM: Wolin sent letters inviting artists to contribute to auction benefits, delivered from the Shakespeare Theater.7

SS: There were auctions almost every two weeks for the Vietnam War and 24 hours a day artists were being asked to donate works. The New York Public Theater may have had an antiwar office just off 8th Street, on Lafayette.

JM: There seems to have been a lot of discussion about differences between artists against Vietnam and citizens against Vietnam? I’m thinking of Ad Reinhardt’s statements on political responsibility being the result of citizenship, not a profession.8 Do you think artists perceived themselves as having a different political responsibility?

SS: Yes, looking back at it, artists felt they could have an important, inordinate effect on the movement. Not so much in creating art, with antiwar imagery – although there actually was a project to produce antiwar posters by artists who normally would not be doing something like that. Basically, given the egotism of most artists (successful or not), they felt that they would be major forces in the movement. In fact, I think when they went out and did marches or posters they had a certain visibility or importance that did contribute substantially to the antiwar effort.

JM: Just after the opening at Paula Cooper Gallery, Wolin wrote to Kosuth asking him to contribute to one of these events. Kosuth sent this letter on to Charles Harrison and wrote on the back the question: ‘Is it possible to have an art that is political?’9 I throw it in because it draws attention to Kosuth’s thinking about the relationship between art and politics.

SS: There was a certain amount of discussion about whether a political artist was someone who made visually clear political statements in their art. This school of thought – those agreeing this was the case – included most of the artists I know. Whether or not they made a poster or got involved in political activities unrelated to their art practice, it felt that a political artist had a more profound political position in relationship to the world around him or her. This world included dealers, collectors and institutions, and one of the great ways that artists could make themselves heard was by protesting against what was called the ‘power structure’, the ‘military-industrial complex’ and the Museum of Modern Art [MoMA] in New York. Artists assumed very specific roles concerning institutions, and, by virtue of their notoriety, they had a great effect on the general public. The museums had to respond; they couldn’t afford to have pickets in front of their doors. At the same time, a lot of artists did not want to be associated directly with political action. They preferred to deal with it as a private thing, like religion.

JM: Do you mean that they kept it personal?

SS: Yes, uptight and personal. In other words, they said they would, for example, support César Chávez and give money to the farm workers, or offer support elsewhere. But they wouldn’t stand out front and be counted. Very rarely did artists want to specifically identify themselves as a radical and troublemaking in the way that Lucy and Carl Andre did. [Robert] Rauschenberg was always very militant,10 but most artists didn’t want to jeopardise their careers, they preferred to keep their troublemaking in a clearly defined aesthetic realm.

JM: So Paula Cooper staked out a strong position here.

SS: Absolutely. But many of the galleries, even the more conservative,painting galleries, were all for it.

JM: They were backing the antiwar movement as well?

SS: They were. They would put a banner at their door saying ‘Collectors, we are against the war and against military-complex millionaires who are buying our art’. The antiwar movement was so dominant that it was hard to find somebody disagreeing with it.

JM: You were then organising the means for free speech for the soldiers, could you speak about how you went about this?

SS: Yes, I got involved in a project for the United States Services Fund – Viacom in fact – with the purpose of financing GI newspapers where they could criticise the war. I came up with a format for doing this, a catalogue with works to auction. I asked artists to donate ‘half ’ of a work. The work stayed with whatever gallery had it, or at home, but when it was sold we wanted fifty per cent. It didn’t mean moving anything, so it fit my no-gallery ethos too. We put the catalogue on the counter at George Wittenborn’s bookshop and Max’s Kansas City, the nightclub and restaurant, and we had soldiers standing in front of Sotheby’s giving them out.

JM: The other exhibition that Lucy Lippard did at Paula Cooper Gallery was a benefit show for the Art Workers’ Coalition [AWC], called ‘Number 7’.11 ‘Para-visual’ is how John Perreault described it, as the large room in the gallery ‘look[ed] empty’, whilst containing a Bob Barry magnetic field, air currents from a fan courtesy of Hans Haacke, blps by Richard Artschwager, a wall indentation by Lawrence Weiner and a wire work by Andre.12 Perreault noted the AWC were preparing a standard contract in order to allow a resales profit percentage. I believe this is the first mention of the artists’ rights contract you drafted with lawyer Bob Projansky. Did the project evolve directly from AWC demands? Or was it already in the air?13

SS: It never became widely used because of competition between artists, although it was proposed on many occasions in which a work of art was bought. I don’t think anyone would lose a sale because of refusing to agree to sign it. The contract was printed as a pullout which could be attached to the work. Andre used it and insisted the contract was not to be removed from the work.

JM: I would like to talk about the suggestion that ‘557,087’, the show Lucy Lippard curated in Seattle in 1969,14 was the work of one artist – Lippard herself. Peter Plagens wrote in Artforum that she used the works as the medium to produce another artwork, her own, the exhibition.15 There are parallels with the way Jack Burnham regarded you as an artist, and your practice as art practice.16

SS: Yes, I’ve been accused of this, and you could certainly consider Lucy and myself as being at the vanguard of that transition. There probably are parallels, but I would have to think carefully about who else was doing it. A not so perfect example was Germano Celant in Italy, maybe Charles Harrison in England, although I don’t think he curated many exhibitions, and also Michel Claura in France. These people were critics and organisers, but independent of institutions. Gene Goossen was an important personality in the art world for me, he influenced me in terms of organisational activities and was also working with the idea of being a critic and organiser. Joseph Kosuth is an example too – an artist-organiser.

JM: Did you talk about what you were doing at the time?

SS: No, I don’t think so. I was more interested in actually doing things. I don’t see myself as an intellectual. I see a problem, an issue or situation and I try to make it as interesting as possible, to develop it as much as possible with a critical eye towards what is going on around me. My ‘thesis’ is to be close to the ground, to be as diverse as possible, to tackle many fields. I think that, in contrast, those called ‘independent curators’ today have the intention to theorise. All the people I just mentioned in the context of the 1960s, and certainly others who escape my memory or whom I never knew at the time were playing these roles, were serving new practical functions. A lot of this had to do with the more ethereal, less expensive nature of art, and its involving more accessible materials. This made it possible to do types of shows that you could not easily do with traditional paintings and sculptures – exhibitions without transport problems or having to move things.

JM: This characterised the Seattle show. Did you go there together? Lippard wrote that you cooperated in the development of the show from its inception.17

SS: Yes. Lucy was known as a critic in the United States, probably in Europe too. She was in a position to make these kinds of arrangements and in contact with people who knew her from her writings. In fact I had nothing much to do with this show, except I did go with her, and my job was to produce the catalogue. I was there, so I knew what was in the show, but the curatorial choices and the idea of making the catalogue out of index cards were entirely hers. I just provided backup for the production aspects – staying with the printer in New York to see the job through, for instance. We went together to Seattle to work on the installation; all the work had been done by Lucy a year or two earlier. We rented a car in California and then drove up to Seattle. We stayed there a few weeks and I helped her set the show up.18

Card from the ‘557,087’ exhibition catalogue, self-published, 1969. © Lucy R. Lippard. Courtesy Jo Melvin JM: There were other people involved as well, weren’t there?

SS: Certainly there were local people from Seattle, and later, when it moved to Vancouver, local people assisted with that. It was a major task, particularly for an independent person new to the place and having to figure out where to get this, where to get that. After about two weeks I flew back to produce the catalogue based on the work that she had supplied and the material we had gathered in New York. I am almost sure I was doing that while she was still up there.

JM: How were the catalogues distributed?

SS: That happened through my meagre network of sales, or rather George Wittenborn’s, via his New York bookshop and contacts beyond.19 But one of the problems of the catalogue, and this is true for every unbound publication, is that booksellers don’t want to get involved with this kind of product because of the high chances of a missing element. The ‘557,087’ cards did come in an envelope, but it is just one hassle after the other with such things. Someone comes in, takes one card out and you never know it is gone; then someone buys it.

JM: Were these cards at the time distributed free?

SS: No, you paid. Three dollars I think.

JM: Did you publish the ‘557,087’ catalogue? Through International General, perhaps?

SS: No. And I didn’t finance it, although I took most of the stock as part of my fee. I probably received some kind of remuneration also for travel and stuff.20 I think most of the stock went to Seattle and then on to Vancouver, and the rest I took. I remember I had a very difficult time handling it.

JM: I can imagine. But there’s something liberating about having a pile of cards you can do what you want with.

SS: Yes. I would have liked to do more with it, different configurations, for instance. I think they printed about a thousand, maybe fifteen hundred – not a phenomenal number. I am sure we toyed with the idea of the printer doing several different sequences, so the positioning of the cards would change automatically for each pile, but at that time I think it was impossible. So all of them were in the exact same order when they first reached people.

JM: Was that kind of systemisation and indexing something that Lippard was interested in?

SS: Yes. I was too, although maybe later and in another way.

JM: Do you see it as a desire for a greater transparency of ideas?

SS: I don’t know. It makes it clearer what your intentions are, what the organiser’s intentions are and probably results in a more level playing field. You can give all artists a similar weight – at least you could in the context of that project. Obviously if someone is very well known and somebody else is unknown, you are not going to change that in the real world. But you can present a level playing field so everyone has the same possibilities within the project.

JM: It gives everybody equal space and equal representation, as you did in your own catalogues.

SS: Yes, I think that is always important. I don’t know if you could call it a democratic urge, but I find it profoundly shocking when there is a group show and the catalogue has one artist on the cover. I became aware of other disparities when I worked on exhibitions. For example, that someone whose work is very dematerialised is effectively paying for Richard Serra’s sculpture. We have a budget of let’s say $100,000; Lawrence Weiner’s work costs $1 to produce and Serra’s $50,000. You can argue that is the way the work is, but I don’t go for it. Occasionally, as a token protest, Lawrence and I, even though I am the owner of the work, would ask for a loan fee.

JM: On the one hand there is a level playing field because all the artists are invited, and on the other resources or acknowledgments are disproportionately allocated.

SS: Yes. And it is interesting to be able to unveil, disclose or make more transparent these kinds of issues as you are doing your project.

JM: Lippard’s catalogues for her numbers shows, normally with one card per artist, could be ordered however you wanted, even alphabetically if you so chose.

SS: I think it might have been the spirit of the time to try to get away from the figure of the privileged artist. I don’t think it necessarily succeeded, but it was an attempt to deal with these issues directly, in a very upfront manner. If you understand the background for certain kinds of choices I think it demystifies – another word from the 1960s – the processes at play. It makes you more responsible and makes the people involved – the artist and whoever is considering the catalogue – understand these kinds of mechanisms a little more clearly, understand how these things work. One of the issues on my mind is the quality question in art. How, who, where, why and when does one artist become more important than the other? And who determines that? Obviously the quick answer is money, but it is actually a series of things. And it has struck me as being very strange that there is not very much work done about it. It is totally uncharted territory, as they say. It is something that people just take for granted, so that it can be agreed that ‘x’ is great and ‘y’ is not.

JM: I would like to return to the idea of the ownership of an idea and its manifestation in order to relate this to what Lippard was doing with her catalogue cards, in terms of her presenting them as a piece all together and yet with all these different artists’ inputs. And although I don’t agree with Plagens that all the works in ‘557,087’ became components of one artist’s project – Lippard’s – I think the presentation of the cards does distinctly resemble an art project.

SS: I agree, and it is a problem – if you want it to be a problem. She takes responsibility for it, I suppose, like anybody takes responsibility for anything. It is a problem to be thought about. I don’t know how you are going to overcome it, except with a certain kind of anonymity.

JM: Of course a stack of cards gives endless possibilities of shuffling and, through this, for viewer participation and chance reorganisation.

SS: Yes, that is true, but you can also paint your house any colour you want, but it is the architect who decided its construction. So it may be a false idea. Probably what is most interesting about the cards is their arbitrary order: the fact that there is no linearity, so you can read them as you like. It could open comparisons, or be a pain in the ass, and she takes responsibility for that by putting her name to it. But I wouldn’t take it too far – wouldn’t say cards are freedom and books are death.

JM: Books are end points. Take the binding off and the pages are free, we are free to shift them. It has a certain sense of liberation.

SS: Yes, but you can read a book starting from this page, or that page. And I am sure she has courted that in books too.

JM: She did it with her contribution to the Marcel Duchamp catalogue for the Museum of Modern Art show in 1973. Here she used a random system to select material from a dictionary and through this to construct a series of readymade texts.21 And before that was her essay for the same institution, for the catalogue to accompany the ‘Information’ exhibition there in 1970. She writes on absence, systems and chance, addressing how to organise a specific cataloguing process, whilst utilising continually increasing cross references.22

I would like to return to the milieu, specifically to the Sunday afternoon conversations you had sometimes, apparently with as many as 45 people turning up.23

SS: Yes, people talk about this as ‘the salon’.

JM: Or ‘soirée’.

SS: Soirée dansant! I am sure I did have these things. I thought they were much more informal, and I don’t recall 45 people showing up. Maybe if I was giving free drinks that would be enough to bring anyone out of their house, but I don’t think it was an intellectual hotbed.

JM: Some people have cited it as being that. For instance, American art critic Barbara Reise notes the dynamic exchanges and says how quiet London is in comparison. She also writes that Lippard would also be holding separate discussions too, sometimes.24

SS: She would be seeing people all the time, far more than me, whether they came to our house or not. I was sort of quiet and in the back, nothing like her. I wouldn’t see anywhere near as many people, and the people I did see were very predictable – Doug [Huebler], Larry [Weiner], Carl [Andre]… Lucy was a writer and a teacher, she had students,25 and [her son] Ethan’s friends.

JM: Didn’t she specifically have a lot of planning meetings for the Art Workers’ Coalition at the house, in addition to the regular AWC meetings at the New Museum on Broadway?

SS: I remember people coming round once or twice a week for these discussions, with some participants occasionally ducking in and out. Those involved who stick in my mind are Carl Andre, Kes Zapkus, Brenda Miller and Tom Lloyd.

JM: This was shortly after her ‘conversion’, as she calls it, to feminism, in around 1970.26 Was that with the Ad Hoc Women’s Committee of the AWC?

SS: Her ‘epiphany’. I remember her being involved with that. I recall her being increasingly engaged with feminist issues.

JM: You have talked about moments retrospectively becoming important.

SS: Otherwise there is the belief that, when you are doing something, you are ‘making history’. I have certainly never thought in that way. If you think you are changing the world, it means you already have an idea of history before it has happened. And if you think like this you are trying to fit yourself into a historical line. I believe that these things are maybe slow or a long time in coming. Then, in retrospect, maybe something seems to be the kickoff point, or seems to have sparked a lot of the ideas underpinning what you’ve been trying to deal with in your mind for years.

JM: Do you mean that it is only later, on reflection, that you become aware of these shifts? I am thinking here of Perreault describing an early morning telephone call in January 1969 that triggered action at MoMA, which has subsequently come to be thought of as a pivotal moment in catalysing the AWC into existence.27 Perreault remembers standing outside in the cold and dark for ages. He reported the event in Village Voice.28 Were you and Lippard there?

SS: I don’t remember, but she was super active, it was more than a full-time job.29 Like Carl, who would regularly participate, she was always agitating, very involved in meetings, letter-writing and book publishing. Have you come across the Open Hearings? These constituted a series of statements and demands putting pressure on the museums.

JM: The proceedings of the meeting held at the School of Visual Arts in New York?30 Lippard gave a really thorough account of the situation in ‘The Art Workers’ Coalition: Not a History’, published in Studio International.31 Didn’t some people from MoMA come to the Hearings, such as William Rubin?

SS: Yes, Lucy had their ear. Rubin was often the spokesman for MoMA, and he was older and richer than the core members of the AWC. This was curious because he was on the side of the good guys, not unthinkingly vocal, a man who was not yet in too powerful a position. There was also a woman called Jennifer Licht, the only other person I remember from MoMA, who got out and about and looked at contemporary work.

Lucy was so good at writing that she could knock off ten agitating letters a day, on top of whatever articles.

JM: I know, reading her writing it appears as if she writes with remarkable ease…

SS: Yes, it was amazing. She would write out demands for artists’ rights, a New York Times review and then an essay – one after the other. But the Hearings event was interesting because it brought together a wide range of people, including artists and writers. Participants presented their complaints and vindications, and these were published. Lucy was particularly involved. Bob Barry and I were involved too, because the actual layout of the book was done in his studio on 14th Street. It was done like a Xerox; the pages were offset lithographs; and we made a thousand copies or so. In order to bind the book, we laid its 200 pages out in piles and we had a party. Everybody would take one page, two pages and continue to the whole length of the book, and then we sent it off to be bound. I remember that evening. We had to get a lot of beer and a lot of people came round for the party at different times.

JM: You probably had to make sure they kept to the right line of piles and didn’t drink too much!

SS: Yes, exactly! But it was an important collection, an important written document, and Lucy really organised it. I feel perfectly part of that movement. I was never as militant or active as Lucy and some other people were, but I always asserted the autonomy of my activities, particularly through the artists’ contract. The [Art Workers’] Coalition was at the centre of the major questions of artists’ rights and representation, and our activities included antiwar poster distribution and picketing, for example.

The art world, it is important to remember, unlike many other worlds, is a very social environment. There is nothing like it in any other profession – at least in the Western capitalist regions – where you can go into a space and see fifty people, or a hundred people – rich, poor, with bad breath, smelly, smoking, drinking, drunk – and you can talk to them and take them home with you, or they can take you home with them. And this happens every night of the week. It is totally unbelievable. It provides the opportunity to meet a wide range of often very intelligent people, engaging and sometimes beautiful – there is no other profession with that kind of convention. It is because of the openings, and the feeling that they are open to anybody, more or less. You just walk in. It is quite an extraordinary aspect. And that is the situation that brought me together with Lucy Lippard.

This conversation took place on 28 October 2008.

  1. This text was originally published in Cornelia Butler et al., From Conceptualism to Feminism: Lucy Lippard’s Numbers Shows 1969–74, London: Afterall Books, 2012, pp.250–62.

  2. Seth Siegelaub explained his organisational strategies to Charles Harrison in an interview published after ‘557,087’ in Seattle and before ‘955,000’ in Vancouver. See ‘On Exhibitions and the World at Large’, Studio International, December 1969, vol.178, no.917, pp.202–03.

  3. ‘Eccentric Abstraction’, Fischbach Gallery, New York, 20 September–8 October 1966, organised by Lucy R. Lippard; ‘Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors’, The Jewish Museum, New York, 27 April–12 June 1966, organised by Kynaston McShine with input from Lippard.

  4. See Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, L’Art conceptuel: une perspective (exh. cat.), Paris:Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1989; and the revised English version, ‘Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions’, October, vol.55, Winter 1990, pp.105–43. See also, ‘Joseph Kosuth and Seth Siegelaub Reply to Benjamin Buchloh on Conceptual Art’, October, vol.57, Summer 1991, pp.152–61.

  5. Lucy R. Lippard, ‘Curating by Numbers’, lecture given at ‘Conceptual Art and its Exhibitions’, symposium organised by the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Afterall, 28 May 2008. A version has subsequently been published online: (last accessed on 31 May 2012). See Also L.R. Lippard, ‘Escape Attempts’, in Ann Goldstein and Anne Rorimer (ed.), Reconsidering the Object of Art: 1965–1975 (exh. cat.), Los Angeles, Cambridge, MA and London: Museum of Contemporary Art and The MIT Press, 1995, pp.16–38; reprinted as the introduction to the 1997 reprint of Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (1973), Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.

  6. This exhibition, featuring Carl Andre, Jo Baer, Robert Barry, Bill Bollinger, Dan Flavin, Robert Huot, Will Insley, Donald Judd, David Lee, Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, Robert Murray, Doug Ohlson and Robert Ryman, took place 22–31 October 1968.

  7. The New York Public Theater, founded by Joseph Papp in 1955 as the Shakespeare Workshop, is often referred to as the Shakespeare Theater.

  8. See Ad Reinhardt, Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt (ed. Barbara Rose), Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975.

  9. Charles Harrison’s personal archive, loaned to Jo Melvin October 2007–May 2008. Ron Wolin’s letter to Kosuth is dated 28 February 1969; Kosuth’s comment is undated.

  10. For example, as a member of the artists committee at MoMA, Rauschenberg stood up for the Art Workers’ Coalition.

  11. ‘Number 7’, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, 18 May–15 June 1969. The show included Carl Andre, Richard Artschwager, Robert Barry, Mel Bochner, Bill Bollinger, Rosemarie Castoro, Hans Haacke, Robert Huot, Stephen Kaltenbach, Michael Kirby, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Walter De Maria, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Lawrence Weiner and Ian Wilson, with further artists represented by printed matter. See L.R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, op. cit., pp.100–01.

  12. John Perreault, ‘Para-Visual’, Village Voice, 5 June 1969, pp.16–17.

  13. The Artists Rights and Transfer of Sales Agreement was made by Siegelaub with the New York-based lawyer Robert Projansky, answering to the AWC’s demands to draft a contract that worked for artists, dealers and collectors. The contract specified resale profits would be shared between artist and dealer, and that each transaction would be declared so the collector would have direct access to the information. It was published in Studio International, vol.181, no.932, April 1971, pp.186–88.

  14. ‘557,087’, Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, 5 September–5 October 1969; touring and transforming into ‘955,000’, Vancouver Art Gallery, 13 January–8 February 1970.

  15. ‘There is a total style to the show, a style so pervasive as to invite the conclusion that Lucy Lippard is in fact the artist and her medium is other artists…’ Peter Plagens, ‘557,087: Seattle’, Artforum, vol.8, no.3, November 1969, p.67. And reproduced in this volume, pp.244–47.

  16. See Jack Burnham, ‘Alice’s Head: Reflections on Conceptual Art’, Artforum, vol.8, no.6, February 1970, pp.37–43.

  17. On one of the cards that she contributed to the catalogue, Lippard wrote: ‘Seth Siegelaub has cooperated in the development of the show from its inception.’ L.R. Lippard (ed.), 557,087 (exh. cat.), self-published, 1969, unnumbered card.

  18. Lippard remembers the show coming together more quickly, and has additionally mentioned Anne Focke as a key collaborator, who was also putting them up. Email to J. Melvin, 15 March 2009.

  19. The envelope containing the cards had the Seattle Museum as its return address.

  20. In a document titled ‘Proposed Expenses Seattle Exhibition’, Lippard budgeted $750 for her and Siegelaub’s travel expenses, and a fee of $1,500 to her for the catalogue and selection of artists and of $1,000 to Siegelaub for packing, printing and business in general. See Cornelia Butler in this volume, pp.19–69.

  21. See L.R. Lippard, ‘The Romantic Adventures of an Adversative Rotarian or Allreadymadesomuchoff ’, in Anne d’Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine (ed.), Marcel Duchamp (exh. cat.), New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1973, pp.117–24. Lippard has since reflected, in connection with this, that ‘we got away with a lot in those days!’. See L.R. Lippard, ‘Curating by Numbers’, op. cit.

  22. The essay in the catalogue for ‘Information’ opens with rhetorical questions about absence, predicated on the non-arrival of documentation. It also includes a system of numerical and alphabetised cross-referencing. See L.R. Lippard, ‘Absentee Information and or its Criticisms’, in Kynaston McShine (ed.), Information (exh. cat.), New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1970, pp.74–81.

  23. See letter from Barbara Reise to Seth Siegelaub, 31 January 1968, Tate Gallery Archive Barbara Reise papers 786/5/1/2.

  24. Ibid.

  25. Lippard taught for one year, in her own loft, for the School of Visual Arts in New York.

  26. L.R. Lippard in conversation with the author, 11 October 2008.

  27. On 3 January 1969, Vassilakis Takis, with the help of friends, removed his work Tele-Sculpture (1960) from the 1968 exhibition ‘The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age’. Although MoMA had acquired the work in 1963 and it belonged to the permanent collection, Takis was unhappy with the way it was represented in the exhibition. He and his supporters felt that the artist should have autonomy over the work’s presentation. The event became a focal point for artists having a say over how their work was shown, and it led to MoMA’s acceptance of the AWC’s demand that artists should be represented on the board of trustees. Perreault recalled it as a pivotal event in conversation with the author 4 February 2005.

  28. After the event the group stood outside in the garden at MoMA, waiting in the cold and dark for the arrival of the director, Bates Lowry, who had said he would address them. See John Perreault, ‘Whose Art?’, Village Voice, 9 January 1969, pp.16–17.

  29. Lippard states they were not present at MoMA. Email to the author, 15 March 2009.

  30. A publication ensued with the title ‘An Open Public Hearing on the Subject: What Should Be the Program of the Art Workers Regarding Museum Reform and to Establish the Program of an Open Art Workers’ Coalition?’ This hearing took place on 10 April 1969, with two minutes allocated to anyone who wanted to speak on the subject. Meetings were held at the School of Visual Arts in preparation for the day’s event.

  31. See Studio International, vol.180, no.927, November 1970, pp.171–74.