Lawrence Alloway

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Lawrence Alloway (17 September 1926, London – 2 January 1990, New York) was an English art critic and curator who worked in the United States from the 1960s.


Largely self-educated, he became a major art critic, known for his pluralism and inclusiveness. As a young man he was associated with the Independent Group in England, a circle of artists, critics and writers that included Reyner Banham, and that questioned conventional distinctions between high and low art. As a director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London from 1954 to 1959, he introduced American Abstract Expressionism to post-war England. In 1961 Alloway settled in New York and remained there for the rest of his life, teaching at Bennington College (1961-62) and SUNY Stony Brook (1968-81), curating at the Guggenheim Museum (1962-66), and always simultaneously working as an art critic, which he considered his true vocation.

Beginning as a book reviewer for the London Sunday Times (1944-46), Alloway wrote for and edited various art journals, including Art News (1953-57), Art International (1957-61) and Artforum (1971-76). His longest-running and most influential position was, however, that of art reviewer for the Nation (1968-81). Toward the end of his life he served on the editorial board of Woman's Art Journal. He also wrote poetry throughout his life.

Notorious for having invented the term Pop Art, Alloway nonetheless treated a wide range of subjects, from William Hogarth to science fiction, including movies, design, public sculpture, earthworks, neo-realism, and feminism. Scorning the limiting assumptions of a traditional art history education, he anticipated the now current concept of visual culture as early as 1957 in his essay "The Long Front of Culture". He also analyzed the art world from a sociological viewpoint, both as a market and as a political context. Among his various books, at least two remain classics of art criticism: "Topics in American Art since 1945" (1975) and "Network: The Art World Described as a System" (1972).

In 1955 Alloway married the figurative artist Sylvia Sleigh after having courted her for several years during her marriage to another man. Through Sleigh, Alloway became closely associated with women artists in New York during the 1970s heyday of feminism and became an advocate of parity for women within the art world, authoring the notable "Women's Art and the Failure of Art Criticism" (1979). He also reported on the museum worker strikes of the 1970s, resulting in another influential essay, "Museums and Unionization" (1975).

He died in 1990 of a neurological disease. (Source)



  • "The Robot and the Arts", Art News and Review 8:16, 1 Sep 1956.
  • "The Arts and the Mass Media", Architectural Design, Feb 1958.
  • "The Long Front of Culture", Cambridge Opinion 17, 1959, pp 24-26; repr. in Pop Art Redefined, eds. John Russell and Suzi Gablik, New York: Praeger, 1969, pp 41-43; repr. in Modern Dreams: the Rise and Fall and Rise of Pop, 1988, pp 30-33, ARG.
  • "Pop Since 1949", Artforum, Oct 1962; repr., intro. Nigel Whiteley, Artforum, Oct 2004.
  • "The American Sublime", Living Arts 2, Jun 1963, pp 11-22; repr. in Alloway, Topics in American Art Since 1945, 1975, pp 31-41, ARG.
  • "The Development of British Pop", in Lucy R. Lippard, et al., Pop Art, New York: Praeger, 1966.
  • "The Expanding and Disappearing Work of Art", Auction 3:2, Oct 1969; repr. in Alloway, Topics in American Art Since 1945, 1975, pp 207-212.
  • "Network: The Art World Described as a System", Artforum 11:1, Sep 1972, pp 28-32; repr. in Alloway, Network: Art and the Complex Present, 1984, pp 3-15.
  • "The Uses and Limits of Art Criticism", 1973; repr. in Alloway, Topics in American Art Since 1945, 1975, pp 251-270.
  • "Strike at the Modern", interviews between Lawrence Alloway, John Coplans, Susan Bertram, Jennifer Licht, Joan Rabenau, and Jane Fluegel, Artforum 12:4, Dec 1973, pp 41-47.
  • "Museums and Unionization", Artforum 13:6, Feb 1975, pp 46-48.
  • "The Great Curatorial Dim-Out", Artforum 13:9, May 1975, pp 32-34.
  • "Women's Art in the Seventies", Art in America 64:3, May-June 1976; repr. in Alloway, Network: Art and the Complex Present, 1984, pp 173-285.
  • "The Complex Present", Art Criticism 1:1, Spring 1979, pp 32-41.
  • "Women's Art and the Failure of Art Criticism", Art Criticism 1:2, 1979; repr. in Alloway, Network: Art and the Complex Present, 1984, pp 287-295.
  • "The Renewal of Realist Criticism", Art in America, Sep 1981, pp 108-111.
  • "Andy Warhol: A Collage of Appreciation from the Artist's Colleges, Critics and Friends", Art in America, May 1987, pp 138-139.


  • editor, The Architectural Review: "Man Made America", Dec 1950.
  • editor, The Architectural Review: "Machine Made America", May 1957.


Selected writings[edit]

  • Topics in American Art since 1945, New York: W.W. Norton, 1975.
  • Network: Art and the Complex Present, Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1984, xxi+302 pp.