Art Workers' Coalition

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The Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC) was a loose group of artists, writers, and members of the creative community formed in January 1969 after the artist Takis protested the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, by removing his sculpture from their exhibition, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. In the case with Takis, the artist was concerned with his ability to control the exhibition of his work after it had been sold (the Museum had exhibited his work against his wishes because they owned it and felt that their right of ownership superseded his rights as an artist to control its exhibition).

This initial protest was a spark that ignited the coalition—which gathered members and concerns exponentially throughout the early months of 1969. At the time, the Art Workers’ Coalition was concerned with the responsibility of museums to artists and aimed their efforts at building a dialogue between themselves and MoMA. Another early issue was better representation of Black and Puerto Rican artists in MoMA as well as the other local museums.

As the coalition grew in membership, so did its concerns, which the Art Workers’ Coalition sought to publicly discuss at MoMA. When these efforts proved unsuccessful, the coalition held an Open Hearing at the School of the Visual Arts on April 10, 1969, in which hundreds of people attended. Written statements were collected (some of which were read and some of which were not) and the proceedings were later transcribed. The statements were published in book form by the AWC under the name Open Hearing. At the same time, the AWC also published Documents 1 a collection of letters, press, and ephemera documenting the formation of the Coalition and its dialogue with MoMA.

Following the Open Hearing, AWC’s emphasis broadened to address the political and social events and concerns of its time: racism, sexism, abortion rights, Vietnam, and Kent State, among others. With so many issues, AWC eventually splintered, with groups like Women Artists in Revolution, Guerilla Art Action Group, and Art Strike addressing specific concerns while remaining affiliated with AWC.

Art Workers Coalition remained active through Spring of 1971, with its last protest at the Guggenheim, which had cancelled a solo exhibition by Hans Haacke, on May 1, 1971. Many of its splinter groups continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s and were fundamental to addressing the unequal representation of the minority and women artists in the art world—a battle that is still being fought today. (Source)


Open Hearing, 1969, PDF.
Documents 1, 1969, PDF.
A Documentary HerStory of Women Artists in Revolution, 1973.
  • Art Workers' Coalition, Open Hearing, New York, 1969, 142 pp. Collection of statements originally published in the wake of the first public meeting of the Art Workers’ Coalition, at the School of Visual Arts in New York on 10 April 1969. Contributing artists: Carl Andre, Architects’ Resistance, Robert Barry, Gregory Battcock, Jon Bauch, Ernst Benkert, Don Bernshouse, Gloria Greenberg Bressler, Selma Brody, Bruce Brown, Bob Carter, Frederick Castle, Rosemarie Castoro, Michael Chapman, Iris Crump, John Denmark, Joseph Di Donato, Mark Di Suvero, George Dworzan, Farman, Hollis Frampton, Dan Graham, Chuck Ginnever, Bill Gordy, Alex Gross, Hans Haacke, Clarence Hagin, Harvey, Gerry Herman, Frank Hewitt, D. Holmes, Robert Huot, Ken Jacobs, Joseph Kosuth, David Lee, Naomi Levine, Sol LeWitt, Lucy Lippard, Tom Lloyd, Lee Lozano, Len Lye, James McDonald, Edwin Mieczkowski, Minority A, Vernita Nemec, Barnett Newman, John Perreault, Stephen Phillips, Lil Picard, Peter Pinchbeck, Joanna Pousette-Dart, Barbara Reise, Faith Ringgold, Steve Rosenthal, Theresa Schwarz, Seth Siegelaub, Gary Smith, Michael Snow, Anita Steckel, Carl Strueckland, Gene Swenson, Julius Tobias, Jean Toche, Ruth Vollmer, Iain Whitecross, Jay Wholly, Ann Wilson, and Wilbur Woods. JOOAP (2007). PI (2008). UbuWeb. Commentary: Dyment. [1]
  • Art Workers' Coalition, Documents 1, New York, 1969, 121 pp. Collection of correspondence, press, and ephemera surrounding the foundation and rise of the Art Worker’s Coalition (AWC), published at the height of the group’s activity in mid-1969. PI. UbuWeb.
  • Lucy R. Lippard, "The Art Workers' Coalition: Not a History", Studio International 180:927, Nov 1970, pp 171-174; repr. in Lippard, Get the Message? A Decade of Art for Social Change, E.P. Dutton, 1984, pp 10-19, PDF. [2] [3]
  • Women Artists in Revolution, A Documentary HerStory of Women Artists in Revolution, New York: Women’s Media Center, 1971; 2nd ed., Pittsburgh: Women’s Interart Center, 1973, 88 pp; facs. repr. of 2nd ed., Brooklyn, NY: Primary Information, 2021. Active from 1969 to 1971, W.A.R. was founded as the women's caucus of the Art Workers' Coalition. Members of W.A.R. included Juliette Gordon, Sara Saporta, Therese Schwartz, Muriel Castanis, Cindy Nemser, Dolores Holmes, Betsy Jones, Silvia Goldsmith, Jan McDevitt, Lucy Lippard, Grace Glueck, Poppy Johnson, Brenda Miller, Faith Ringgold, Emily Genauer, Agnes C. Denes, Doloris O’Kane, and Jacqueline Skiles. Publisher. [4]
  • Jon Hendricks, Jean Toche, GAAG: The Guerrilla Art Action Group, 1969-1976: A Selection, New York: Printed Matter, 1978.
  • Francis Frascina, "Angry Arts, the Art Workers' Coalition and the Politics of 'Otherness'", in Frascina, Art, Politics and Dissent: Aspects of the Art Left in Sixties America, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999, IA. Excerpt. Preview.
  • Beth Anne Handler, The Art of Activism: Artists and Writers Protest, the Art Workers' Coalition, and the New York Art Strike Protest the Vietnam War, Yale University, 2001. PhD dissertation.
  • brumaria 15-16: "Art Workers’ Coalition", eds. Dario Corbeira and Daniel Patrick Rodriguez, Madrid: Brumaria, 2010, 514 pp. Publisher. [5] (English)/(Spanish)
  • Alan W. Moore, "Taking it Out of the Modern: Founding the Art Workers Coalition", ch. 1 in Moore, Art Gangs: Protest and Counterculture in New York City, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2011. Publisher. Review: Battista (Art M).
  • Alan W. Moore, "The Action Fraction: Guerrilla Art Action Group", ch. 2 in Moore, Art Gangs: Protest and Counterculture in New York City, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2011. Publisher. Review: Battista (Art M).
  • Fiona Geuß, Das dialogische Kunstwerk: Gesprächsformate in der Kunst nach 1968: Art Workers Coalition, Group Material, New Genre Public Art, Bielefeld: transcript, 2023, 246 pp. Based on PhD thesis (Freie U, Berlin, 2019). Excerpt. [8] [9] (German)