Introduction

In a speech at a 1969 assembly of the Art Workers’ Coalition, Seth Siegelaub reminded his audience that their talents and abilities as artists were the tools that would allow them to gain power within the institutionalized art world of museums and galleries: “This is the way your leverage lies,” he said. The phrase embodies a sentiment inherent to Siegelaub’s brief but deeply influential career as gallery owner, independent curator, publisher, event facilitator, and seminal figure in the experimental and anti-establishment Conceptual art movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Siegelaub organized twenty-one exhibitions, publications, and other projects in North America and Europe between February 1968 and July 1971, working closely with artists such as Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner, before largely withdrawing from the art world in 1972. His curatorial work took place both in physical spaces and, most significantly, in the form of books. Like Conceptual artists, Siegelaub explored subversive communication methods and mediums in his work and raised important questions about the making, display, ownership, distribution, and sale of art. This exhibition highlights items in The Seth Siegelaub Papers, now in The Museum of Modern Art Archives, that illustrate Siegelaub’s role in empowering artists within the hierarchy of the art world.


Photograph of Seth Siegelaub standing on steps of 44 East Fifty-second Street in Manhattan, where the exhibition January 5–31, 1969 was held
Photograph by Robert Barry
1969 [I.A.40]

The exhibition is organized by Christiana Dobrzynski Grippe, Project Archivist, MoMA Archives.
Funding for the processing and creation of a finding aid for the Seth Siegelaub Papers was provided by Mr. Phillip E. Aarons.
All items in this exhibition are from the Seth Siegelaub Papers in The Museum of Modern Art Archives. Numbers in brackets identify the documents' specific folder locations.


Siegelaub's Early Years in the Art World

Siegelaub ran a fine arts and Oriental rug gallery on Fifty-sixth Street in Manhattan from 1964 to 1966. He viewed his role as more project facilitator than curator, and he quickly transitioned away from traditional art exhibitions in favor of alternative displays and forms of dissemination of art and information. In 1966, Siegelaub mounted The "25" Show: Painting and Sculpture, which he organized with minimal wall labels and explanation according to his desire to present the artists’ work free of an imposed order. Siegelaub’s gallery activities solidified his relationship with artist Lawrence Weiner, a partnership that continued to evolve as they both explored less traditional art projects.

Guest book for Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art
1964-66 [I.A.5]
These pages were signed by guests who attended a 1964 show of Lawrence Weiner’s paintings, including Pierre Clerk and John Chamberlain, artists whose work Siegelaub also exhibited.

Installation photograph of The "25" Show, Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art
Photograph by Seth Siegelaub
1966 [I.A.13]

Artists with work in the show included John Chamberlain, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, Ellsworth Kelly, Franz Kline, Martin Maloney, Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Jackson Pollock, Kenneth Price, Ad Reinhardt, David Smith, Jack Tworkov, Lawrence Weiner, and Larry Zox.


Duplicate of letter written by Siegelaub soliciting works of art for The "25" Show
1966 [I.A.13]
The letter explains Siegelaub’s intent in organizing the exhibition.

Catalogue for the exhibition Douglas Huebler
1968 [I.B.9]
This was the first show Siegelaub organized in which the catalogue, displayed in a private apartment, was the entire exhibition in itself.

Letter from artist Douglas Huebler to Siegelaub explaining the ideas behind his map pieces
c. 1966-68 [I.B.9]
Unlike many of the artists Siegelaub met early in his career, Huebler did not live in New York. Nonetheless, he was an important and frequent participant in Siegelaub’s seminal exhibition projects, several of which featured Huebler’s map pieces.

Certificate of authenticity for Lawrence Weiner’s statement One Standard Air Force Dye Marker Thrown into the Sea
1968 [I.B.22]
This statement also appeared in Weiner’s artist’s book Statements, published by The Louis Kellner Foundation and Siegelaub in 1968.

Mock-up for Lawrence Weiner's artist's book Statements
1968 [I.B.22]

Lawrence Weiner's artist's book Statements
1972 [III.B.48]
This was Weiner’s first artist’s book, an important departure from his more traditional paintings and one that he continued to explore with other typographical texts.


Xerox Book

Siegelaub continued his experimentation with exhibitions-as-books in 1968 with Xerox Book. His goal was to create a publication that could be produced and distributed at relatively low cost. He invited seven artists (Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, and Lawrence Weiner) to each create a twenty-five-page work on paper to be copied and included in the book. Xerox Book initially was intended to be Xeroxed, but the process proved too expensive, and the first edition of 1,000 copies was offset printed instead.

Siegelaub's list of materials needed to produce Xerox Book
c. 1968 [I.A.32]

Siegelaub's early planning notes for Xerox Book
c. 1968 [I.A.32]
His notes include lists of prospective artists (some of whom did not participate in the final project) and tasks to complete.

Carbon copy of letter written by Siegelaub to the Xerox Corporation
1968 [I.A.32]
The letter explains the “nature of the book” and Siegelaub’s desire to use Xerox technology to print it.

First page of One Million Dots, by Robert Barry, a work reproduced in Xerox Book
1968 [I.A.31]

List of some proposed pages for Xerox Book
1968 [I.A.32]


Mock-up draft of title page for Xerox Book
1968 [I.A.30]

Mock-up draft of Xerox Book
1968 [I.A.29]

Xerox Book, first edition
1968 [I.A.27]


January 5–31, 1969

After completing Xerox Book, in 1969 Siegelaub organized a group exhibition of the work of Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner. January 5–31, 1969 was Siegelaub’s first group exhibition in which the catalogue was the primary manifestation of the project. Also referred to as the January Show, the exhibition—a direct critique of traditional art institutions—existed for one month only in a temporary space at 44 East Fifty-second Street in Manhattan; artworks were on display in one room and the catalogue in another.

Press release for January 5–31, 1969
1969 [I.A.40]
The press release emphasizes the temporary nature of the exhibition space and briefly explains that the heart of the show is the catalogue.

Specifications by artist Robert Barry for some of his works in January 5–31, 1969
1969 [I.A.44]
Works of art mentioned include 88 mc Carrier Wave (FM) (1968), 1600 kc Carrier Wave (AM) (1968), and 99.5 mc Carrier Wave (WBAI, FM) (1969).

Planning notes by artist Douglas Huebler for his Cross Manhattan Rectangle (1968), which was included in the January Show
1969 [I.A.40]


Siegelaub's gallery floor plan for January 5–31, 1969
c. 1968–69 [I.A.44]
The floor plan outlines the exhibition’s two-room layout.

Installation photograph of January 5–31, 1969
1969 [I.A.40]
Shown here is artist Adrian Piper in the front room of the exhibition that contained the catalogue.

Installation photograph of January 5–31, 1969
1969 [I.A.40]
The catalogues were displayed on a coffee table next to a couch in the entryway.

Instructions for January 5–31, 1969 secretary
1969 [I.A.40]
Instructions include a directive to document the sawdust that composed Douglas Huebler’s Duration Piece #6, shown during the first six hours of the exhibition.

Catalogue for January 5–31, 1969
1969 [I.A.41]
These pages contain a list of Robert Barry’s works of art in the exhibition.


Photograph of the artists who participated in the January Show
Photograph by Seth Siegelaub
1969 [I.A.40]
From left: Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, and Lawrence Weiner.

Pages from the guest book for January 5–31, 1969
1969 [I.A.41]
Signatories include artists Patty Oldenburg and Adrian Piper.

Catalogue for January 5–31, 1969
1969 [I.A.41]
These pages contain a list of Robert Barry’s works of art in the exhibition.


Politics and Protest, 1969–71

In a 1987 interview with artist Robert Horvitz, Seth Siegelaub talked about his political activism of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He explained, the “Vietnam War turned my head around…It politicized my activity. It put into question the nature of the ‘American Dream,’ the whole machinery of the art world, and me with it.” A number of Siegelaub’s projects between 1969 and 1972 reflect this heightened political awareness and institutional critique. Siegelaub found the anti-establishment environment of Conceptual art to be a fertile place for political activism.

Flyer for Bresil 1969: Dossier partiel de la repression culturelle
1969 [I.D.2]
The flyer circulated as part of an international movement to protest the 1969 Bienal de São Paulo, in response to the Brazilian military dictatorship’s use of torture.

Copy of letter by Siegelaub to writer Jack Burnham
1969 [I.D.2]
Siegelaub explains that he and artists Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Robert Barry, and Lawrence Weiner plan to withdraw from the 1969 Bienal de São Paulo, if accepted, to protest the Brazilian dictatorship and the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Letter from Lucy Lippard to György Kepes
1969 [I.D.13]
Lippard, an art critic and writer, asks for the support of Hungarian artist György Kepes in protesting the 1969 Bienal de São Paulo.


The Art Workers’ Coalition’s “13 Demands,” submitted to Bates Lowry, director of The Museum of Modern Art
1969 [I.A.58]
Siegelaub was a member of the Art Workers’ Coalition, a group formed in 1969 in part to protest the growing institutionalization of the art world. The Coalition advocated for artists’ rights and the reform of various New York City museums, most notably MoMA.

Form letter written by the Art Workers' Coalition
1969 [I.A.58]
The letter, sent to sixty artists, urged them to withdraw their work from the exhibition The New American Painting and Sculpture: The First Generation MoMA in protest of the lack of artists’ rights in museum policies.

Cover page of Art Workers’ Coalition documentation of interaction with MoMA
1969 [I.A.58]
The documentation records communication attempts between MoMA and numerous artists demanding museum reform.

Flyer for an Art Workers’ Coalition meeting hosted by MUSEUM, an artist-run twenty-four-hour multimedia gallery in Manhattan
1969 [I.A.58]
Siegelaub explains that he and artists Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Robert Barry, and Lawrence Weiner plan to withdraw from the 1969 Bienal de São Paulo, if accepted, to protest the Brazilian dictatorship and the US involvement in the Vietnam War.


Newsletter for the United States Servicemen’s Fund (USSF)
1971 [I.A.106]
Siegelaub was involved in fundraising for the USSF, an organization that promoted free speech within the United States’ military. The organization supported anti-Vietnam War activity, most notably funding GI newspapers.

Newsletter for Camp News
1969 [I.A.106]
An anti–Vietnam War publication supported by the USSF.

Catalogue for the United States Servicemen's Fund Art Collection
1971 [I.A.105]
The USSF art collection included works by Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, and Lawrence Weiner. The works were for sale, and artists agreed to donate fifty percent of the proceeds to the USSF. Siegelaub helped to organize this fundraising catalogue.

About Face!
1972–73 [I.A.106]
An anti–Vietnam War publication supported by the USSF.


The Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement

In 1971 Siegelaub created The Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, also referred to as the Artist's Contract. This was the realization of a project initiated by Siegelaub and lawyer Robert Projanksy in 1970 entailing the organization, preparation, and publication of a sale contract for artists that would outline and protect the artist’s moral and economic rights. The contract includes a provision that entitles the artist to fifteen percent of any profits made on the resale of his or her work. The preparation, publication, and distribution of the eight-page fold-out poster, designed by Christos Gianokos, was underwritten by The School of Visual Arts, New York. By 1972, the contract had been reworked, translated, and published in a similar format in at least four other languages (French, German, Italian, and Dutch), and there have been many reprintings and editions since then. The contract embodies Siegelaub’s culminating effort to help artists achieve more power in the museum and gallery-dominated art world.


Handwritten draft of appeal to artists written by Siegelaub
1970 [I.A.90]
In this draft Siegelaub wrote to artists, reminding them, “There is no art without you.” The passage reads as a manifesto, laying the foundation for the creation of the Artist's Contract.

Handwritten draft of flyer advertising the Artist's Contract to art dealers
1971 [I.A.91]
Siegelaub also recognized the importance of educating art dealers. He and Robert Projanksy hosted meetings with dealers to help them understand the contract and how to use it effectively.

Artist questionnaire filled out by Ed Ruscha
1971 [I.A.97]
Siegelaub distributed questionnaires to various artists to solicit their feedback about the effectiveness and usefulness of the Artist Contract. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, as exemplified by Ruscha’s enthusiastic responses.

Artist questionnaire filled out by Sol LeWitt
1971 [I.A.97]

Artist questionnaire filled out by Dan Graham
1971 [I.A.97]


Mock-up draft of the Artist's Contract in English
c. 1971 [I.A.91]

The Artist's Contract in English, first edition
1971 [I.A.100]

The Artist's Contract in French
1972 [I.A.101]

The Artist's Contract in Italian
1972 [I.A.102]

The Artist's Contract in German
1993 [I.A.103]
Artist Maria Eichhorn has continued Siegelaub’s mission by incorporating and promoting the German translation of the Artist's Contract through her own art projects focusing on artists’ rights, the sale of art, and the roles of museums and collectors.


Screen Citations

Citation information for images shown on the exhibition screens in the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building

  1. Photograph of Seth Siegelaub, c. 1970 [I.A.120]
  2. Front cover of guest book for Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art, 1964-1966 [I.A.5]
  3. Pages of Lawrence Weiner's 1964 show of paintings in guest book for Seth Siegelaub Contemporary Art, 1964 [I.A.5]
  4. Catalogue for the exhibition Douglas Huebler, 1968 [I.A.25]
  5. Catalogue for the exhibition Lawrence Weiner, 1964 [I.B.23]
  6. Catalogue for the exhibition Lawrence Weiner, 1964 [I.B.23]
  7. Notes for The “25 Show, 1966 [I.A.13]
  8. Work of art by Robert Morris printed in Xerox Book, first edition, 1968 [I.A.27]
  9. Work of art by Sol LeWitt printed in Xerox Book, first edition, 1968 [I.A.27]
  10. Proposal by Douglas Huebler for work to be included in January 5-31, 1969, c. 1968 [I.A.40]
  11. Catalogue for the exhibition January 5-31, 1969, 1969 [I.A.41]
  12. Catalogue for the exhibition July, August, September 1969. Juillet, Août, Septembre 1969. Juli, August, September 1969, 1969 [I.A.62]
  13. Postcard to Siegelaub from Sol and Mimi LeWitt, 1970 [I.D.26]
  14. Postcard to Siegelaub from Sol and Mimi LeWitt, 1970 [I.D.26]
  15. Postcards to Siegelaub from Carl Andre, 1990 [II.9]
  16. Postcard to Siegelaub from Lucy Lippard, 1971 [I.D.26]
  17. Postcard to Siegelaub from Lucy Lippard, 1971 [I.D.26]
  18. Postcard to Siegelaub from Lucy Lippard, 1971 [I.D.26]
  19. Letter to Siegelaub from Lucy Lippard, 1969 [I.D.13]
  20. Flyer for party associated with the Art Workers' Coalition, 1969 [I.A.58]
  21. Letter to Siegelaub from Kurt Anderson regarding the Public Press + News Network, 1972 [I.A.77]
  22. "An Open Letter to Artists" flyer distributed by the Art Workers' Coalition, 1969 [I.A.58]
  23. "A Call to Action" flyer by Joseph Beuys, Erwin Heerich, and Klaus Staeck of the Community for Action, 1971 [I.A.94]
  24. Catalogue for the United States Servicemen's Fund art collection, 1971 [I.A.105]
  25. Letter to Bates Lowry, director of The Museum of Modern Art, from the Art Workers' Coalition, 1969 [I.A.58]
  26. Mock-ups of Public Press + News Network newsletters, 1971-1972 [I.A.74]
  27. Mock-up of Public Press + News Network poster, c. 1971 [I.A.74]
  28. Letter to Siegelaub from Ted Castle regarding the Public Press + News Network, 1972 [I.A.77]
  29. Mock-ups of Public Press + News Network posters, c. 1971 [I.A.74]
  30. Photograph of Michel Claura and Seth Siegelaub, 1971 [I.A.120]

Acknowledgements

This exhibition would not have been possible without the help of numerous individuals within The Museum of Modern Art. In the Museum Archives, I would like to thank Michelle Elligott for her continued support and guidance. Sara Dayton was instrumental in creating the video screen installation as well as the webpage, while Sara Bodinson, Rebecca Roberts, and Julianna Goodman all contributed to finalizing the texts and labels. The exhibition benefited from everyone's dedicated efforts.