The Artist in Place: The First Ten Years of MoMA PS1


The Institute for Art and Urban Resources (IAUR), the organization that became MoMA PS1, was founded in 1971 during a critical period of transition for artists and the New York art world. Installation, performance, film, and video were rapidly expanding the definition of what art could be, while emerging artists exploring those forms sought new contexts for showing their work, outside the ideological and commercial strictures of the "white cube" gallery and the authoritarian control of museum curatorship.

The IAUR, led by its founder, Alanna Heiss, rehabilitated derelict warehouses and unused city-owned property in an environment reeling from blight and decay, creating nonprofit art spaces that blurred the lines between studio, gallery, theater, and community center. Heiss's organization ran multiple spaces across the city, and in 1976 it occupied Queens Public School No. 1. By the IAUR's tenth anniversary, in 1981, hundreds of artists were passing through P.S. 1 and its Clocktower Gallery each year, and the institution had established the programming and practices it would follow through the ensuing decades.

In documents and materials drawn exclusively from the MoMA PS1 Archives, this exhibition chronicles the first ten years of the IAUR and P.S. 1. It demonstrates the success of Heiss's original project: to provide a place embedded in the urban environment in which artists can work and exhibit—a place that provokes and engages artists and ultimately inspires the works made and shown there.

Exterior photograph of PS1. Photographer unknown. 1978 [VIII.I.27]

Exterior photograph of PS1
Photographer unknown
1978 [VIII.I.27]

The exhibition is organized by Jonathan Lill, Project Archivist, and Alana Miller, Project Archives Assistant, MoMA Archives.

Funding for the processing and creation of a finding aid for the MoMA PS1 Archives was generously provided by the Leon Levy Foundation.

All items in this exhibition are from the MoMA PS1 Archives in The Museum of Modern Art Archives. Numbers in brackets identify the documents' specific folder locations.

Workspace Begins

As part of her work for the Municipal Art Society—a nonprofit urban planning, design, and preservation organization—Alanna Heiss sought to re-create in New York City what she had experienced in London working with the SPACE program, which repurposed docklands warehouses as artists' studios. The Brooklyn Bridge Event (May 21–24, 1971), an informal outdoor celebration held alongside the Society's more formal activities for the Brooklyn Bridge's birthday, is now considered the founding event of P.S. 1. Planning for the Society's new program, named Workspace and run by Heiss, continued until 1972, when it secured its first studio space for artists, at 10 Bleecker Street.

Interview with Alanna Heiss
c. 1977 [III.B.99]
This interview was conducted as part of an unrealized publication recounting the first five years of the Institute for Art and Urban Resources (an organization founded to oversee the Workspace program in 1972), to be titled Placing the Artist.

“Introduction to The Brooklyn Bridge Event (1971),” by Tina Girouard
c. 1977 [III.B.21]
Girouard wrote these recollections to introduce the first section of Placing the Artist.

Jene Highstein and others erecting his sculpture under the Brooklyn Bridge as part of The Brooklyn Bridge Event
Photograph by Tina Girouard
1971 [II.A.1]

The Brooklyn Bridge Event handbill
1971 [I.A.3]

Draft letter from Alanna Heiss to Lorna Bivins, discussing the Workspace program, c. 1972 [VII.E.3]

Draft letter from Alanna Heiss to Lorna Bivins, discussing the Workspace program
c. 1972 [VII.E.3]
Bivins and her husband owned 10 Bleecker Street, an unoccupied warehouse building in Manhattan's Bowery district.

Grace Glueck, “Brightening Up the Bowery,” New York Times
July 23, 1972 [II.A.6]

View of Enclosures Richard Nonas (May 3–27, 1972), the inaugural exhibition at 10 Bleecker Street
Photographer unknown
1972 [III.B.48]
This exhibition opened less than a month after the premises were first occupied by Workspace.

Brochure for the exhibition Recent Work: Power Boothe, Peter Downsborough, Nancy Holt, Clark Murray, Jim Reineking (July 15–August 5, 1972), at 10 Bleecker Street
1972 [I.A.3]

Additional Spaces and Outside the Studios

On August 7, 1972, the Institute for Art and Urban Resources (IAUR) was founded to operate the Workspace program independent of the Municipal Arts Society. It was run by Alanna Heiss, whose ambitions for the IAUR extended beyond 10 Bleecker Street. By 1973, the IAUR had secured an industrial space in Coney Island and a room in a Brooklyn police precinct for studios, and buildings at 22 Reade Street, in lower Manhattan, were taken over and christened the Idea Warehouse. Through the 1970s the IAUR also sponsored artist activities on the streets of New York City.

Photograph of the Eightieth police precinct, on Washington Avenue in Crown Heights, housing a Workspace studio space
Photograph by Nancy Moran/The New York Times
1972 [III.B.111]

Invitation to the IAUR's Condemnation Blight Sculpture Workshop Banquet, 1973 [I.A.10]

Invitation to the IAUR's Condemnation Blight Sculpture Workshop Banquet
1973 [I.A.10]
The banquet celebrated Jene Highstein (October 1–31, 1973), the only exhibition staged at the IAUR's Coney Island industrial space. The site was returned to the city in late 1975.

Scott Burton's proposal for his performance Solitary-Behavior Tableaux (March 18–30, 1975), held at the Idea Warehouse
c. 1975 [I.A.3]
Heiss later said, “I believe none of us anticipated the importance performance would have in scheduling the [Idea Warehouse] space.”

Paste-up pages prepared by the artists for the catalogue for the exhibition Ideas at the Idea Warehouse (June 16–July 11, 1975)
1975 [I.A.37]
Twenty-two artists participated in the exhibition and performance series.

Brochure for Robert Janz's artwork Line on a Walk, documenting his activity on New York City streets, March/April 1976 [I.A.34]

Brochure for Robert Janz's artwork Line on a Walk, documenting his activity on New York City streets
March/April 1976 [I.A.34]

Brochure for Robert Janz's artwork Line on a Walk, documenting his activity on New York City streets, March/April 1976 [I.A.34]

“Footnotes for 25 Windows,” by Lynn Hershman
1976 [I.A.63]
The artist outlines her installation in each of the windows of the Bonwit Teller department store in New York, documentation of which was later displayed at the IAUR's Clocktower gallery in lower Manhattan.

The Clocktower Gallery

In 1973 the IAUR acquired space at 108 Leonard Street, in lower Manhattan. Occupying the building's clock tower and lower rooms, the Clocktower gallery offered artists a unique opportunity to interact with an idiosyncratic space, both inside and outside the building. Artists Make Toys (January 1–25, 1975), which featured fifty-nine artists at the new gallery, was the first of the IAUR's many massive group exhibitions, and it was the subject of the organization's first major exhibition catalogue.

Draft exhibition invitation sent from Alanna Heiss to Klaus Rinke
c. 1973 [I.A.1]
Rinke's solo exhibition at the Clocktower opened in April 1974.

View of Charlotte Moorman's Easter Cello Recital at the Clocktower
Photograph by Peter Moore
April 22, 1973 [II.A.12]
Moorman performed covered in chocolate on a bed of plastic grass.

Gordon Matta-Clark posing for the camera during his performance Clockshower
Photographer unknown
1973 [III.A.1]
Matta-Clark's performance was one of many works by artists utilizing the Clocktower's terrace and clock face.
Gordon Matta-Clark posing for the camera during his performance Clockshower. Photographer unknown. 1973 [III.A.1]


Page from the Artists Make Toys exhibition catalogue,showing Chris Burden's contribution, with the exhibition announcement, 1975 [I.A.21] Page from the Artists Make Toys exhibition catalogue, showing Chris Burden's contribution, with the exhibition announcement
1975 [I.A.21]
The announcement features participating artists' names in microscopic print, to be read using the accompanying magnifying glass.

William Wegman demonstrating Chris Burden's work Spyder Man during Artists Make Toys
Photograph by Allan Tannenbaum
1975 [III.A.2]

Exhibition announcement and photograph of Eleanor Antin: Exhibition and Performance (January 15–31, 1976)
1976 [II.A.64]
Though the Clocktower hosted numerous group shows, from the beginning its programming focused on successive solo exhibitions.

View of the Clocktower exhibition Marjorie Strider: Tower Project (February 26–March 13, 1976)
Photograph by Jonathan Dent
1976 [I.A.50]
The spiral staircase was a central feature of the Clocktower space and a frequent perch for installation photographers, as seen elsewhere in this case.

Interview with Hannah Wilke conducted for Placing the Artist
1977 [III.B.66]
In this interview for an unrealized publication recounting the IAUR's first five years, Wilke discusses her infamous poster for the exhibition Artists Make Toys,also used as the cover of the catalogue—as well as her artwork in the show.

The Collectors of the Seventies

In 1975–76, the Clocktower gallery was the site of the ambitious Collectors of the Seventies series of exhibitions, designed to document the enthusiastic patrons of new art. By the end of 1976, the IAUR was withdrawing its involvement in 10 Bleecker Street and it had vacated the Idea Warehouse. The Clocktower continued to house artists' studios and hold major exhibitions into the 2000s, making it the most enduring IAUR space besides P.S. 1.

Draft IAUR announcement for the Collectors of the Seventies exhibition and video series
c. 1975 [IX.A.4]
Along with the five exhibitions in the series, nine documentary videos were produced by 1977, although it's uncertain if they were ever distributed.

Postcard for Collectors of the Seventies, Part III: “A Collection in Progress”—Milton Brutten and Helen Herrick (September 18–October 18, 1975)
1975 [II.A.51]

Recto of postcard for Collectors of the Seventies, Part I: Dorothy and Herbert Vogel (April 19–May 17, 1975), 1975 [II.A.41] Verso of postcard for Collectors of the Seventies, Part I: Dorothy and Herbert Vogel (April 19–May 17, 1975), 1975 [II.A.41]
Recto and verso of postcard for Collectors of the Seventies, Part I: Dorothy and Herbert Vogel (April 19–May 17, 1975)
1975 [II.A.41]
In 1975, the Vogels, an unassuming postal worker and librarian, were already a familiar presence in the New York art community, but the extent of their patronage was only beginning to be known; this exhibition at the Clocktower was the first display of their collection. In the photograph, the Vogels stand next to Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing (1971).

Catalogue and press photograph for Collectors of the Seventies, Part I: Dorothy and Herbert Vogel (April 19–May 17, 1975)
Photograph by Nathaniel Tileston
1975 [II.A.41]

Interview with Dorothy and Herbert Vogel
c. 1977 [III.B.63]

Compilation of excerpts from the Collectors of the Seventies video series:

Grand Rapids: Public Collections. 1974 [I.B.4] sss
Grand Rapids: Public Collections
Video (color, sound), 17:48 min.
1974 [I.B.4]
Stanley Marsh 3
Video (color, sound), 20 min.
1977 [I.B.6]
sss SSS
Virginia Wright
Video (color, sound), 21:15 min.
1977 [I.B.8]
Herb and Dorothy Vogel
Video (color, sound), 20 min.
1977 [I.B.9]
The Collectors of the Seventies series features nine videos produced in conjunction with the five Clocktower exhibitions of 1975–76. The videos were produced for the IAUR by David Ross, Douglas Davis, and Andrew Mann.

P.S. 1 and Rooms

The search for art studios and exhibition space that had occupied the IAUR since 1972 concluded with the organization's occupation of P.S. 1. The First Ward School, or Queens Public School No. 1, had ceased being used as a school in 1963 and was slated for sale by the city and possible demolition. Negotiations between the IAUR and the city took more than a year; they were finalized on April 22, 1976, when the IAUR signed a long-term lease for the building. A grant was secured that enabled the extensive cleanup necessary to make the building useable, and IAUR's inaugural exhibition at P.S. 1, Rooms (June 9–26, 1976), opened a mere seven weeks later.

Building evaluation of P.S. 1 by Shael Shapiro
October 3, 1975 [VII.A.3]
Shapiro provides cost estimates for cleanup, roof repair, painting, and other necessities, totaling $133,000.

Exterior view of P.S. 1 Exterior view of P.S. 1
Photograph by Jonathan Dent
1976 [VIII.I.8]


Interior view of P.S. 1 prior to cleanup
Photographer unknown
1976 [II.A.83]
Interior views of P.S. 1 prior to cleanup. Photographer unknown. 1976 [II.A.81]

Invitation to the P.S. 1 Prom benefit
1976 [II.A.85]

Envelope for ordering tickets to the P.S. 1 Prom benefit
1976 [II.B.3]

Gregory Battcock, “Noblesse Oblige,” The Soho Weekly News
June 17, 1976 [II.A.78]
Proceeds from the P.S. 1 Prom, a gala benefit Battcock called “the biggest party of the year,” helped offset the cost of keeping the building open. Collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel were elected king and queen, and music was provided by a high school concert band.

Draft introduction to the Rooms exhibition catalogue by Alanna Heiss
c. 1976 [I.A.48]

Rooms artists and IAUR staff
Photograph by Jonathan Dent
1976 [II.A.85]
Twenty-two of the seventy-eight artists represented in Rooms are absent from this photograph. Alanna Heiss is standing at far left, in sunglasses.

Floor plan of P.S. 1, showing Rooms installation locations, 1976 [I.A.48] Floor plan of P.S. 1, showing Rooms installation locations
1976 [I.A.48]

Roberta B. Gratz, “The Artful Reincarnation of PS 1, Queens,” New York Post
June 11, 1976 [I.A.48]

Letter from former P.S. 1 art teacher Lee Majuri to Joan Davidson, Chairperson of the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating P.S. 1's new use
June 21, 1976 [VII.D.11]

View of Richard Tuttle's installation Alanna and Her Sister, in Rooms. Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni. 1976 [II.A.83]
View of Richard Tuttle's installation Alanna and Her Sister, in Rooms
Photograph by Gianfranco Gorgoni
1976 [II.A.85]

Jennifer Bartlett installing her work Drawing and Painting (1974), for Rooms
Photograph by Jonathan Dent
1976 [III.A.83]

Special Projects and Interdisciplinary Program

Once Rooms closed, the question became how to fill the enormous space. The second exhibition at P.S. 1, A Month of Sundays (September 19–October 10, 1976), was merely a coordinated series of open studios by artists renting space in the building. But by 1977, multiple strategies had been plotted that would keep a regular system of shows running in fall, winter, and spring exhibition seasons (through the 1990s, P.S. 1 was closed during the summer). This included the Special Projects program, in which as many as twenty artists were assigned individual rooms at the school each season and given free rein to install their artwork without curatorial interference.

Memo from Linda Blumberg, IAUR Program Director, to Alanna Heiss
November 8, 1976 [VII.A.5]
Blumberg reviews the programming issues facing the IAUR, including unpaid studio rents and absentee tenants.

IAUR programming spreadsheet for the fall 1977 and winter 1978 seasons, 1977 [I.A.70]
IAUR programming spreadsheet for the fall 1977 and winter 1978 seasons
1977 [I.A.70]
This sheet illustrates the complexity of keeping the IAUR's spaces constantly filled and shows the assignment of Special Project (S.P.) rooms and large curated group exhibition spaces at P.S. 1, plus the Clocktower gallery in lower Manhattan.
Merle Temkin, Special Project proposal
1978 [I.A.201]
The artist ultimately installed a different piece, The Men's Room, in a bathroom at P.S. 1 as part of the fall 1978 Special Projects program (October 1–November 19, 1978).
Merle Temkin, Special Project proposal, 1978 [I.A.201]

Jenny Holzer, Special Project postcard and recommendation letter from Yvonne Rainier
October 10, 1977 [I.A.73]
Postcards were produced for each participant in the Special Projects program. Holzer was part of the winter 1978 program (January 15–February 18, 1978).

Workers installing Tony Rosenthal's 50' x 20' (P.S. 1) in the P.S. 1 auditorium
Photographer unknown
1980 [I.A.488]
Rosenthal participated in the fall 1980 Special Projects program (September 28–November 9, 1980).

In addition to the Special Projects program, a second solution to creating programming for P.S. 1 was the Interdisciplinary program, in which outside curators organized exhibitions focused on a single medium. Recurring programs featured film, architecture, fashion design, video, poetry, photography, and performance. Together with the Special Projects program, the Interdisciplinary program produced tremendous activity at P.S. 1, but the building still had room to spare.

Press release for winter 1979–80 season
1979 [II.A.98]
A typical summary seasonal press release showing the Special Projects and Interdisciplinary programs. The description of the main group exhibition, Image and Object in Contemporary Sculpture, is on a separate sheet.

Dan Graham, performer-in-residence proposal and postcard
c. 1977 [I.A.121]
Graham and other accepted applicants were each allowed several months to develop their works in the provided space before presenting them to an audience.

View of Roger Welch's installation Drive-In, for the winter 1980–81 film program
Photographer unknown
1980 [IX.,G.74]

Installation view and postcard (not shown) of the spring architecture program, Robert Mangurian and Craig Hodgetts: Studio Works (April 27-June 15, 1980). 1980 [I.A.463] Installation view and postcard (not shown) of the spring architecture program, Robert Mangurian and Craig Hodgetts: Studio Works  (April 27-June 15, 1980)
Photographer unknown
1980 [I.A.463]

Peter Carlsen, “Fashion Under Glass: Clothes' New Role as Museum Pieces,” GQ
January 1981 [I.A.476]
Carlsen writes about Hollywood di Russo, curator of the fashion program at P.S. 1.

View of the fashion exhibition Homer Layne's Collection of Charles James Fashions
Photographer unknown
Fall 1981 [I.A.631]

The Studio Program and Group Exhibitions

In addition to the Special Projects and Interdisciplinary program, the IAUR also rented studio space to artists at P.S. 1, a process that was formalized in national and international studio programs. The organization also continued to stage large curated group shows at P.S. 1. The building reached maximum capacity with shows such as Sound (September 30–November 18, 1979) and New York/New Wave (February 15–April 5, 1981), each involving 118 artists. In the 1980–81 exhibition year, 401 artists exhibited or performed at P.S. 1 and the Clocktower gallery. This scale of activity has been maintained, year after year, to the present day.

Ledger book of rent payments and form letter for delinquent rent. 1976–77 [IV.9]
Ledger book of rent payments and form letter for delinquent rent
1976–77 [IV.9]
This ledger book records tenants' payments for the various spaces then held by the IAUR, through summer 1977.

Studio program description
1978 [IV.49]
The national studio program slowly expanded from local applicants to a more rigorous application and selection process for artists from around the country and around the world, for year-long tenancies.

Letter from Martin Puryear to the studio program assistant Jill Kurtzer
April 28, 1977 [IV.7]
The artist was accepted for a studio space through 1978.

Recommendation letter for Kenny Scharf from Keith Haring. April 22, 1981 [IV.276] Recommendation letter for Kenny Scharf from Keith Haring
April 22, 1981 [IV.276]
As the studio program moved into the 1980s, its membership reflected the changing times; younger East Village artists such as Scharf, Mike Bidlo, and David Wojnarowicz participated in the studio program early in the decade.

View of Jody Pinto's work Underground Chamber (1977) in the exhibition Ground (October 9–November 6, 1977)
Photographer unknown
1977 [II.A.133]
Pinto's work was installed in a basement room that extended beneath the sidewalk, allowing for an alternative entrance.

Installation map of the exhibition Indoor/Outdoor Sculpture Show (April 16–May 21, 1978)
1977 [I.A.183]
On the reverse is a partial letter from artist Alan Scarritt concerning his 1979 solo exhibition at the Clocktower.

Indoor/Outdoor Sculpture Show postcard
1978 [II.A.119]
The exhibitions Ground and Indoor/Outdoor Sculpture Show demonstrated the continuing exploration by artists of the space around P.S. 1, including sidewalks and public spaces away from the building. At that time the courtyard was a parking lot with a chain-link fence, which the city would soon unsuccessfully try to sell, separately from the school building.

Proposal and postcard (depicting some of the exhibition curators) for The Altered Photograph (April 22–June 10, 1979)
1979 [I.A.287]
Ultimately the show featured “twenty-four walls—twenty-four curators” and seventy artists.

View of artwork by Richard Tuck, a Special Project in conjunction with the exhibition Sound
Photographer unknown
1979 [II.A.213]

Planning minutes for Sound
1979 [I.A.298]
The core of Sound was an exhibition organized by the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, but P.S. 1 vastly expanded the scope and number of participants.

Installation views of the exhibition New York/New Wave
Photographs by Helaine Messer
1981 [III.A.18]
This was Jean-Michel Basquiat's second show, and it helped launch his career.

>Draft artist list for the exhibition New York/New Wave by curator Diego Cortez, c. 1980 [III.A.15]
Draft artist list for the exhibition New York/New Wave by curator Diego Cortez
c. 1980 [III.A.15]
Many of these artists—including graffiti artists—were new to the art world.

Beyond the First Ten Years

The exhibition New York/New Wave (February 15–April 5, 1981) was notable for its size but also for focusing on the burgeoning artist community of New York's Lower East Side and promoting a new aesthetic that embraced punk rock, graffiti, and other aspects of popular culture. The IAUR's programming mix allowed P.S. 1 to absorb such changes and thrive, even as new political and economic threats arose to challenge the survival of nonprofit art spaces. That decade would also see P.S. 1 develop a significant international reputation as it staged large exhibitions of European and South American artists and Alanna Heiss curated shows at the Venice Biennale and elsewhere abroad.

The 1990s and 2000s brought further change to P.S. 1, including its affiliation with MoMA in 2000, and its enduring success continues to demonstrate the relevance of Heiss's original ideas: that derelict property in the heart of the city could be transformed into significant cultural space; that providing a place for artists to work and exhibit could be the best use for city property; and that placing the artist in such disregarded spaces could produce grand results.


This exhibition would not have been possible without the help of numerous individuals within The Museum of Modern Art. In the Archives, we would like to thank Michelle Elligott for her crucial support and guidance and Tom Grischkowsky for his significant time and work. Peter Oleksik and Roberto Rivera were instrumental in creating our digital images and videos; Chiara Bernasconi and Sara Dayton in realizing the video screens and web page. Sara Bodinson, Rebecca Roberts, and Julianna Goodman shepherded our texts from inception to their final form; the exhibition benefited from all their work.