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Outside the Museum

Discover the work of two artists who thought beyond the confines of a museum.


Gordon Matta-Clark
(American, 1943–1978)

1974. Building fragments: painted wood, metal, plaster, and glass, three sections, Overall 69" x 25' 7" x 10" (175.3 x 779.8 x 25.4 cm)

Unlike most architects, who would be inclined to renovate old buildings or replace them with new ones, Gordon Matta-Clark used his training in architecture to dismantle buildings—including a derelict house in Niagara Falls, New York—and transform them into works of art. Once thriving, this town had lost its luster by the 1970s. Matta-Clark saw in its abandoned homes an opportunity to practice what he called “anarchitecture”—a combination of anarchy and architecture—through which he drew attention to non-functional or overlooked buildings, architectural sites, and spaces. With a small team of workers, he cut the house’s northern façade into nine equally sized rectangles so that it resembled a bingo game card, after which this work is titled. He left the central rectangle on the house, deposited five in a nearby sculpture park where he hoped they would be reabsorbed into the earth, and kept three, which are now in MoMA’s collection. These are displayed aligned on the gallery floor so that viewers can walk around them and see segments of both the interior and exterior of the house. By inserting pieces of the outside world into an art museum, Matta-Clark hoped to draw attention to the troubled state of a real world place and its affected residents.

The science, art, or profession of designing and constructing buildings, bridges, and other large structures.

A three-dimensional work of art made by a variety of means, including carving wood, chiseling stone, casting or welding metal, molding clay or wax, or assembling materials.

Any public-facing side of a building, often featuring decorative finishes.

Deconstructing Construction
Matta-Clark said, “By un-doing a building there are many aspects of the social condition against which I am gesturing: to open a state of enclosure which had been preconditioned not only by physical necessity but by the industry that profligates suburban and urban boxes as a context for ensuring a passive, isolated consumer—a virtually captive audience…Under contract with the city I was to complete the work [Bingo] in ten days, during which time a major part of the exterior was to be sectioned into 9 equal parts, measuring 5’ x 9’. Eight of the façade segments were cut free, lowered intact, and crated for transport.”

Questions & Activities

  1. In the Weeds?

    Matta-Clark said the building from which Bingo came was “last used as a beauty parlor removed to make room for weeds.” What do you think he meant by this statement?

    Write down your interpretation in a short poem or 200-word essay.