Alanna Heiss works with the organization S.P.A.C.E. in London, repurposing warehouses in the St. Katherine Docks area for use as artists’ studios. She returns to America with the idea of implementing the same activities in New York City, and is hired by the Municipal Arts Society as a Project Director.
May 21: Alanna Heiss invites artists to create works and performances on piers beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, parallel to a more formal birthday celebration for the bridge, also organized by Heiss, for the Municipal Arts Society. The three-day Brooklyn Bridge Event (May 21–24, 1971) becomes the symbolic beginning of MoMA PS1.
Heiss moves forward with her plan, named Workspace, to rent industrial and unused city-owned properties for subleasing to artists as studio, rehearsal, performance, and exhibition spaces. Initially, the Workspace program is intended to exist under the aegis of the Municipal Arts Society. Available spaces are scouted out and Heiss spends months unsuccessfully attempting to secure building #13 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
April: The Institute of Art and Urban Resources (I.A.U.R.) acquires its first space, two floors of warehouse space at 10 Bleecker Street, between Elizabeth Street and Bowery, which is then sublet to artists including Philip Glass and Sydney Geist.
May 3: The first exhibition since The Brooklyn Bridge Event, Enclosures Richard Nonas (May 3–27, 1972), opens at 10 Bleecker Street. The exhibition is followed by two more group shows that year.
August 7: I.A.U.R. is incorporated independent of the Municipal Arts Society to administer the Workspace program. Alanna Heiss is named executive director and Brendan Gill is appointed chair of the board of directors.
November: The clock tower and adjoining areas of a city-owned building at 108 Leonard Street in lower Manhattan are secured by the I.A.U.R. to become studios and gallery space.
December 16: Artists studios open in unused space at the 80th police precinct station, at Washington Avenue and Park Place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
April 12: The Clocktower’s inaugural exhibition, Joel Shapiro: Sculpture (April 12–28, 1973) opens. While the Clocktower will host numerous group shows in the ensuing decades, solo shows are a focus of its programming, especially after the P.S. 1 building opens.
June: Three adjacent spaces at 22 Reade Street in lower Manhattan are leased from the city. Two of the spaces serve as studios, while the third and largest space will be used for exhibitions and performances under the name “The Idea Warehouse.”
October: Jene Highstein (October 1–31, 1973) opens at the “Condemnation Blight Sculpture Workshop” leased by the I.A.U.R. in Coney Island—the only exhibition at that location. The show is celebrated with an on-site banquet on October 7. The space is returned to the city toward the end of 1975.
May 11: Discussions: Works/Words (May 11–June 30, 1974) opens at the Clocktower. It is that space’s first group exhibition. The show also produces the first catalogue published by the I.A.U.R., a pack of small cards each listing the date of a separate performance.
January 1: Artists Make Toys (January 1–25, 1975) opens at the Clocktower. The largest group exhibition to date, it includes 59 artists and is accompanied by the I.A.U.R.’s second exhibition catalogue.
April 19: Collectors of the Seventies, Part I: Dorothy and Herbert Vogel (April 19–May 17, 1975), the first of a series of five exhibitions on art patrons, opens at the Clocktower. The exhibition is the first anywhere to showcase the Vogels’ collection.
Spring: The I.A.U.R. is made aware of the possible availability of Public School No. 1 in Long Island City, Queens. The school had been used as a city storage facility since 1963 and is in danger of being sold and demolished. Negotiations to occupy the building will continue through the next 12 months.
June 16: Ideas at the Idea Warehouse (June 16–July 11, 1975) features works and performances by 22 artists and produces a catalogue of artist-submitted content.
April 22: The I.A.U.R. signs a 20-year lease with the City of New York for P.S. 1.
June 9: To celebrate the opening of P.S. 1, a gala benefit, the P.S. 1 Prom, is held at the school. Guests are bused from Manhattan, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel are elected prom king and queen, and a high school concert band provides music. Afterward guests are invited to go swimming in the Ansonia Hotel pool in midtown Manhattan while artist Max Neuhaus performs an underwater concert.
June 9: The I.A.U.R opens P.S. 1’s inaugural exhibition, Rooms (June 9–26, 1976). Seventy-eight artists install artworks or create them onsite in the classrooms and hallways, basement and attic, closets and bathrooms, and in the parking lot/courtyard and elsewhere outside the building. Rooms artworks by Alan Saret and Richard Artschwager are still on view today. P.S. 1 appears on the cover of the October 1976 issue of Artforum magazine and discussed in a feature article by Nancy Foote, “The Apotheosis of the Crummy Space.” A catalogue for the exhibition, containing extensive installation photography and other documentation, is published in 1977.
July: Once Rooms closes, much of the building is rented out to artists and discussions begin on how best to utilize the building. The only other exhibitions held at P.S. 1 this year are A Month of Sundays (September 19–October 10, 1976)—really a coordinated series of open studios—and a handful of performances.
December: The Idea Warehouse is vacated after a fire and a decision by the city to demolish the buildings.
January 1: The first Special Project rooms open, featuring 16 artists. Each exhibition season selected artists (typically varying between 10 and 20) are assigned individual rooms and allowed to install their work or stage a performance or other activity without curatorial oversight. All Special Project rooms are on the second floor of P.S. 1, and artists also make use of the corridor, closets, and bathrooms. (Special Projects continue today, though beginning in 2000 they usually comprise a smaller set of curated solo exhibitions.)
The I.A.U.R. develops an exhibition calendar composed of roughly four seasons: fall, early winter (November and December), late winter (January and February), and spring. By 1981 the Institute will have switched over to a more consistent three-season cycle of fall, winter, and spring. Meanwhile, the Clocktower operates with a more irregular monthly or bimonthly rotation of exhibitions. Both spaces close during the summer months through the 1990s.
The Workspace program of renting studio spaces to artists is formalized as the National and International Studio Program. National artists from around the country are selected by a jury and provided space at low cost. For the International Studio Program, the I.A.U.R. signs agreements with government and cultural organizations of different countries. (In Germany the agreements are signed with municipal-level groups.) Those organizations are required to make a preliminary selection of artists to submit to the I.A.U.R. jury, subsidize the studio space, and provide a stipend for the selected artists.
Work begins on a book, titled Placing the Artist, documenting the first five years of the I.A.U.R., from The Brooklyn Bridge Event through Rooms. An outside editor, Marjorie Wellish, conducts interviews with numerous artists about their experiences in the Workspace program and their memories of particular exhibitions while supporting documentary materials are collected and organized. Work continues through 1980 but the book is never published.
October 1: The first series of interdisciplinary (or multidisciplinary) exhibitions open in the fall season. Occupying individual rooms like the Special Projects, the Interdisciplinary Program stages shows each season planned by an independent curator and focusing on specific areas, such as architecture, fashion, poetry, photography, film, video, and performance. The Interdisciplinary Program occupies a significant role in P.S. 1 programming through the late 1980s.
September 30: Sound (September 30–November 18, 1979) opens at P.S. 1. Featuring more than 160 artists in the main exhibition spaces and in the coordinated seasonal Special Projects and Interdisciplinary Programs, the exhibition is the largest yet staged by the I.A.U.R.
September 28: West/East: First Generation Environmental Sculptures (September 28, 1980–March 14, 1982) opens. The exhibition features site-specific works by Robert Irwin, Eric Orr, James Turrell, DeWain Valentine, and Doug Wheeler. Turrell’s contribution will be restored and reopened in 1986 as the permanent installation Meeting.
February 15: The exhibition New York/New Wave (February 15–April 5, 1981), curated by Diego Cortez, opens. The show features 118 artists, and embraces a distinct punk rock aesthetic. The focus on artists from the burgeoning Lower East Side arts scene heralds a generational change in the art world. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s appearance (only his second exhibition) helps launch his career.
September 25: The exhibition Expressions: New Art from Germany (September 25–November 20, 1983) opens. Organized by the St. Louis Art Museum, the show’s appearance at P.S. 1 introduces the artists Georg Baselitz, Jörg Immendorff, Anselm Keifer, Markus Lüpertz, and A.R. Penck to a New York audience for the first time. Together with the previous year’s exhibition Icebreakers: Contemporary Swedish Expressionists (November 11–December 11, 1982), Expressions signals P.S. 1’s growing attention to European and international artists.
January 12: The National and International Studio Program for the 1983–84 program year holds a group exhibition with a published catalogue, formalizing what had previously been less organized, irregularly scheduled shows of individuals or small groups of studio artists. The annual studio program exhibition is a fixture of the exhibition schedule for the next 20 years.
October 6: The Knot: Arte Povera at P.S. 1 (October 6–December 15, 1985) opens. The exhibition showcases Italian artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mario Merz, Jannis Kounellis, and Alighieri Boetti.
June 29: The Institute’s international activities continue to expand as Alanna Heiss curates the exhibition Isamu Noguchi: What Is Sculpture? (June 29–September 28, 1986) in the American Pavilion at the 42nd Venice Biennale.
April 16: The Clocktower gallery is the setting for Guerrilla Girls Review the Whitney (April 16–May 15, 1987,) the group’s most publicized activity to date. Through a series of charts, graphs, and graphic statements, the Guerrilla Girls protest the exclusion of women artists from that year’s Whitney Biennial and call attention to gender inequity in all parts of the art world.
The Institute for Art and Urban Resources officially changes its name to The Institute for Contemporary Art, P.S. 1 and The Clocktower Gallery. Since its founding in 1972, the I.A.U.R. had experimented with alternative names, occasionally using the terms Project Studios One and P.S. 1 Museum. Even with this official name change, the organization is still most commonly referred to by the names of the individual spaces, P.S. 1 and the Clocktower.
December 16: Curator Tom Finkelpearl organizes the retrospective David Hammons: Rousing the Rubble, 1969–1990 (December 16, 1990–February 10, 1991) and produces the first monograph on the artist, who is awarded a Macarthur “Genius Grant” six months later.
June 9: Following John Cage’s death the previous year, Alanna Heiss curates a tribute to the artist, The Swift Sound of Things: Cage & Co. (June 9–20, 1993), at the 45th Venice Biennale.
November 21: Stalin’s Choice: Soviet Socialist Realism 1932–1956 (November 21, 1993–February 27, 1994) opens at P.S. 1. The exhibition displays works of art from the former Soviet Union just four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. An exhibition preview held in September in Moscow coincides with Russia’s constitutional crisis of 1993.
Much of the building is closed for long-needed renovations and modernization. Designed by Los Angeles–based architect Frederick Fisher, the improvements include the installation of an elevator and the creation of the courtyard and main entrance, an area that was formerly a parking lot surrounded by a chain-link fence. Exhibitions are still organized at the Clocktower and outside venues but the Institute holds fewer exhibitions at this time than any year since 1974.
In advance of reopening, the Institute for Contemporary Art, P.S. 1 and the Clocktower Gallery changes its name to P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center.
Klaus Biesenbach, founder and director of the Berlin art space Kunst-Werke, is appointed Senior Curator at P.S. 1.
October 26: P.S. 1 holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration on the completion of the renovations, reopening to the public three days later with solo exhibitions of the artists John Coplans, Martin von Haselberg, Jack Smith, Jackie Winsor, and Lynne Yamamoto, the group shows Some Young New Yorkers; Heaven: Public View, Private View, and the National and International Studio Program. Additionally, P.S. 1 begins the Vertical Painting Series of artworks commissioned for the building’s stairwells. Finally, numerous individual artists, many of whom had participated in Rooms (such as Lawrence Weiner), create artworks and installations as part of Reopening: Installations and Projects. Altogether over 200 artists participate in the reopening. The occasion is commemorated with a cover article in Art in America (January 1998), the first time since Rooms that the building itself is so featured.
July 5: Open during the summer months for the first time in its history, P.S. 1 stages the first Warm Up series of Saturday concerts and events. The artist group Gelatin simultaneously installs a series of works in the courtyard, Percutaneous Delights, setting the pattern for the later Young Architects Program.
February 1: P.S. 1 and The Museum of Modern Art announce their institutional merger, officially begun by a letter of intent signed January 29. The merger is planned to take 10 years and is designed to preserve P.S. 1 as a center of independent experimentation and exploration.
June 20: Philip Johnson—architect and founder of MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design—designs a structure, Dance Pavilion, for Warm Up as the first collaboration between P.S. 1 and MoMA.
February 27: Greater New York (February 27–May 30, 2000), an exhibition of 147 young and emerging local artists, opens as the next major collaboration between P.S. 1 and MoMA, requiring the efforts of 30 curatorial staff members from both institutions to select and assemble the enormous show.
July 2: The architectural firm SHoP wins the first Young Architect Program (YAP) competition with their work Dunescape. Both Warm Up and YAP continue to the present day.
April 26: National and International Studio Program Exhibition (2000–01): Strangers/Étrangers (April 26–June 16, 2001) is the last exhibition held at the Clocktower. The Studio Program continues to have studios in the building through 2003.
The International Studio Program comes to an end with the last group exhibition, Visa for Thirteen (April 25–June 1, 2004). The National Studio Program had ceased the previous year.
April: Alanna Heiss launches WPS1, an Internet radio station, from renovated office space at the Clocktower. WPS1 features programs with and about artists and onsite broadcasts from Art Basel Miami, the Venice Biennale, and other fairs.
December 31: Alanna Heiss retires as director of P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center after 36 years, with the completion of the 10-year merger process with MoMA. Heiss reoccupies the Clocktower space to run Art International Radio, a continuation of WPS1, and to once again curate exhibitions in the lower Manhattan space.
October 5: The exhibition 1969 (October 5, 2009–April 5, 2010) a historical survey of artwork made in that year, features seventy-nine participants and marks the first time works from MoMA’s permanent collection are exhibited in the P.S. 1 building.
October 29: Klaus Biesenbach is named Director of P.S. 1, succeeding Alanna Heiss. Since first working at P.S. 1 in 1997, Biesenbach has held the positions of Curator in MoMA’s Department of Film and Media and Chief Curator of MoMA’s Department of Media and Performance. Biesenbach will also retain the position of Chief Curator at Large at MoMA.
P.S. 1 is officially renamed MoMA PS1, a name first suggested in 1999 at the beginning of the merger of the two institutions.