Few Resources, Lots of Creativity

1980s Events Exhibitions Staff Talks

Starting out with few resources, the MCA found ways to connect audiences with artists in programs such as gallery talks with Vito Acconci and Jeff Koons.

So, with very small resources, and a lot of creativity, I think over the years we really tried a lot of ways of reaching out to people, giving tours by artists, about other artists’ work, which were very successful, and I know we continue to do those today. Having gallery talks by the artists, even very early on. I remember Vito Acconci doing a gallery talk which was just insane because he had to smoke. Everybody smoked back then. They smoked in the galleries. Walking back and forth pacing, and just being Vito, and people just lapping it up. And I totally remember the gallery talk that Jeff Koons gave for his first show, which people were actually kind of aggravated and irritated, because he was showing his MBA posters and his liquor ads, and people really didn’t understand how those were art, and were kind of going after him about it.

So, the fact that the tours with the artists were something that people could really have direct experience with the artists were, again, something we did very early on. So, it’s been really interesting to see that at the same time as we move into the 21st Century that a lot of people don’t need to be told what contemporary art is. They kind of know what it is. But they still are just clamoring for so much information, and we’re still experimenting with strategies for how to reach people and make them comfortable in what might be an uncomfortable situation. But the fact that the MCA always did artist-activated audience-engaged works—we didn’t use those terms. Those were Madeleine’s mission terms, but that’s what was really happening from the very beginning, from the first show, which we did at Happening, and people got to interact with Allan Kaprow and take part in the Happening, and things like that.

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