Art Worker's Coalition

Documents 1 (1969) [PDF, 53mb]
Documents 1 is a detailed collection of ephemera highlighting the formation and activities of what became known as the Art WorkersÕ Coalition from January through May 1969. Documents I includes correspondence between the Coalition and local museums. It also includes the 13 Demands, meeting notes, protest flyers, and news articles among others things.

Open Hearing (1969) [PDF, 22mb]
Open Hearing is a collection of statements submitted by artists, writers and members of the creative community that gathered on April 10, 1969 at the School of Visual Art in New York City to discuss artists' rights and museum reform. This came after failed attempts by the Art Workers' Coalition to organize a public hearing with the representatives of the Museum of Modern Art. Participants were asked to bring written statements to compliment their speeches and this document is collection of these written statements as well as transcriptions by some (but not all) of the participants of the hearing.


The Art Worker's Coalition (AWC) was a loose group of artists, writers, and members of the creative community formed in January 1969 after the artist Takis protested the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) by removing his sculpture from their exhibition, "The Museum as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age." In the case with Takis, the artist was concerned with his ability to control the exhibition of his work after it had been sold (the Museum had exhibited his work against his wishes because they owned it and felt that their right of ownership superseded his rights as an artist to control its exhibition).

This initial protest was a spark that ignited the coalitionÑwhich gathered members and concerns exponentially throughout the early months of 1969. At the time, AWC was concerned with the responsibility of museums to artists and aimed their efforts at building a dialogue between themselves and MoMA. Another early issue was better representation of Black and Puerto Rican artists in MoMA as well as the other local museums.

As the coalition grew in membership, so did its concerns, which the AWC sought to publicly discuss at MoMA. When these efforts proved unsuccessful, the coalition held an Open Hearing at the School of the Visual Arts on April 10, 1969, in which hundreds of people attended. Written statements were collected (some of which were read and some of which were not) and the proceedings were later transcribed. The statements were published in book form by the AWC under the name Open Hearing. At the same time, the AWC also published Documents 1 a collection of letters, press, and ephemera documenting the formation of the Coalition and its dialogue with MoMA.

Following the Open Hearing, AWC's emphasis broadened to address the political and social events and concerns of its time: racism, sexism, abortion rights, Vietnam, and Kent State, among others. With so many issues, AWC eventually splintered, with groups like Women Artists in Revolution, Guerilla Art Action Group, and Art Strike addressing specific concerns while remaining affiliated with AWC.

Art Workers Coalition remained active through Spring of 1971, with its last protest at the Guggenheim, which had cancelled a solo exhibition by Hans Haacke, on May 1, 1971. Many of its splinter groups continued throughout the 70s and 80s and were fundamental to addressing the unequal representation of the minority and women artists in the art worldÑa battle that is still being fought today.

Presented in collaboration with Primary Information.