You are on page 1of 11

The MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts London , England conceptua I art and the politics of publicity

alexander alberro
mous implications of the art produced in tandem with the practice of presentation he orig· ~
chapter seven
inated. Not only were the new modes of artistic production, presentation, and distribution ~
the siegelaub idea
~.
capable of expanding the work's audience, but according to Siegelaub they also rendered
"the idea of individual ownership of works of art" a "passe condition," in many cases "totally
~

impossible" since "the experience" of an art presented through the infrastructure of public­ '"
ity and display "is everybody's immediately." Recall that his advert in ArtfOrum for the Hue­
"(;
'"~
bier show, in its role as documentation, already constituted a fragment of the work, and

~
therefore whoever possessed the journal had a stake in the artist's production; similarly,
Barry's Inert Gas was publicly accessible through a telephone answering service in Los An­
..;:
.
~
:l.
geles. By harnessing the distribution medium, Siegelaub made an unlimited viewership a
real possibility. S This condition, in which art became unpreceden tedly uncircumscribed and =c

mobile, put pressure on structures such as the gallery network that hierarchize through in­
'"
~

clusion and exclusion. "Now," Siegelaub observed in the spring of 1969, an artist does not
~"~
a
"have to be involved in a gallery or be uptight about not having a gallery. [Whereas] before
it was a sign of shame. It doesn't make any fucking difference anymore.'"
~
Rather than a gallery in a particular fixed location, Siegelaub's site of exhibition
was as ephemeral as it was vast. "I broke down, like, what a gallery does. What is its func ­
tion' Its primary function is that it's a place for artists to put their work out. But it breaks
Artists have finally been accepted as idea men and not merely as craftsmen with poetic thoughts.
down to many aspects. . There's space, there's money, there's exposure or publicity, you
-Seth Siegelaub. 19691 know, there are a number of things. And I've just, in a sense, eliminated space. My gallery is
the world novl" Of course, the work produced by the artists he represented facilitated this
Is it so surprising that in a time when postindustrial ephemeralization is rampant, when inror­
conception of space, since one of the characteristics of a work presented in linguistic and
mation bits are speedier and more important than heavy matter or face-to-face contact, when we
graphic terms as pages in catalogues and magazines was that it could be distributed "all
are bombarded with message units, when time is so precious it almost has become a substance,
over the world very very quicklY"
when space is at a premium, when history forces us to dematerialize, that artists everywtlere
Most significant for Siegelaub at the time was his belief that the ability to distrib­
should come up with Conceptual Art? Conceptual Art is a symptom of globalism and it is the
ute the new art as primary information made geographical "decenrralization" possible. ")
first-Surrealism almost was-really international art style. think New York is beginning to break down as a cen ter," he remarked in the summer of 1969.
-John Perreault, 1971' "Not that there will be another city to replace it, but rather where any artist is will be the
center."' From Siegelaub's perspective, the deterritorializing properties of conceptual art lib­
erated it not only from traditional institutional sites of display, but also from geographical
Even before the "January 5-31. 1969" show closed, Siegelaub was planning several more pub­ centers .' o In this sense, Siegelaub's metaphors of a shrinking world of complex connectivity
lic exhibitions that employed the infrastructure of publicity as medium and problematized were of a piece with the infamous communications discourse propagated by Marshall
the rraditional boundaries of artistic production.' He increasingly came to realize the enor­ McLuhan and his followers, who exalted advances in telecommunications and their global
'"'"
... message with delirious optimism. McLuhan's championing of th'e medium of communica­ extraordinary reversal of the usual format in which primary information is on view in the

"' tion over the contents of media messages, encapsulated in his formula "the medium is the exhibition space, and the catalogue is reserved for secondary information . It also indicated

message; transferred meaning onto the medium itself through the technological structure. a transformation of the very nature of the art represented. As Siegelaub explained in a No­

The sign value of art became triumphant as art's use value (and exchange value) came to be vember 1969 interview, ~~

determined by its mode of distribution rather than its content. Not everyone celebrated the "a.
potential of new media so uncritically, as is evident in the contemporaneous work of Hans when art does not any longer depend upon its physical presence, when it has become an abstraction, ~
~
it is not distorted and altered by its representation in books and catalogues. It becomes PRIMARY ~
Magnus Enzensberger, who warned against the one-way communication of the media at
~
pains to exclude the possibility of response. Enzensberger's argument represents the oppo­
ll information; while the reproduction of conventional art in books or catalogues is necessarily
When information is PRIMARY, the catalogue can become the

.;
site pole from MCLuhan's position, a critical standpoint to which Siegelaub would gradually
move in the following years.
SECONDARY information.
exhibition. IS
i
Siegelaub's hyperbolic post-196B proclamations of global interconnectedness , of or
~

the world as his gallery, have direct parallels in the consequences of the cybernetic and
informational revolutions for marketing and finance . The ·postindustrial ephemeralization"
Yet, when we consider that Morris's piece at the "Joseph Kosuth, Robert Morris" show fea­
tured a rubber stamp on the paper towels in the restrooms-presumably, anyone who han­
".
~

00
~
;;
C
t7
of the 1960s and 1970s, in which mechanized technologies of communication were intensi­ dled a paper towel would thus possess the work-the possibility that something else was at
fied to the point that capital and informational transfers could be instantaneously effectu­ play becomes real. By restricting the primary information to the catalogue, Siegelaub had ~
ated around the globe from one national zone to another, dramatically announced a new also limited and controlled the potential ownership of the work.
phase of globalization." From the instrumental point of view of advanced capitalism, what Another exhibition Siegelaub organized that year, "One Month," took the form of a
was heralded was an increased functional proximity, in which deterritorialized spaces and calendar of the month of March 1969, during which a day was assigned to each of the thirty_
connecting corridors were created to ease the flow of capital (including its commodities and one invited artists ." As with "The Xerox Book," the information presented in the catalogue
personnel), and the time-space compression of connectivity ·was matched with a degree of was "primary" and there was no exhibition site or gallery to be visited." "You dontneed walls

cultural · compression."" The fact that conceptual art's method of production and Siege­ to show ideas; Siegelaub explained to Art in America's David Shirey in the spring of 1969, ex­
laub's method of distribution were at one with globalization soon rendered both profoundly tolling the virtues of working with primary rather than more conventional secondary infor­ J
economic, and integrated them into advanced capitalism's generalized commodity system . mation. 'People who have galleries can show their objects only in one place at a time. I'm not
But this fate was not initially evident. limited. I can have my ideas in twenty different places at once. Ideas are faster than tedious
objects."" In other words, the new method of exhibition not only delimited the size of the au­
INFORMATION AND PHANTASMAGORIA dience, but also shifted the emphasis from objects to ideas. And according to Siegelaub, now
that the object had been eliminated and the art only existed as an idea, to become aware of
In 1969 Siegelaub organized a series of shows characterized by greatly broadened exhibition that idea was to possess it."

spaces and artworks that further decentered the relationship between primary and second­ The implications of this new mode of art for the market were enormous, as evi­
ary information. For "Joseph Kosuth, Robert Morris: sponsored by Bradford Junior College's denced by Patricia Norvell 's somewhat puzzled observation during her early 1969 interview
Laura Knott Gallery in March of that yea r, the primary information was presented in the with Siegelaub : "You can't make anyone pay for thinking about [artJ.""Siegelaub soon found
catalogue and the secondary information on the premises of the gallery space." This was an a solution to this obstacle, as the traces ·of these "thoughts" came to be offered for sale as
~

'"'"
fetishistic substitutes for the "lost" objects. Here again, the parallels between this new art media are making possible mass participation in a social and socialized productive process, ..
'"'"
~

and advertising (which sells ideas as fluidly as objects) are striking. for as Baudrillard shows the practical means of which are in the hands of the masses themselves:'" However, En­ ~
~..
in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, advanced capitalism relies on the construc­ zensberger continues, "in its present form equipment like television or film does not serve
tion of sign values to establish the relative values of objects" With systems of thought and communication but prevents it. It allows for no reciprocal action between transmitter and
signs (and not just material objects) reified and commodified. even priceless ness can con­ receiver~" This inadequacy occurs not because of a lack of technology for a two-way flow of "
CI.
."
(;
communication, but rather because the social structure of advanced capitalism prevents its
tribute to the marketing of a product by increasing its desirability.
The distinction between primary and secondary information was also central to realization." According to Enzensberger, without a radical transformation of the basic eco­
~
;
the "Simon Fraser Exhibition" that Siegelaub organized at the gallery of Simon Fraser Uni­ nomic system upon which Western society is based, the overarching unidirectional relation­
ship of transmitter and receiver will not be altered regardless of how revolutionary and
..;.
versity (SFU] in Vancouver for May and June of 1969." As he outlined the show to university ~
potentially communicative the media. This was precisely the situation that confronted
a
officials:
Siegelaub. Although he had discovered the means by which to transmit and disseminate ..
~

The exhibition will have no title.... The overall plan: 1. Print 1000 copies of the enclosed poster be­ art to a broader public, the commodity form was not abolished; the basic capitalist eco­ ;;;'
~
fore the exhibition opens, and distribute. 2. During 19 May and 19 June the work of each artist will nomic structure remained in place and governed how the art market did business. Thus , to ~

be introduced into the community at Simon Fraser. 3. (Towards) the end of the exhibition a catalog return to a concrete example, though the Xerox Corporation's photocopy machine po­
tentially provided an ideal means of aesthetic production. as Enzensberger woefully notes ,
~
of the exhibition (,what has happened') will be printed and distributed (approximately 12 pages
with photos-details to .fOllow)." "The technically most advanced electrostatic copying machine, which operates with ordi­
nary paper-which cannot. that is to say, be supervised and is independent of suppliers-is
What is striking about this "overall plan" is the equivalence it posits between the work and the property of a monopoly (Xerox) , on principle it is not sold but rented. The rates them­
its publicity. As he had done on several recent occasions, Siegelaub also organized a sympo­ selves ensure that it does not get into the wrong hands:'" Which begins to explain why in the
sium with the artists to coincide with the exhibition. In this case, however, he arranged for end Siegelaub was ultimately denied access to the more advanced technology of Xerox
the artists to communicate with each other and the audience by means of a telephone (which was reserved to serve more clearly corporate interests) and had to rely on a conven­
hookup linking New York (Kosuth, Barry, LeWttt, Weiner, Huebler. and Siegelaub in the role tional printing press for his "Xerox Book" project.
of moderator), Ottawa (Baxter) , and Vancouver Gocal critics and curators). This multicontext In March of 1969 Siegelaub embarked on a show, "July. August, September 1969,"
electronic conversation was transmitted to an assembled audience over the public address that sought to extend over an even greater geographical scope, iterating "a certain interna­
system in the SFU Theater." Telephones were also installed in the theater, and, following an tional sensibility that [hej sensed among artists throughout the world" (fig. 7.1) ." Meta­
exchange between the artists. the audience was invited to participate in the discussion. phOrically alluding to the phenomenon of decentralization rapidly coming to characterize
This use of technology to enhance communications not only indicates the consid­ modem life, the exhibition took place simultaneously in a number of geographical locations
erable energy and creativity with which Siegelaub operated at the time, but also provides a widely separated from one another, but excluding New York City.JO Some of the works were
further example of media fetishization and points to a utopian belief that technology could instantaneous, others only accessible part of the time, and yet others observable throughout
directly produce communication. This view had been held earlier by Walter Benjamin in di­ the length of the show and beyond . The trilingual exhibition catalogue was the only site
alogue with Bertolt Brecht. and later by Enzensberger who, referring to Brecht's essay on the where the show was presented as a whole" According to Siegelaub, the multilingual text en­
potential use of radio. noted about mass media generally, "For the first time in history, the abled the show to transcend a limiting locality, furthering "global communications, rather

'"
....
;'
,:

than limited and limiting local distribution."" Globalization contributed to the catalogue's ~

function as a broad frame, marking the global bounds of the primary information presented

~
r.'(\0.
~
in this international show.
..,. . .....t.....~"'4r- ~ 10e "July, August, September 1969" show crystallized the key aspects ofSiegelaub's ~

. /'"
. catalogue·exhibitions. First, the exhibition catalogue was kept as disinterested and neutral ..,'"
1'). ,./' 0
,:L-
V ......~..,
as possible. introductory comments were conspicuously absent. as were explanatory critical
['"
essays. Second, the works were presented in an undiscriminating way, precluding hierarchy
~
among the artists. Each artist was allocated the same amount of space: two pages.1Oird, the
..
;]

thirty·two pages were divided into two sections, one presenting "primary information" ("the ~
..
''""!i

'
work itselfj and the other "secondary information" about where and when the material el· a
ements that supplemented that primary information could be seen during the show To·
~':~:5;~'
:r

gether, the two sections functioned to delineate the parameters of the individual pieces
"
~

included in the exhibition, thereby making them more comprehensible to the public. in all
'~"
':i:
a
cases, however. the catalogue served to present the work throughout the world. By reve~ing
,
~.
.,.. . , "
the relationship and rendering the material in the catalogue primary information and that
~
J
at the particular geographical sites secondary information, Siegelaub once again lifted artis· 1
tic production from its hitherto close connection with physical locality and disseminated it !
,\
quickly and broadly. 10is method of distribution paralleled transformations in the dissemi· /
nation of information brought about by contemporary globalization."
f,
Siegelaub's euphoria about information going back and forth quickly parallels ,:
McLuhan's pronouncement of the "global village" in which "electric circuitry has overthrown
}.
the regime of 'time' and 'space' and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns
of all other men."" Both envision a kind of cyberspace in which culture and. more directly for
Siegelaub, art have reached their ultimate dematerialization, as messages pass instanta·
neously from one nodal point to another across the globe, the formal material world. In this )1
transformation, with artworks become increasingly phanstasmagoric, existing primarily as
,
the dissemination of information, the possibility of devising concrete material structures I
capable of anchoring ownership seemed more than ever to be an impossibility

THE RECONSTITUTION OF THE FRAGMENT

By the end of 1969, the importance of Siegelaub's catalogues and the work they exhibited

G Cover of July, August, September 1969, 1969 was broadly acknowledged in North America and Europe. Articles in a wide array of news·
'"'"
o papers and journals, including the New York Times, Studio International, New York, Mademoiselle, I'm involved with the Art Workers' Coalition, and I'm becoming very, very concerned about being ~

'" even the Financial Times, reported on the "January 5-31, 1969" exhibition" The rapidly grow­ able to assist in whatever way I can to get artists together to be able to get more power in the com­ ~
ing focus on Siegelaub's activities cUlminated in Vogue magazine selecting him as one of the munity over their art, over their life issues, and things of this nature. I'm very concerned with things iii"

like unions for artists. And I'm very concerned about the international aspects of what's going on, ~
most likely to succeed in the upcoming decade.'· By mid-1969, in one of the more startling ~
~
Co
inversions of the mode of fabrication, exhibition, and distribution that Siegelaub had spear­ that's why my catalogues, and all of my books in thefuture, will be in two or three languages." ."
;
headed, not only the totality of his practice but also the work it featured was discussed in the Co
[
popular press as "the Siegelaub idea." Mademoiselle reported that the "essence of the Siege­ At the same time, Siegelaub's conception of his function in the art world began to
~
laub idea. . is: the idea is the work of art."" This led some to speculate that Siegelaub had
crossed the line and taken on the role of an artist-a role he refused to accept publicly."
change. He swiftly shifted from the role of a publicist promoting a small group of artists to a
catalyst for organizing exhibitions, as he referred to himself in April 1969." By the end of the
.3
;:
~

The growing political dimension of Siegelaub's work was reinforced by the dis­ year he divested himself of the artists even further, seeking to "push the interest of art rather a
paraging remarks of critics such as Barbara Rose who, in the summer of 1969, noted that "a than pushing artists."" This transformation was not superficial but structural and systemic. ;;:
~
~

great deal of the new art cannot be bought, sold, owned or traded" in the conventional man­ As he wrote in a letter of9 May 1969 requesting money from potential sponsors to underwrite iii'
~
ner, and warned that "if one wanted to read a political message into recent American art, it his activities, iii"
g.
would be that this country is on the way to some form of socialism."" Placing Siegelaub's art
practice in the context of the protest movements of the late 1960s was neither inconsistent 1 am presently re-orienting my function in the Art community from that of a so-called 'dealer­
~
nor far-fetched_ In 1969 Siegelaub became increasingly involved in the newfound commu­ consultant' to that of simply a ·consultant'. .. 1 have become interested in the broader communi­
nity spirit of the Art Workers Coalition. In April of that year he began to contemplate ways in cations between artists around the world. . I am concerned about the artists being able to have
which artists might receive more rights and exert greater control over their work. He openly their work known no matter where they live- not just artists living in New York ."
wondered during the interview with Norvell: "Why don't artists have a community of inter­
est amongst themselves the way musicians have, an ASCAP (American Scciety of Com­ Here Siegelaub articulates an idea that would come to fruition only at the end of the century:
posers, Authors, and Publishers] or some musicians' union. You know, whereas a man can the global art world_
compose music and be relatively sure that when the music is played somewhere he gets His success in fixing his new identity as "consultant" was debatable, since his cre­
royalties on it."<O ative role in the art world was strong. Indeed when the organizers of "Prospect 69," Konrad
Parallel , then, to the growing public if not financial success of the artists he repre­ Fischer andJiirgen Harten, contacted Siegelaub inJune 1969 to ask whether he would include
sented, Siegelaub found it imperative to develop an alternative structure to protect their the four artists he represented in their show, he responded by proposing thirteen artists
rights. Though his efforts addressed all artists generally. they were most relevant to the con­ instead." Fischer and Harten ultimately rejected Siegelaub's expanded proposal, and, reluc­
ceptual artists associated with him due to the special nature of their work. As his involve­ tantly, the latter agreed to present only the work of Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, and Weiner_" At
ment in the AWC grew, Siegelaub's antagonism toward the status quo intensified, arid his play were the struggle between the art world and market and the dehierarchizing practice of
efforts to decentralize the art world took on a more explicitly political slant. We get a glimpse Siegelaub. The market system demands individual representatives and artists, and it had al­
of this in his comments to the curator Elayne Varian in a June 1969 interview conducted in ready recognized those associated with Siegelaub who had the most potential to succeed.
preparation for an article she was writing on new practices of dealing: But in the late 1960s the novelty of Siegelaub's practice of presentation continued
unabated. For the "Prospect 69" show he presented the work of Barry. Huebler, Kosuth, and
~
Weiner in the form of a series of self-interviews to appear in the exhibition catalogue, re­

calling the Arthur R. Rose interviews that supplemented the "January 5-31,1969" exhibition ~

(fig. 7.2). Whereas the earlier interviews had served as secondary information publicizing the ;0­

artists' work, they now functioned as primary information; the interviews were the work.
~
Each fragment, formerly incomplete and needing to direct its attention elsewhere, beyond it­
...~
-c
(;
self, toward what was supposed to complete (and also abolish) it, now constituted a whole
[
artwork in its own right. In the process, publicity took on an "art" status. The tenuousness of
the fragment was superseded by this reconstitution of secondary information as primary.
.~
~
~
THE ARTIST'S RESERVED RIGHTS
~i::-~:_
~
TRANSFER AND SALE AGREEMENT
""'; /-:1 ".
~
~

tL~:~~i-,~; 0;­

"Prospect 69" was the last exhibition in which Siegelaub exclusively presented the work of "0­

Barry, Huebler, Kosuth, and Weiner. Rather than representing the concerns of a small group ~

of artists, he now perceived his role to be to disseminate this new, experimental art as ~dely

and extensively as possible." Accordingly, in the twelve months following the summer of

1969, Siegelaub helped organize an unaffiliated series of what he referred to as "large, inclu­

sive chaotic exhibitions ~" The egalitarian condition of these shows was unprecedented, as

they refused all normative limits previously governing the production and exhibition of art.

Any type of proposal demanded to be considered equal in value to any other, and the role of

artist was open to anyone regardless of aaining"

Not surprisingly, given the conaadictory nature of much of the highly innovative
art during this period, the opposite reading emerged at the same time. [n an April 1969 re­
view of Siegelaub's "One Month" exhibition in The Nation, for instance, Lawrence Alloway
noted that such "aphoristic or propositional forms of art" integrated the fact that art was es­
sentially"a aansmittable commodity" into their very form. According to Alloway, this made
it both more difficult and easier for the dealer to distribute the art. On the one hand, "as doc­
uments or as irteducible presence, ... the galleries cannot do much to display such work
within the canon of authenticity which is their main source of mon~ But on the other hand,
since "the techniques by which art objects are sold can also be applied to the thoughts or the
services of the artist:' "handling coded information rather than precious things" leaves "the

B Pages lram Prospect 69, 1969 system of distribution of art which the galleries represent ... baSically intact," and in fact
'"'"
... makes the dealer's job less expensive and more efficient. so Alloway thus echoes Kaprow's ob­
'" Artist's agreement
servation cited earlier that as art becomes more and more integrated with advertiSing, deal­ AGREEMENT OF ORIGINAL TRANSFER OF WORK OF ART
ers will increasingly be able to manage the careers of the new artists.51 Concomitant with FlU in date. This agreemenl made this d«yof . 19_ _. by and 1:Ht~
names and
addresses - - - - - - - - - - -_ _ _ _ _ _ _-lChereinalter the "Artist"), mldingaJ
easier and more efficient systems of distribution came an increased anxiety concerning of C'arties
--------------------------~~
ownership and authorship. For though the artists themselves may have denied or questioned - _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ (h.rwlnan.t U. "Collector"), residng
.,L-___________________________
traditional concepts of authorship, this did not arrest anxiety concerrilng authenticity
WITNESSETH: . .
Siegelaub had developed a rather efficient means of retailing this art: as early as WHEREAS tf'1e Artist haa creatad Ihal certain wortr. of art;
Fill in data Titla: IdenlilicaUon . : _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __
iden1itylng

1968 he had drawn up "the relevant documents to certify ownership" that would be trans­ IheWork
Oale : Matarial : _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __

ferred to collectors to affirm their property" But as he became increasingly politicized in the OlmeMlons: Oescriptlon : _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
(hera/n.", "the Work"); .,d
immediately following years, this marketing strategy was put in the service of protecting =~;~I ~u~~t~~:1!:~ :::ne~;,°!'n-::=~r=r~~~;ng to purchase the Work from

WHEREAS Collector and ArtIlt racognlze thai tN vatu. of It. Wor1t, unllk, IMt of an ordinary chan..,. I:!

artists' economic rights and control over their work, culminating in the Artist's Reserved and will be .~et.d by ..ch and e~.ry other wolil: 01 an the Art~1 has crwat.d and will hereafter creal,: and

WHEREAS tt. partin expecl rha value at the Work 10 Inc,... here_fler: and

Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement (figs. 7.3-7.5). WHEREAS Cort.ctor II'd Anial, recognize thai It it tltting and proper thsl Arlil,\>artlcipate In any appred.

emi value which may tf'1ua b, craaled In th' Work: and . .

WHEHEAS the p.rtles wish the integrity and cl.rity of the Artlsrs ide.. and sta,lements in Ina Wort.: to tit

Commencing in late 1969 and continuing for the better part of a year, Siegelaub meintalned and sublectln Plrt fo the will or advice 01 !he creator of ttll Work,

NOW, THEREFORE, In con,iderallon 01 the foregOing pramisn and the mutual covenants nareinalle r stt

torth and o!her valueJM consld....lione ... partiat herale 8gree ., follows:

conducted exploratory conversations in the art world, particularly in New York but also in Fill in price
ot value; strika PURCHAaI' AND SALE. ARTICLE oNE: TN Artilt hireby' sell. to CollectDr Ind Colkictor hereby pure~

the Work tlom Artist ,ubjectlo ai' 1M covenants ntreln ... t tonh (for tf'Ie Dri~ 01 ' .

Europe, and, with the help of New York lawyer Robert Projansky, drafted a contract that OUI one nOI
applicable
racelpt or which It herwby acknowledged) (It the agreed valuation for tM PUrpGSH of tf'1is agreemenl 01

~---~-I. .. . ,
would safeguard the interests of artists. In January 1971, this draft was photocopied and dis­ FUTUf'E TRANSFERS: ARTICLE rNO : Coflector rowenan" tMlln the evant Collector ,,...U !'WInntt,r sell
$l1..... t.-rant. bar1er. excrtanga. USlgn. lransfer, convey 0' alienate thI Work. in a~ ITlllnne, whatlOeYer or
tributed at no cost to five hundred people through art schools, universities, galleries, muse­ Fill In name, :"~~nI~:=~~~ ~r:~:!r;;~o~r8::~ro~r'~~~=~~n;'f:niJO~ei~r':.n:~~~:· destroyed
address of
ums, artists' bars, and Siegelaub's by now extensive mailing list, asking for their opinion" artist's agen!. .1 ~~J,J!_':~ ~i:tlo~i~'t:.~:I':n~I~:!:~:' j~= ~O~n'~:r:',Ia~":le~eedi~n::
if any; slrike
oul one nol ~:~::c~.,~d~~:~:~ho~ri~~rs:.nn~1 r:":p~:,:and collector's transleree. with \tit
Then, with the help of the replies received, the final form of the contract was prepared, along appticOll>fe st ) within mlrty day. of ,u.::h transr... , CID­
tribuUorl. or payment at Insurance proceeda. and Ihall
with information about its use, and widely disseminated in a number of contexts and lan­ Fill in !'tame. (bl P«Y' ,urn equal to "fteen pereant (15'%) 01 the Appreciated Value (as herelnaf~r defined). if 1ITf.
address of ~rir,aa=)b7A~:e':~:;~: :~~=~' payment 01 Insurance procndaIl~ (ArHat at the addrns SII
arll s!'s agent.
guages" The contract first appeared in Studio International in April 1971, along with Siege­ if any: strike _ _~_ _ _~_ _ ) within thirty day, at such transler, dlatributlon, OJ paytMnl of lnaurenct
procMds. . .
out on8 nol
applicable PRIC!JYALUI!.. ARnClE THREE: The "price or walue" \0 be ."UUed on • mANSFER AGREE"MENT AND
laub's explanatory preamble outlining how it was initially conceived and the practical details RECORD shall be: .
of its current use. The instructions read: "1. To begin Xerox or offset a number of copies of . ~~ , :: ~n!~~~I:go~~e!:~:,:~~s'lS:: :~;?I"::;':~ 0;
tlorr; or "
8
exchanged lor v"uable cone/de"
Ie) !he tair marbl value 01 the Work H illS transferred In any other m..u,er.
each page of the agreement form~ The easily accessible Agreement, distributed as printed APPRECIATED YALUI!.. ARTICLE FOUR: "Appreciated Velue" of thI Work lor I,he purposes ollhis Agree­
ment. shatl ba lhe inc",,,, II any, in U. walue or price 01 the Worle set forO! In • current duly axecul8d
matter in journals and magazines, was similar in form to much of the art Siegelaub had re­
cently represented. Projansky's meticulous brief of the legal terms of the Agreemen t advised
:::~: =~~E~::N~~E~e~R~~~~~~~ ~~bb~t.r~~~ I~r!;:::~!o~o~n d~~ I::~~~
filed TRANSFER AGREEMENT AND RECORO, aver 1M price or value sel lortn In ARTICLE ONE herlin
c::
<a) In n. ..... nt. current duly axecuted TRANSFER AGREEMENT ANO RECORD Is nOI. Ilmely flied.

artists who might be interested in employing it without incurring legal consultation fees. The ~~S~E~ ~~ECE~Em~~~~C~,f~'~~vna~':Iy'=~c~~:I~et.re:._wie:'~~~~(I~~~h,;;,::
thI~in equal to the actual market valua 01 !he Work at the time of tf'1e current Iramler or I' Ihi time
the discove..,. of such transfer,
contract greatly expanded artists' ability to negotiate sales without relying on galleries or
other such intermediaries. Both comprehensible and accessible, Siegelaub and Projansky's
Agreement pushed the former's efforts to reform dominant art market practices. Now artists
could even control the financial aspects of their production.
Broadly speaking, then, the Agreement was a political project that provided the
groundwork for substantive artist empowerment. The hidden inequities and injustices it ad­ G Seth Siegeiaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist 's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale
Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971
Artist's agreement Artist's agreement
TRANSFEREES TO RAnFY AOREEEMENT. ARTICLE FIVE : eoll,ctor hlreby covenants thai he will not
hereallAlr ,all, give, grant, barter, exchange. assign, transf'r, convey or ,Iianlte the Work. In any manne'
whatsoever or permit the Wor1t to pus by inhlrlt.nce or bequest or by operation of law to any person
'Aithove procuring such transferee' s f8tincalion and affirm_lion 01 all lhe terms 01 thiS! Agreement and
.!XPtRAnON. ARTICLE SIXTEEN: Thia Agre.ment and the covenanls herein shall be binding upon lilt'
partie•• lhelr heirs, legatees, executors. administrators, assigns, tran!lferees and all other succ........
Intere" and the Collecto r' s eovenents do attach and run 'Nith the Work lind $hall be Dlnd/ng to and
twenty-one (21) years after tI'Ie dealhs of Artlat and Artbl'a surviving spouse. II any. • xcept th.al "­
!'
un"
IrSnsl.ree', agreement 10 be bound h8rl1by 100 10 perform and fulfi ll aJl of che Collector's covenan!.s set covenants: sellor!h in ARTICLE SEVEN, ARTICLE EIGHT and ARTICLE TEN her.in shall De binding ~
~~~hC~~:~~':I~ c~~~~!~~~n':i~~~tJ~~~~~iR~~~~~M~N~V~~OC~~~~h transferee's subscriplion
dUring the lif. of the Anlst .
WAlVE:RS NOT CONnNUINQ. ARTICLE SEVENTEEN: My waiver by alther p. tTy 0' any proyision of If'Iit\
S!nte QUI one PROVENANCE. ARTICLE SIX: Anist hertby covenants that (Artist) (Artlsl's agent for the purpose as set Agreemen~, or of 11'1'1 right hereunder. shall nol ~ deemed a continuing waiYe, and shall not praYl!nt or

~~yS:~ho~,r~~~~:~f~;,',,"~~~~c~u;:,fo~~~~~ ~r !~h~r~~ :~~~:~~~~~ ~~~sIAv~


oolapplieaOla forth In AAnCLE TWO) will maintain a rile and nlcord of each and every transfer 01 the Work for ,*hich •
TRANSFER AGREEMENT ANO RECORD 1'1 . . been duly filed pursuant to ARTICLE TWO herein and will at
the reques t 01 the Collector or Collaetor's SlJCC8lSOr'1l in Inlerest, lUI fnat inlarest snllli appear, lumlsn in menl by !ha oth.r p.rty shall not be conlruecl ss a waiyer or ntlinquishrnent ror Ihe future 01 any such t8rmI
writing a pro'l9nan~ a~d hlltory 01 the Woril; based upon. said records and upon Coneeto~' notices of or prOVisions. but the sam. shall continue i n lull forc. and atracl.
proposad public exhibitions and will certify In writing said provenance and hlttory and the .uthenticity 01
[he Work to Collector and his succelSo~ In Intamt, IIIId• • t Collector's rauonabt. requ est. to critics and ~=~~~:!,:'~~,N:!c~~n~~~i~~~Hze~ ~'~~r:7tJ·;;.shall not be subject to amendment, ~
scholars. Said recordl ,hall be the sole property of the ArttsL
ATTORNEYS' FEES. ARTICLE NINETEEN: In the eyent tNit eil"'-r patty ahall hereaftar bri~ any action
EXHIBtnON. ARTICLE SEVEN : Artist and Colleclor mUtually cownanl that upon any delault in perlonnanc. or oDservenc:a of any c:ov.nanl herein, the party aggrieYl!!l d may recovw
(.) Colieclor shaIl g ive Artist·written notice 01 CoI!ecto(alntenUon to causa or perm il l he Work to be tauonable attorneys: I... in addili<ln fa wl'\8l8yer nIImlldias mey be available 10 him or her.
exhibited to the publ ic, ad'lisitIQ Artist 01 .It d.t.lIs 01 such proposed .xhlbltion whic.h shall have been
mada knOllfn to Collectof by tha axhibltor. Said notice shllIl ~ given lor each luch exhibition prior to any IN WrntESS MiEREOF. the p.nle. ha"" "I their hands and seals to Ihis Agreemen t as of the dayMd
communication to the exhibitor or the publiC 01 CoIiKtOr'S Intention to c.use or permit the Work to be year IlllIt above. wriHen,
axhlblted to the PUblic . Arti" shall torthw!th communIcate !O Collector and the exhibitor any and all edIIiee
or /'I:quests lhat he may hlNe regarding tha prapolld .xhibitlon of lhe Work. Collector shall nol catne or SPECIMEN - SPECIMEN ' . SPECIMEN
p.""11 the Work 10 be exhlbfled to me public exc.pt upon compliance with the tI.rms 01 tht!; anlcl• . Fill I~ NOTICE
Sln~e oul fbI (b) Colhtctcr st.1I not cause or pe""" any public exhlbillon of lhe Work except wilh the consenl 01 In lull (Do not
II no! reQul rea the ArUal to each lIuch .xhlbllion.
(c) Artl.I'1 lailure timely to respond tD Collector's Umely nqUc. thall be deemed. walyer of Artist's
rights under this article, in respecl 10 such .xhibition and stWl operate . . . cOAMnl to such exhibition
remove from
original)
NOTICE
and to aU detaile thereof of which Artist a.wl h.... been gtvef1 Umely nodc:e. . o-:n.llIhiP, Transfer. Exhlbition and ReprocluctJon 01
AAnITS POS8£SSION. ARTICLE EIGHT: Arttat .nd Collector mutually eo-..nent thlt Al"\lst shall hay. the !hia Work of Art .nt subject to cO'l9nant:s lei forth In a (Anlsl)
right, upon .."riuen nolica and demand to Colleclor mllde not I.t.r thin 120 da.,.. prior to Ih. proposed ~:~n,~r:~:~::Ihe_--. dayol , ~ _ _ ,
shipping dale therefor, to poaaesalon olth. Work for. period 00110 exceed lixly (80) deys solely lor the
purpose 01 exhibition of Ihe Work 10 the public al and by a pubtrc or non-9tOnt iNitituOon, at no expense
whellloever 10 Collector. Collector shall heve the rlghl 10 ...t"factory proof 01 .utfl:eienl inaurance and ;;;(j- - -_ . - --_. __ .. (Collector)
pre·paid lran.portaticn or lIatls'.ctory prao' of nn.nclal rnponsibil/ty there'or, Artist shall have the right the original 01 which ill on liIe with _
10 auch poaseulon 01 the Work for one period not to excelld sixty (80) dey••very "ve (5) yea~ . at
NON-OESTRUC110N. ARTICLE NINE: Collector eovenantJ that Collector wtll not Intentionally destroy.
damage, alt.r, modify or change Ihe Work in 1liiy w.y whebOeYer.
RI!'....RS. ARTICLE TEN: Colleclor coy.nants: Ihlt in the ...,ent 01 any damage to the Work. CoUKtor ahall
consult with Artist prior 10 the commencement 01 eny retlairs or ntSloraUon and if prtlcttcabl. Artltt shall
b. giy.n the opportunity 10 make IIny ntquirttd repairs or ...-slOration. SPECIMEN - SPECIMEN - SPECIMEN
RENTS. ARTICLE ElEVEN: In the eYentthal Collector sh~1 become entJtle~ to any monies u ",ni or olher Fill in ONLY;
compensation for the use 01 the Work at public exhibition, the ColtllCtor shall pay e sum equal to one-hall TRANSFER AGREEMENT ANO RECORD
Sltrke cui one ot said manias to (Anill) (Artisr. avent U 18110rth in ARTICLE TWO h.reln) within Ihlrty (30) day. 01 the
r(l18pp1icab!e date when Collector shall become entitled to such monies. To;

R(PRODUC110N. ARTICLE TWELVE: Artist hereby marves all r~flt! wh.tao....ef to eopy or reproduce Know 'Ie that _ _ _ __

lhe Work.. Artillt shall nol unrtalON.bJy r"UM permission to reproduce the Work' in catalogues and the
lika incidental to public exhlb lUon of the Wort.
residing .1._ ._ ..__ __ _

NON-ASSIGNABIUTY. ARTICLE THIRTEEN; No rights creat.d In the Artist and for m.


Artisl's benefil by
flu !hll day tra:Mfe:rred all hbl righi, tide and Interest in Ihat cer1ain Work. or art known u :
the I~rma of ,ihle Agreement lhBll be assignllble by Artilt during Ihe Artl,ra lifetime, except that nothing data identifying nu.: Identilicatlon , :
herein contalned 'hall be construed .. a IImilallon on ArtisI'll rights_Undar any COPyright la'ill'S to which the Work Oal8: Material :
the Work may be aubjecL
NOnCE. ARTICLE FOURTEEN: Artilf and Collector mutuany covenant that there shall be pe""anenlly Dimensions: Description:
alii xed to the Work. NOTICE 01 the axtsl8nce 01 thia Agreemenl and that ownership, tranal,r, exhibition 10 _ ._ _ _ _ . utl/dlngst _ _ _ _ __ . __ _ _ ,
end rtpl'OducUon 01 the Work a/'l: subjecl ~ the con....n8flts "'-rein, said NOTICE 10 be In the form 01 the tranaletM. at the agreed prlee or ve4ue 01_ _ ._.. _ . • Transferee, hareby
specimen hereunto annexed lind made a part 01 thi, AgrHment
SlrikeOUI (a) il names 01 parties expressly ratifles a.nd all1ms all the lannll 01 thai certain Agraement mlde by and beTWeen
<a) Because the Work i. at SUch nature thai ib axlal.nce or essence is represented by docum,entttfon '''beTWeen _ _
l'<lIapplicable or because documentation is deemed by Artlsi to be part 01 the Work, the pennanenl aNixing ot said _ _ _ _ _ and .
and~··)
NOTICE to the documentation shall saUsfy the r&qulr.menta of this .artlcle.
dale on the _ _ day of .19 ._ . end.greet!O De bound thereby and to perlo rm

TRANSFEREES BOUND, ARTICLE FIFTEEN ; In the event the Work Il'I.all hereafter be IranslerrltCl or ol"'-r­
and ful1ll1 all 01 Co{lector's covenant! sel lorth in said agr"manl.

wa al~nat~ hom C?lIeclOr or Collector's astate In any mann.r whalllo ....." any tranafe .... liking the
Work With nollce 01 thll Agreement sl'\8Uln ''Jery respect be bOund aOO liable 10 perlO"" and fulfill each Done Thla _ _ day 01 _ _ _ ,19 _ ,

and eyery covenant hereln as ' il such transle,ee had duly mad. and subacrlbed a property executed
at
TRANSFER AGREEMENT AND RECORD in .ccordance with ARTICLE TWO and ARTtCLE FIVE harein al
the time the Work was trantlerred to him or her.
(Do nol remove __ - - - l
from angina')

G Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale
Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971 G Seth Siegelaub and Robert Projansky, The Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale
Agreement, 1971, as reprinted in Studio International, April 1971
co tionship between the anwork and the Agreement, and he stressed that the Notice concern­
dressed were commonly acknowledged throughout the an world, which usually protects the "
'" collector more than the artist. Siegelaub's explanatory preface clarified why, in the context ing Ownership, Transfer, Exhibition and Reproduction of the Work of Art should always be .~
of the uprisings at Kent State and the VieO'lam War protests, a contractual approach was attached to the work' o According to his instructions, the Notice might be placed "on a ;0:

stretcher bar Wlder a sculpture base or wherever else it will be aesthetically invisible yet eas­ ~
considered more desirable than legislation. This route, Siegelaub wrote, involved "no organ­
"
ization, no dues, no government agency, no meetings, no public registration, no nothing­ ily findable . It should get a coat of clear polyurethane-or something like it-to protect it. It ..,=
a.
.,
just your [Le., the artist'sl will to use it."" Thus the Agreement circumvented gallery or won't hun to put several copies of the notice on a large work."" In other words, the Notice, a.

which basically fWlctioned as a bill of sale, would become pan of the work. In instances
~
bureaucratic intervention, serving as a self-help document in line with the ethos of anti­
institutional trends of the period , such as those crystallized in, for instance, the various edi­
tions of The Whole Earth Catalogue.
where the an was immaterial and had no physical base, Siegelaub advised : "If your work has
no place on it for the Notice or your signature-in which case you should always use an an­
.e3

The Agreement was designed to thwan the collector's inordinate amoWlt of 'con­ cillary document which describes the work and which bears your signature and which must ~
trol" in the an world by giving the artist a number of rights, including the right to some of the always be transferred as a ~egal) pan of the work-glue the NOTICE on the document"" The ~

'"
~
profits from resale or from any other form of commercial exploitation of the work (e.g., re­ Notice validated secondary information and materialized primary information. Note as well
production, rentals) ." In addition, Siegelaub and Projansky made clear that the contract was that the Agreement made a correlation between "Notice" and "signature," and if authorship
~;;
c:

also appropriate for transfers of ownership by exchange or even gift, thereby protecting the of the new work was linked to copyright, the Notice functioned as a document indicating
artist paning with a work without monetary recompense. The Agreement would be binding copyright. In this transformation, the signature of the artist and its associative sign value ~
on all future owners of the work (who were required to sign the legal agreement) and would once again became the primary product. In the absence not only of iconicity but also of any
be in effect for the artist's lifetime. Upon the artist's death, the rights to the work would re­ kind of discernible metaphor or allusion, the artist's signature now came to be what the work
ven to the artist's heirs" signified. In the process, the attack carried out by conceptual an upon the cultural system
The most controversial aspect of the Agreement was the right of the artist to par­ in the preceding years was negated . Regardless of how problematic its form, the work once
ticipate in, and to profit from, any increase in the work's sumptuary value. Although it ad­ again entered the market through the signature of the producer. Drafted to protect the rights
dressed many noneconomic rights, this aspect of the contract rapidly became the focus of of the artist, the contract fWlctioned to preserve exclusive ownership of the work. Thus
much harsh evaluation and criticism. Many dealers and artists felt that collectors would not Siegelaub arrived at a concrete solution to his earlier queries of how to market ideas.
buy an if they could not control the right to use and sell it" Further criticism concerned the Although the Agreement, drafted to help destabilize the calcified an industry, may
effect of the lack of privacy on an collecting; the fact that collectors would be obliged to put have been politically progressive in its intention, it had the opposite effect, leading conceptual
their name on the contract meant that traditionally Wldeclared cash flowing through the an an into what Uppard condemns as "the tyranny of a commodity status and market­
world would be recorded. Additionally, there was the flexibility of pricing. Atone point Siege­ orientation:' For the Agreement's precise limitations served to confine even work that existed
laub suggested that in cenain instances an artist might consider inflating the market value only as abstract idea or, alternately, only as widely dispersed documentation within its capi­
of the anwork on the contract, since 'obviously, the higher the figure you put in, the better tal relations, and thus insened conceptual art into the an market as a pure commodity or bill
the break the new owner is getting."" of sale. The aura absent from conceptual art was thereby reintroduced in the auratization of
Although Siegelaub and Projansky's timely effort capitalized on artists' growing re­ the signature. If conceptual an attacked the privileged nature of an and made the experience
sentment of an marketing conventions, it also reconceived these conventions in a way that of an collecting more practicable than ever before, Siegelaub's contract ensured that one facet
cOWltered the model of egalitarianism. Siegelaub was very precise about the physical rela ­ of the new an would not be so readily accessible-namely, the experience of ownership.

'"'"
o With the success of the artists associated with him, Siegelaub gradually dropped
.... notes
out of the picture and became a shadow (fig. 1.1). Just as the material object of art in some in­
stances gave way to ephemeT<llity and pure concept, Siegelaub too became an idea: "the
Siegelaub idea." In less than a decade, his identity had shifted from gallery owner to dealer,
organizer, pUblicist, and catalyst Just as a catalyst may be necessary in a chemical process,
though it is disj unct from the final product, so too Siegelaub ceased to be involved in the early
1970s when conceptual an was legitimized as a bona fide an movement-but not before he
had succeeded in rupturing a number of the fundamental tenets of the an world, the rever­
beT<ltions of which continue to be felt today.

PART I the contradictions of conceptual art

1. Seth Siegelaub, in Michel Claum and Seth Siegelaub, "Lart conceptuel," Xxe ,;eele, 41 (December 1973);
reprinted in Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson, eds ., Conceptual Art; A Oitical Anthology (cambridge, Mass: MIT
Press, 1999), p. 289.
2. Allan Kaprow, "Should the Artist Become a Man at the World',· Art NrMS, 63,6 (October 1964); reprinted as
"The Artist as a Man of the World: in Jeff Kelley, ed ., Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, Allan Kaprow(Berkeley, Uni·
ve~ily of california Press, 1994), pp. 47-48.
3. Barbara Rose, ~How to Murder an Avant-Garde," Artforum, 4:3 (November 1965), p. 35; Alan Solomon, New
York, The New Art Scene (New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967), p. 66.
4. John Murphy, President, Philip Morris Europe, in Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form, exh. cat.
(Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, 1969), n.p.
5. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (cambridge, Mass . Harvarll Univer>ily Press. 2000), p. 285, "The
process of p:lStmodernization or informatization has been demonstrated through the migration (rom Industry to service
jobs, a shiftithat has taken place in the dominant capitalist countries .. . . Services cover a wide range of activities from
health care, education, and finance to transportation, entertainment and advertising. The jabs for the mast part are highly
mobile and involve flexible skills. More important, they are characterized in general by the central role played by' knowledge,
information, affect. and communication. In this sense many call the postindustrial economy an informational economy. M