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Group Exhibition

Happenings: New York, 1958–1963

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Press Release

  • Happenings: New York, 1958-1963
    The Pace Gallery is pleased to present "Happenings: New York, 1958–1963," the first exhibition to document the origins and historical development of the transient, yet pivotal, “Happenings” movement from its inception in 1958 through 1963, when its originators abandoned or moved beyond it. The experimental performances, which began in Provincetown and unfolded in New York City in a number of alternative exhibition spaces and galleries, forever changed the definition of art and the possibilities for what it could be. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated book (304 pages, hardcover) published by The Monacelli Press and authored by Milly Glimcher. "Happenings: New York, 1958–1963" will capture more than thirty of the original Happenings and the contributions of the main participants—Jim Dine, Simone Forti, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, Claes Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, Carolee Schneemann, and Robert Whitman. The exhibition will bring together for the first time more than 300 photographs by five photographers who witnessed and documented the performances, including many photos that have never before been seen publicly. Rare film footage and original ephemera related to the Happenings’ production, including outlines, sketches, scripts, press releases, announcements and posters, will also be on view. The exhibition will also feature artworks created during and around the performances, including Red Grooms’s vibrant "Painting from 'A Play Called Fire.' " The painting, on loan from the Greenville County Museum of Art, was both the centerpiece and product of Grooms’s first performance in Provincetown in 1958. The exhibition will also feature an untitled installation on muslin, painted by Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns during "18 Happenings in 6 Parts" in 1959—the performance conceived by Allan Kaprow that forever changed the course of art history by moving art off of the wall and into life, involving the participation of the audience and incorporating sound, smell, poetry, music, and lights. Other highlights of Happenings: New York, 1958–1963 include Jim Dine’s "Car Crash," 1959–60, a dark oil and mixed-media painting on burlap with crosses, exhibited during "Car Crash" (performed at Reuben Gallery, November 1–6, 1960), and "The Valiant Red Car," 1960, on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the painting that hung in the lobby of the gallery during the same performance. Claes Oldenburg’s muslin sculpture "Freighter and Sailboat," 1962, on loan from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, used in Oldenburg’s "Store Days II" (performed at Ray Gun Manufacturing Company, March 2–3, 1962), will also be on view. Carolee Schneemann’s "Quarry Transposed," 1960, a wall relief from which her performance, "Newspaper Event" (Judson Dance Theater, January 29, 1963), evolved, is also included in the exhibition. In describing the Happenings, art historian Milly Glimcher writes: This vital series of performances was part of a worldwide reappraisal of art and the role of the artist within accepted art practice. The Happenings artists personified the collapse of the hegemony of painting and sculpture as they introduced elements from daily life and popular culture into environments and performances. It is indisputable that between 1958 and 1963 these events transformed art, the perception of art, and its reception by the public, which itself had been transformed by these actions. As ground-breaking as the Abstract Expressionists had been, they remained within the historic traditions of painting and sculpture. The Happenings artists, each in his or her own way, destroyed the boundaries between art and life, as Rauschenberg aptly expressed it. "Happenings: New York, 1958–1963" will be arranged predominantly chronologically, enabling the viewer to understand the movement as it unfolded through time. The exhibition will also premiere Robert Whitman’s "Inside Out," a five-film installation piece (1963–2009), created as Whitman moved beyond his initial performances. In 1963, Whitman, using 16 mm black and white film, captured Suzanne De Maria, Simone Forti, John Vaccaro and Larry Rutter individually as they sat around a table in conversation with one another, as well as another shot of the table from above. The films were to be projected simultaneously in one room—one on each wall, and the bird’s-eye view on the ceiling. In 2009, Whitman revisited the unrealized project, adding three sound loops derived from interviews with the three living participants, and a fourth derived from Vaccaro’s comments on Rutter, who passed away several years ago. The four sound bites and films will loop continuously, none in sync with another. "Happenings: New York, 1958–1963" will be on view at 534 West 25th Street from February 10 through March 17, 2012. An opening reception will be held at the gallery on February 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information about "Happenings: New York, 1958–1963," please contact the Public Relations department of The Pace Gallery at 212.421.8987. For general inquiries, please email; for reproduction requests, email


The International Association of Art Critics (AICA) has named Pace's exhibition "Happenings: New York, 1958–1963" the Best Show in a Commercial Gallery in New York in 2012. Curated by Milly Glimcher, "Happenings" was the first comprehensive exhibition dedicated to the groundbreaking and influential movement. The AICA awards are based on the nominations and voting of more than 400 critics, scholars, and curators. For more information on the AICA awards, click here.

When the Pace Gallery opened its “Happenings” exhibition earlier this month, the crowd packing the 25th Street gallery space entered a time machine. Industrial tin walls packed chockablock with photographs and artifacts transported viewers back to the Reuben Gallery in the East Village, where Allan Kaprow staged his seminal 18 Happenings in 6 Parts in 1959. Plenty of the artists who participated in the original happenings were on hand -- Red Grooms, Robert Whitman, Carolee Schneemann, Lucas Sama

In the past few years commercial galleries have been doing some of the historical heavy lifting we usually associate with museums. “HAPPENINGS: NEW YORK, 1958-1963” at the Pace Gallery is a sterling example. The show, which comes with a luxurious catalog, documents the brief half-decade when art in New York was in exhilarating free fall. Abstract Expressionism had had its day; Pop and Minimalism were just kicking in; Conceptualism was on the horizon. In downtown Manhattan painting, sculpture, da

In 1959, a clique of New York artists tried to crack their whole world open. Abstract Expressionism was beginning to feel played out, and they were constantly thinking about what would come after that. This group, which had coalesced around an artist and Rutgers professor named Allan Kaprow, started to wonder about taking the painting out of “action painting”—to try doing what Jackson Pollock had done, but without a canvas. They were asking basic questions: why an artist’s actions must be in ser

“Happenings: New York 1958-1963” at the Pace Gallery February 10 - March 17 The spontaneous, migratory, and seminal “Happenings” were ushered into being by a generation of artists devoted to institutional change and conceptual practice. Now, a half century after the fact, they are the focus of a documentary exhibition opening at Pace in February, organized by art historian and gallery matriarch Milly Glimcher. Through over 300 photographs, film footage, performance artifacts, and collaborative a



Mildred Glimcher

2012. Monacelli Press. Hardcover

304 pages: 300 color illustrations; 11 x 10 inches



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