Vito Acconci

1940 – 2017

Vito Acconci, ‘Room Situation’ 1970
Room Situation 1970
© Vito Acconci
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Biography

Vito Acconci (January 24, 1940 – April 27, 2017) was an influential American performance, video and installation artist, whose diverse practice eventually included sculpture, architectural design, and landscape design. His foundational performance and video art was characterized by "existential unease," exhibitionism, discomfort, transgression and provocation, as well as wit and audacity, and often involved crossing boundaries such as public–private, consensual–nonconsensual, and real world–art world. His work is considered to have influenced artists including Laurie Anderson, Karen Finley, Bruce Nauman, and Tracey Emin, among others. Acconci was initially interested in radical poetry, but by the late 1960s, he began creating Situationist-influenced performances in the street or for small audiences that explored the body and public space. Two of his most famous pieces were Following Piece (1969), in which he selected random passersby on New York City streets and followed them for as long as he was able, and Seedbed (1972), in which he claimed that he masturbated while under a temporary floor at the Sonnabend Gallery, as visitors walked above and heard him speaking.

In the late-1970s, he turned to sculpture, architecture and design, greatly increasing the scale of his work, if not his art world profile. Over the next two decades he developed public artworks and parks, airport rest areas, artificial islands and other architectural projects that frequently embraced participation, change and playfulness. Notable works of this period include: Personal Island, designed for Zwolle, the Netherlands (1994); Walkways Through the Wall at the Wisconsin Center, in Milwaukee, WI (1998); and Murinsel, for Graz, Austria (2003). Retrospectives of Acconci's work have been organized by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1978) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1980), and his work is in numerous public collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of American Art. He has been recognized with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1976, 1980, 1983, 1993), John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1979), and American Academy in Rome (1986). In addition to his art and design work, Acconci taught at many higher learning institutions. Acconci died on April 28, 2017 in Manhattan at age 77.

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Artworks

Artist as subject

Film and audio

TateShots

Vito Acconci: Three Radical Actions

A pioneer of performance art talks about three groundbreaking actions he staged in New York in 1972

TateShots

TateShots: Vito Acconci

Pioneer of performance art, Vito Acconci talks about three ground-breaking actions he staged at the Sonnabend Gallery, New York in ...

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Architecture+Art: Crossover and Collaboration - Steven Holl and Vito Acconci

Stephen Holl and Vito Acconci's collaboration on the façade of New York's Storefront for Art and Architecture set ...

Features

Art Term

Performance art

Artworks that are created through actions performed by the artist or other participants, which may be live or recorded, spontaneous ...

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Vito Acconci, Sonnabend Show Jan 72: Archives 1972

As part of Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art, Jonah Westerman explores Vito Acconci's Sonnabend Show Jan ...
Tate Etc

Bound to fail: Open Systems I

The late 1960s saw a radical rethinking of the art object, with the emphasis shifting away from the static artwork ...

Tate Etc

But is it installation art?

What does the term ‘installation art’ mean? Does it apply to big dark rooms that you stumble into to watch ...

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Cruel and tender

What is the place of documentary photography in art? This is the central question raised by Tate's first major ...

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