Art Strike

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The first known reference to an Art Strike is in an Alain Jouffroy essay: "What's To Be Done About Art?" (included in "Art and Confrontation", New York Graphic Society 1968)

"It is essential that the minority advocate the necessity of going on an 'active art strike' using the machines of the culture industry to set it in total contradiction to itself. The intention is not to end the rule of production, but to change the most adventurous part of 'artistic' production into the production of revolutionary ideas, forms and techniques."

Art Workers Coalition (1969-70)[edit]

The Art Workers Coalition (AWC) was a collection of artists, dealers, museum workers, and other workers in the art industry, including Carl Andre and Lucy Lippard.

On 15 October 1969, the AWC organized a successful "Moratorium of Art to End the War in Vietnam." The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Jewish Museum, and a large number of commercial art galleries closed for the day. The Metropolitan Museum and the Guggenheim Museum did not comply. Under pressure from the AWC, the Metropolitan did postpone the opening of its American painting and sculpture show scheduled for that day, while the Guggenheim was picketed.

The group also called upon all museums in New York to close on 22 May 1970 as part of the protests against the Vietnam War. While many did, the Metropolitan Museum of Art failed to do so. The museum was then picketed by an offshoot, led by Robert Morris and Poppy Johnson, under the name Art Strike Against Racism, War and Oppression.[1]

The group extended their anti-war protests and protests against the killing of student protesters by the Police at Jackson, Augusta and Kent by calling for a boycott of the American Pavilion at the 1970 Venice Biennale. The group organized a counter biennial in New York. This was then criticized by the Women Students and Artists for Black Art Liberation (WSABAL) led by Faith Ringgold and joined by Michele Wallace, which led to it opening up to women and people of color. The WSABAL group also influenced the Ad Hoc Women Artists, led by Lucy Lippard. These two groups both had a demand of 50% women artist representation and led to the Whitney Biennial including black women artists Barbara Chase Riboud and Bettye Saar in the next Biennial.[2]

Years without Art 1977-1980[edit]

In 1974, Gustav Metzger issued a call for artists to withdraw their labour for a minimum of 3 years.[3]

They call critiques "artists engagement with political struggle", "the use of art for social change" as well as "art in the service of revolution" as reactionary. Instead the call identifies that "artists have attacked the prevailing methods of production, distribution and consumption of art" and that "the refusal of labour is the chief weapon of workers fighting the system". Three years is cited as the "minimum period required to cripple the system".[4]

Although the call does not use the words "Art Strike", Metzger has come to be associated with the concept (See for example,[5][6]).

The Art Strike 1990-93[edit]

The Art Strike is a campaign launched in 1986 by Stewart Home which called upon all artists to cease their artistic work between January 1, 1990 and January 1, 1993. Home, who was a Neoist artist at the time, plagiarised Metzger's 1974 call, only replacing the dates 1977-80 with 1990-93.[7]

In the lead up to the strike, there were various groups formed to propagate and co-ordinate the action, such as the Art Strike Action Committee in California and the Art Strike Action Committee in the United Kingdom.[8]

Art Strike Biennial(2009 - 2012)[edit]

In 2008, an Art Strike conference was held in Alytus with an international group of artists attending.[9] After this conference, Redas Diržys as the Second Temporary Art Strike Action Committee – Alytus Chapter (STASAC-Alytus) decided to re-title the annual Festival of Experimental Art as the Art Strike Biennial. This was done in response to Vilnius becoming the European Capital of Culture for 2009.[10] Stewart Home also took part in this event as The Transient Art Strike Biennial Supreme Council of One (London)[11]

This led to a series of art strikes including:

  • Denis Limoniv of the Bellarussian art collective Lipovy Tzvet[12] From January 1, 2014 through January 1, 2017
  • Pablo Herman and OKK - an art strike in Berlin[13][14]

In 2011 the biennial began to organise as the Data Miners Travailleurs Psychique with Redas and others formally refusing the identification of artist and putting forward the idea of psychic workers instead and calling for a General strike in 2012.[15]

Other contemporary groups[edit]

Around the same time as the Alytus Art Strike and DAMTP, there have been examples of artists unions, continuing with many of the same organising principals, in both the US and England.[16] Most prominent are Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.)[17] and the Artists' Union England.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Work Ethic". Retrieved 17 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Invisibility Blues: From Pop to Theory". Retrieved 17 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Art Into Society/Society Into Art" (ICA, London 1974)
  4. ^ ibid
  5. ^ Gustav Metzger , e-flux, 2011
  6. ^ "Channel - Tate". Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Assessing the Art Strike, Stewart Home
  8. ^ Art Strike Papers, Edited by James Mannox
  9. ^
  10. ^ 'Alytus - Meno striko sostine', Alytaus Naujienos, No.155, 21 August 2009
  11. ^ Stewart Home, Transient Art Strike Biennial Supreme Council of One (London). "ART STRIKE BIENNIAL". Self-published. Retrieved 14 January 2016. 
  13. ^ Redaktion neues deutschland. "30.04.2015: Arbeitskampf, nicht Kunst (". Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Redas Diržys - Echo Gone Wrong". Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  16. ^
  17. ^

Further reading[edit]