Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Panther 21 and the New York Art World in the Village Voice Archive

Advertisement in the Village Voice, April 2, 1970

What was the New York art world up to 40 years ago this month? Thanks to Google's handy Village Voice archive, it's easy to find out. According to this advertisement, it looks like a fair number of artist's were busy raising money for the Panther 21 — the radicals arrested in December 1969 and charged with plotting to kill police officers and blow up buildings that included police stations and — a somewhat more unusual target — the Bronx Botanical Gardens. Thirteen people were eventually brought to trial and all of them were acquitted.

Conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein's cocktail party in support of the group's legal defense fund at his "elegant Park Avenue duplex" is mentioned in the Times, but I'd never heard of this exhibition before. The list of artists is pretty fascinating, uniting an unlikely group that included Elaine de Kooning and Lee Lozano, Alice Neel and Donald Judd. Frank Stella, Nancy Spero, "Jim" Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, and the adventurous gallerist John Weber were also involved. (You can click the image above to see the full list — and more surprises.)

There's probably a tidy little book (or at least a lengthy essay) to be written about the charity auctions and exhibitions held in the New York art world of the 1960s and 1970s. Paula Cooper famously opened her SoHo in 1968 with an exhibition to benefit the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. There must be more.

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