He was a gallerist, independent curator, publisher, researcher, archivist, collector, and bibliographer. Often billed the "father of Conceptual Art," Seth Siegelaub was—and remains—a seminal influence on curators, artists, and cultural thinkers. And now the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presents the exhibition Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art, devoted to the life and work of this fascinating yet still elusive figure.
Seth Siegelaub (New York, 1941–Basel, 2013) is best known for his decisive role in the emergence and establishment of Conceptual Art in the late 1960s. With revolutionary projects such as January 5–31, 1969, the Xerox Book, and July, August, September 1969, he set the blueprint for the presentation and dissemination of conceptual practices. In the process, he redefined the exhibition space, which could now be a book, a poster, an announcement—or reality at large, in keeping with his statement that "my gallery is the world now." Siegelaub's radical reassessment of the conditions of art resonated deeply with the iconoclastic views of his contemporaries Carl Andre, Robert Barry, Daniel Buren, Jan Dibbets, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, and others.
But just as these artists were gaining wider recognition, Siegelaub settled in Paris, where he cultivated an interest in mass media from a leftwing perspective. In line with the political mood of the times, he eventually redirected his publishing activities to scholarly research and critical essays on communication.
At the same time he pursued a lesser-known occupation as a collector of hand-woven textiles and bibliographer of books on the social history of textiles. During the last decade of his life, he regrouped all his projects under the banner of his Stichting Egress Foundation, but simultaneously threw himself headfirst into a new bibliographical endeavor on time and causality in physics.
Acknowledging the unusual scope and essentially unclassifiable nature of Seth Siegelaub's manifold interests and activities, the exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum reveals to what extent his projects are underpinned by a deeper concern with printed matter and lists as a way of disseminating ideas.
The survey also presents contributions by contemporary artists Mario Garcia Torres, who in a newly created video work The Causality of Hesitance (2015) reflects on Siegelaubs research on time and causality, and the interest of artists in the sixties for this subject, and Maria Eichhorn, who presents and updated version her work from the 1990s, around The Artist's Reserved Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, a template contract drafted by Siegelaub in collaboration with the lawyer Robert Projansky in 1971.
The exhibition and catalogue are curated by Leontine Coelewij (curator Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) and Sara Martinetti (independent curator, PhD candidate at École des hautes études en sciences sociales and researcher at Institut national d'histoire de l'art in Paris).
Public program events include Close Readings on Seth Siegelaub (February 19–April 1) and a forum discussion on The Artist's Contract (March 13).
Publications The catalogue Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art (Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, design Irma Boom) gathers a series of specially commissioned essays by Sara Martinetti, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jo Melvin, Leontine Coelewij, and Götz Langkau, and includes a conversation between Matilda McQuaid, Alan Kennedy, and Marja Bloem (Director of the Stichting Egress Foundation, former Curator at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and Siegelaub's longstanding partner) as well as an unpublished conversation between Siegelaub and the artist Robert Horvitz.
In cooperation with Roma Publications, de Appel arts centre, and Stichting Egress Foundation, the Stedelijk Museum also publishes a facsimile edition of the Xerox Book from 1968, Siegelaub's famous book-as-exhibition.
To be published at the beginning of 2016: "Better Read than Dead": The Seth Siegelaub Source Book, 1964–2013, by Stichting Egress Foundation and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.
Seth Siegelaub: Beyond Conceptual Art is produced in close collaboration with the Stichting Egress Foundation/Marja Bloem, Amsterdam. With thanks to the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam.
The exhibition is made possible with the support of the Mondriaan Fund.