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Art by Telephone (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1969)

image from Art by Telephone (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1969)

specific object / david platzker


Art by Telephone (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1969)

October 13 - December 19, 2008

Specific Object / David Platzker is pleased to announce the opening of Art by Telephone (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1969). The exhibition will be on view at Specific Object from October 13 through December 19, 2008.

In this exhibition Specific Object presents the continuous playing of the original, 44 minute, 33-1/3 RPM vinyl LP record which was produced as the exhibition catalogue for the show Art by Telephone, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, November 1 - December 14, 1969.

Additionally, within Specific Object's presentation of Art by Telephone (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1969) the gallery has reinstalled Sol LeWitt's contribution to Art by Telephone, a sixty by sixty inch wall drawing, executed to the artist's oral instructions relayed on the LP.

Shortly after its opening, the Museum of Contemporary Art planned an exhibition to record the trend, incipient then and pervasive today, toward conceptualization of art. This exhibition, scheduled for the spring of 1968 and abandoned because of technical difficulties, consisted of works in different media, conceived by artists in this country and Europe and executed in Chicago on their behalf. The telephone was designated the most fitting means of communication in relaying instructions to those entrusted with fabrication of the artists' projects or enactment of their ideas. To heighten the challenge of a wholly verbal exchange, drawings, blueprints or written descriptions were avoided.

"Art by Telephone" admits an historic precedent. In 1922 Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, then newly appointed to the Weimar Bauhaus, set out to prove to his students and fellow teachers alike that the intellectual approach to the creation of a work of art is in no way inferior to the emotional approach. Bucking the expressionist mainstream and steeping himself in the revolutionary ideas of the Russian Constructivists Malevich and Lissitzky, the new head of the metal workshop ordered from a sign manufacturer three steel panels of diminishing size, covered with white porcelain enamel and bearing a simple geometric design in black, red and yellow. Rather than furnish sketches and personally supervise the execution, Moholy asked that the manufacturer take a piece of graph paper and a color chart; he then dictated these works over the telephone.

Despite the fact that Moholy-Nagy's "telephone pictures" are widely discussed in art literature, no museum until now has been prompted by this historic act to test the potential of remote control creation on the sale of a group exhibition. Making the telephone ancillary to creation and employing it as a link between mina dna hand has never been attempted in any fashion.

- Jan van der Marck from the exhibition catalogue / LP jacket

On the LP the Museum's director, Jan van der Marck, interviews, by long-distance telephone, artists Siah Armajani, Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Iain Baxter, Mel Bochner, George Brecht, Jack Burnham, James Lee Byars, Robert H. Cumming, Francoise Dallegret, Jan Dibbets, John Giorno, Robert Grosvenor, Hans Haacke, Richard Hamilton, Dick Higgins, Davi Det Hompson, Robert Huot, Alani Jacquet, Ed Kienholz, Joseph Kosuth, Les Levine, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Dennis Oppenheim, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Guenther Uecker, Stan Van Der Beek, Bernar Venet, Frank Lincoln Viner, Wolf Vostell, William Wegman, and William T. Wiley, each discussing with van der Marck how to execute an artwork for inclusion in the show to be fabricated by in Chicago strictly by the artist's verbal instructions.

While the 1969 curatorial effort was conceived as an economic means to produce a large-scale exhibition, many of the artists included within the show produced succinct conceptual works that were the among the first such works to be presented in an American museum.

Conceptual art as documented, recorded, manufactured or preformed in "Art by Telephone" is a further step toward the syncretism of the literary, plastic and performing arts which characterizes the 1960s. The term generally applies to those new forms art which seem to favor intellectual premises over visual result. Those artists who have responded to the challenge to this exhibition share certain basic premises despite divergence in expression. They want to get away form the interpretation of art as specific, handcrafted, precious object. They value process over product and experience over possession...
- Jan van der Marck from the exhibition catalogue / LP jacket

The exhibition checklist is available at:

A free, downloadable, MP3 of the original Art by Telephone record can be found on UbuWeb at:

Specific Object's hours are Monday - Friday 11 AM to 5 PM, or by appointment. The gallery will be closed between November 21 - 30, 2008. Regular hours to resume on December 1, 2008.

Specific Object is located at 601 West 26th Street / Floor 2M / Room M285, New York, New York 10001.

Telephone (212) 242-6253.

Specific Object's website is

For additional information regarding the exhibition or Specific Object please email David Platzker at