If the number of inquiries that Gallery 98 receives from graduate students is any indication, there is much curiosity about the way artists in the 1970s and ’80s sought to democratize the distribution of art. A leader in this effort was the artist group Collaborative Projects, Inc. (COLAB), which sponsored a series of artist-run “A More Stores” to sell low-priced art during the holiday gift season. Printed Matter, Inc., an organization founded by artists to distribute artist-made books, also embraced the idea that art should be affordable and accessible.
In 1982, COLAB and Printed Matter collaborated on a joint venture, Art Direct: a holiday mail-order catalogue featuring objects, flatworks, fashion, books, and other creations. Tom Otterness designed the catalogue cover, and participating artists included Jane Dickson, Christy Rupp, Paulette Nenner, Peter Fend, Jenny Holzer, Stefan Eins, Kiki Smith, and John Fekner. Becky Howland’s “Diamond & Pentagon Wall Plaques” are described in the catalogue as “cast plaster symbols of wealth and power.” The pentagon sculpture borrows the shape of the United States Department of Defense headquarters, and is embossed with the General Electric logo. Tom Otterness’ “Zodiac Love” is marketed as “a reinterpretation of drug store sex icons by a sculptor with a classic talent for proportion and detail.”
Gallery 98 features many items from the Art Direct catalogue. Next month, Printed Matter and COLAB will be linked again. Due just in time for the holidays is the much-anticipated A Book About Colab (and Related Activity) by Max Schumann, recently appointed director of Printed Matter.