The rise and rise of performance art

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BY THE late 1990s, the small and marginal world of performance art seemed stunted by nostalgia and self-parody. “I would go to [New York’s] Lower East Side and see these scruffy works that felt like a repeat of the 1970s,” says RoseLee Goldberg, a South African-born curator and art historian in New York. “I was seeing works by visual artists like Shirin Neshat, Gillian Wearing and Steve McQueen, and I was wondering why aren’t we seeing this kind of power or beauty in performance? Why are we still doing monologues?”

As a former director of the Royal College of Art in London who went on to shape New York’s performance-art scene in the 1970s, Ms Goldberg was well-placed to diagnose artistic torpor. She worked with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Robert Longo, Meredith Monk and Cindy Sherman as a curator at the Kitchen, a renowned downtown venue. But New York in 2000 seemed to have little interest in art that couldn’t be bought or sold, and experimental artists were increasingly decamping to Berlin,…Continue reading

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