A Portrait of the Director as a Young Man: Catalogue Essay for “Lives” (1975), curated by Jeffrey Deitch

The 1975 group exhibition “Lives,” mounted at the Fine Arts Building in NYC, was the first independent curatorial project by Jeffrey Deitch, the MOCA director who was then a 23-year old gallery assistant at the John Weber Gallery in Soho. The show featured 40 “artists who deal with people’s lives (including their own) as the subject and/or medium of their work,” and included three influential figures from an earlier generation—Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, and Ray Johnson—alongside others who were just starting out.

The ambitious catalogue essay covers extensive historical ground and speaks to Deitch’s nascent interest in how artists could connect with the culture-at-large. He writes, “It is interesting to study the derivation of the work in the “Lives” exhibition, but it is even more interesting to contemplate the direction that these artists will take in the near future, as this is very much a movement in progress. The “Lives” artists have already succeeded in transforming the formal advances of the late ‘60s and bringing the esthetic progress of Conceptualism closer to peoples’ life experience, and perhaps they are building the apparatus to channel these artistic advances into the cultural mainstream.”

Image (left): Jeffrey Deitch leaving for Europe after the closing of “Lives.” Photograph by Marcia Resnick