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Ukeles, Mierle Ladermanfree

American, 20th–21st century, female.

Born 1939, in Denver (Colorado).

Performance artist. Installation art, audio and visual, socially cooperative art, documentary, public art, community art, service art.

Conceptual Art.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles studied painting and sculpture at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and History and International Relations at Barnard College in New York, receiving a BA in 1964, and Inter-related Arts at New York University, obtaining an MA in 1974. She also obtained a Fifth Year Certificate in Teaching Art in 1966 from the University of Denver. She received Honorary Doctorates from Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, and also from Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine.

Laderman Ukeles’ work confronts timely issues by expanding her practice beyond the confines of the studio and into the public sphere. She works in a variety of mediums including installations, performance, and audio and visual works and engages with issues surrounding the borders of gender and class. She addresses issues of women’s power in capitalist society and contemporary feminist thought by examining the institutional structure of the museum and the division of classes within our society. In 1969, she wrote her ‘Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969!’ which led to a show as part of a women’s collective in which she documented and presented her household routines as a creative pursuit. In her performance Hartford Wash: Washing, Tracks, Maintenance: Outside in 1973 at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, Laderman Ukeles assumed the role of ‘maintenance artist’. She did what she did at home–cleaning and maintaining–but this time in a public museum setting. In this work, Laderman Ukeles continued to examine the everyday routines of life, scrutinizing the relationship between those who live in the community and those who serve it, eradicating the boundary between traditional art and routine life. In 1977, she began the multi-year project Touch Sanitation in which she travelled with and worked alongside every single one of New York City’s 8,500 sanitation workers. The work was documented in a series of photographs of the artist shaking hands with each individual employee. In both works, she sought to highlight the fact that the enacting of these chores is generally taken for granted, and those who maintain our cities, similar to women who maintain the homes, receive no acclaim.

Laderman Ukeles has contributed to many group exhibitions, including her first group exhibition, c.7,500 in 1973, at Cal Arts in Valencia, California. This exhibition was the fourth in a series of six exhibitions curated by Lucy R. Lippard. In c.7,500, only female conceptual artists were included in an attempt to highlight the abundance of women artists making conceptual art at the time. Since then, Laderman Ukeles has created numerous public performances, museum exhibitions, and public artworks, often on themes of the environment and labour.

She has received numerous awards, grants, and fellowships including the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist’s Fellowship (1977–1978; 1983–1984), National Endowment for the Arts, Art in Public Places (1979; 1988–1989; 1990–1992), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1985–1986), Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist’s Fellowship (1996–1997), Jewish Cultural Achievement Award, National Foundation for Jewish Culture (2003), and the Public Art Dialogue Award, College Art Association (2017). She has been appointed the (unsalaried) Artist-in-Residence of the New York City Department of Sanitation from 1977 to the present, and served as an Executive Committee Member of the New York City Department of Sanitation under Commissioner Emily Lloyd from 1992 to 1994.

Group Exhibitions

1973, c.7,500, The California Institute of the Arts, Valencia; The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT; Moore College of Art, Philadelphia; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA; Vassar College Museum of Art, Poughkeepsie, NY; The Alley, London

1976, Front/Back, Ellen Stragow Ltd, New York

1977, Documentation: Women and Nature, International Women’s Show

1978, Feministische Kunst International, De Appel, Amsterdam

1978, Out of the House, Whitney Museum Downtown, New York

1980, Issue: Social Strategies by Women Artists, Institute of Contemporary Art, London

1980, A Decade of Women’s Performance Art, Women’s Caucus for Art National Exhibition at the College Art Association Conference, New Orleans Institute of Contemporary Art, New Orleans

1981, Consumption Show, Group Material Gallery, New York

1981, Sanitationmen Tribute Week Exhibition, Guest Artist, NY Telephone Co, Headquarters Lobby, New York

1981, Sponsors by Artists for a Sane Environment and Political Art Documentation/ Distribution

1982, Brooklyn Arts and Cultural Association Video Festival, New York

1982, Women Artists Working with Working Women, Women’s Caucus for Art, New York

1983, Spare Parts, NYC Gallery, Department of Cultural Affairs, New York

1983, Union Made, District 1199 Gallery, New York

1985, Group Material at the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

1985, Guerilla Girls at the Palladium, Palladium, New York

1986, Choices: Making an Art of Everyday Life, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York

1987, Jewish Themes, Spertus Museum, Chicago

1988, A Contemporary Lens on Jewish Experience: A Festival of Independent Film and Video, The Jewish Museum, New York

1988, City Hall Centennial: A Vision for Penn’s 5th Square in 2001, City Hall, Philadelphia

1990, International Sculpture Conference, Washington, DC

1991, American Women Artists: 1945 to Present, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC

1991, Anti-nihilism, N.A.M.E. Gallery, Chicago

1991, Editions, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

1991, Eighteen from New York, Galerie Loehrl, Moenchengladbach, Germany

1992, Fragile Ecologies: Artists’ Interpretations and Solutions, Queens Museum of Art, Flushing, NY; Whatcom Museum of History, Bellingham, WA; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; Salt Lake Art Center, Salt Lake City; Madison Art Center, Madison, WI; De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA; Center for Fine Art, Miami

1993, Kunst-Kultur-Okologie, Bea Voigt Galerie, Edition, Munich

1994, Jewish Women and Art – Jewish Women Transcending Time, Denver Jewish Community Center, Denver

1994, Public Interventions, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT

1994, Reuse/Refuse, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu

1995, Art About the Environment, Center for Art & Earth, New York

1995, Division of Labor: Women’s Work in Contemporary Art, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

1995, Waste Not, Detroit Focus, Detroit

1996, Cultural Economies: Histories from the Alternative Arts Movement in New York City, The Drawing Center, New York

1996, Sexual Politics: Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in Feminist Art History, Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, Los Angeles

1997, Vraiment Feminisme et Art, Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, Grenoble

1998, Not For Sale: Feminism and Art in the USA during the 1970s, Apex Art C.P., New York

1998, Rage/Resolution: From Family Violence to Healing in the Works of Israeli and American Women, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, New York

2001, Reclaimed! Brown Fields & Gray Waters, Gund Hall Gallery, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA

2001, Visions of Jewish Meaning, National Foundation for Jewish Culture, West Cornwall, CT

2002, GLORIA: Another Look at Feminist Art in the 1970’s, White Columns, New York; Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence

2003, The Archive Project, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York

2003, Work Ethic, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines; LA County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH

2004, Reduce/Reuse/Reexamine, Wave Hill Glyndor Gallery, Bronx, NY

2005, The Gesture: A Visual Library in Progress, Center for Art Production, Florence

2005, Jeanette Assia Gallery, Tel Aviv (organized by the Tel Aviv Museum of Art)

2005, Upstarts and Matriarchs: Jewish Women Artists and the Transformation of American Art, Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, Denver

2005, Work/labor, Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck, Austria

2006, … Concept Has Never Meant Horse, Generali Foundation, Vienna

2006, The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984, Grey Art Gallery, New York; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX

2006, Mapping the Studio, Stichting Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

2006, Renegades: 25 Years of Performance at Exit Art, Exit Art, New York

2006, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Cubitt Gallery, London

2007, Claiming Space: The American Feminist Originators, American University Museum, Washington, DC

2007, Loaded Out: Making a Museum, New York University and New York City Department of Sanitation, New York

2007, One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This, Creative Time Plaque, New York

2007, Still Life: Art, Ecology and the Politics of Change, Sharjah Biennial 8, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

2007, Weather Report: Art & Climate Change, Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO

2007, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; National Museum of Women’s Art, Washington, DC; MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY; Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver

2008, In the Beginning: Artists Respond to Genesis, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco

2008, Making It Together: Women’s Collaboration Art and Community, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY

2008, re.act.feminism – performance art of the 1960’s & 70’s today, Akademie der Kΰnste, Berlin

2009, Art and Environment, Centre Culturel Francais Blaise Cendrars, Douala, Cameroon

2009, Art and Feminisim 1969–2009, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Arnhem, Netherlands

2009, Radical Nature: Art & Architecture for a Changing Planet, Barbican Art Gallery, London

2009, Rebelle: Art & Feminism, 1969–2009, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Arnhem, Netherlands

2009, Tzelem: Likeness and Presence in Jewish Art, Stanton Street Synagogue, New York

2010, Eknæs/Paglen/Ukeles/Vertov, Kunsthall, Oslo

2010, Elemental: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe

2010, Other Than Beauty, Friedman Benda Gallery, New York

2010, Rehab, Espace Fondation EDF, Paris

2010, Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life, The Jewish Museum, New York

2011, Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life, The Wellcome Trust, London

2011, Economic Man, MD72, Berlin

2011, Embodied Light: 9–11 in 2011, The Ernest Rubenstein Gallery at the Educational Alliance, New York

2011, The Grand Domestic Revolution – User’s Manual, CASCO: Office for Art, Design & Theory, Utrecht

2012, Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974, LA MoCA, Los Angeles; Haus der Kunst, Munich

2012, Materializing ‘Six Years’: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

2012, Matronita: Jewish Feminist Art, Mishkan Le’Omanut Museum of Art, Ein Harod, Israel

2013, Agoraphobia, TANAS, Berlin

2013, Homebodies, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

2013, Listen up!, 1 after 320, New Delhi

2013, Mom, am I barbarian?, The 13th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul

2013, Re.Act.Feminism #2 – A Performing Archive, Akademie der Künste, Berlin

2013, (Un)Natural Limits, Austrian Cultural Forum New York, New York

2014, The City Lost & Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, L.A., 1960–1980, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago

2014, The Complicated Labor, Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz

2014, Lucid Gestures, McCagg Gallery, Diana Center, Barnard College, New York

2014, Making SpacesSpaces of Anticipation, ar/ge Kunst Galerie Museum, Bolzano, Italy

2014, Playtime, Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich

2015, Alternativa International Visual Art Festival, Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdańsk, Poland

2015, The City Lost & Found: Capturing New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, 1960–1980, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ

2015, (Counter) Public: Art, Intervention and Performance in Lower Manhattan from 1980–1993, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York

2015, From Her House, Marabouparken Art Gallery and Konsthall C, Stockholm

2015, Maintenance Mode, Public Space One, Iowa City

2015, Nous l’avons tant aimée la révolution (We loved it so much the revolution), Contemporary Art Museum of Marseille, Marseille

2015, Sweep Walkers, Night Cleaners, Organic Dust, Check Point, Helsinki

2016, A New Job to Unwork At, Artspace, New Haven, CT

2016, What Is Waste?, Art Affairs Gallery, Amsterdam

2017, INTERIMS, La Panacée, Montpellier, France

2017, The Period, Rojas + Rubensteen Projects, Miami

2017, Revolution at Point Zero, Columbia College Chicago, Chicago

Solo Exhibitions


1998, Eleanor Antin: Portraits of Eight New York Women, 1970/Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Works, 1969–1979, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

1998, Mierle Laderman Ukeles/MATRIX 137, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT

2007, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, The Armory Show 2007, New York

2011, Living as Form, Creative Time, New York

2012, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Tyler Contemporary at Temple University, Philadelphia

2013, Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art Works 1969–1980, Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Arts, Bristol, UK

2013, Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art Works 1969–1980, Grazer Kunstverein, Graz, Austria

2014, Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art Works 1969–1980, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane

2015, Maintenance Art Works from 1969–1980, Marabouparken Art Gallery and Konsthall C, Stockholm

2016, Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art, Queens Museum, Queens, NY

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Chicago (AI)

Hartford (Wadsworth Atheneum)

Metz (Fonds regional d’art contemporain de Lorraine)

New York (Ronald Feldman Gal.): Touch Sanitation (1978–1980, photograph); Unburning Freedom Hall (1999, installation); I’m Talking to You, A Secret Garden: 3 … (2005, installation, 32 glass containers and 32 spices); The Social Mirror (1983)

New York (The Jewish Mus.)

Northampton, MA (Smith College MA)

Auction Records

Vienna, 14 May 2014: The Social Mirror (Aufnahme) (1983, photograph, 11 × 14 ins/27.9 × 35.5 cm) USD 2,057


  • Lippard, Lucy R.: The Pink Glass Swan: Selected Essays on Feminist Art, New Press, New York, 1995.
  • Morgan, Robert C.: Art into Ideas: Essays on Conceptual Art, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK), 1996.
  • Finkelpearl, Tom/Lazar, Julie/Sturken, Marita: Uncommon Sense, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1997.
  • Lippard, Lucy R.: Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972: A Cross-reference Book of Information, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1997.
  • Godfrey, Tony: Conceptual Art, Phaidon, London, 1998.
  • Wood, Paul (ed.)/Harrison, Charles (ed.): Art in Theory, 1900–2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell, Malden (MA), 2003.
  • Phelan, Peggy/Reckitt, Helena: Art and Feminism, Phaidon, London, 2006.
  • Jackson, Shannon: Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics, Routledge, New York, 2011.
  • Kocur, Zoya (ed.)/Leung, Simon (ed.): Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester (UK), 2012.
  • Morris, Catherine (ed.): Materializing Six Years: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, MIT Press, Cambridge (MA), 2012.
  • Thompson, Nato (ed.): Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011, MIT Press, Cambridge (MA), 2012.
  • Weintraub, Linda: To Life!: Eco Art in Pursuit of a Sustainable Planet, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2012.
  • Finkelpearl, Tom: What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation, Duke University Press, Durham (NC), 2013.
  • Steeds, Lucy (ed.): Exhibition: Documents of Contemporary Art, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2014.
  • Conte, Kari (ed.): Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Seven Work Ballets, Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2015.
  • Frock, Christian L. (ed.)/Zimbardo, Tanya (ed.): Public Works: Artist’s Interventions 1970s–Now, exhibition catalogue, Mills College Art Museum, Oakland (CA), 2015.
  • Lange-Berndt, Petra (ed.): Materiality, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2015.
  • Phillips, Patricia C.: Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art, Prestel, New York, 2016.