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Tucker, Marcia

    Full Name: Tucker, Marcia

    Other Names:

    • Marcia Tucker

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1940

    Date Died: 2006

    Place Born: Brooklyn, Cattaraugus, NY, USA

    Place Died: Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Contemporary (style of art) and Modern (style or period)

    Career(s): curators


    Founder and director of the New Museum, NY (1977-1999) and curator of the Whitney. Tucker was the daughter of Emmanuel Silverman, a trial lawyer, and Dorothy Wald (Silverman). She grew up initially in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and New Jersey in politically and culturally atuned home. She studied theater and art at Connecticut College and was exposed to a feminism which would guide her through her whole life. After her junior year at the école du Louvre in Paris, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1961 joining the department of prints and drawings at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961 as a secretary. Silverman quit the following year, finding the work too menial. She was an assistant to painter Rene Bouche between 1962-63.Silverman found other work cataloging private art collections, including the wealthy painter William N. Copley, 1963-1966, then that of Museum of Modern art former director, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and his wife, Margaret Scolari Barr, and the Ferdinand Howald Collection of American Art at Columbus Gallery of Fine Art, 1966-69. She entered the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, earning an M.A. in art history in 1965 and working as an editorial associate at Art News magazine, 1965-1969. She married and acquired the surname Tucker. While pursuring a Ph.D. (never completed) she taught as an instructor at University of Rhode Island, 1966-1968, City University of New York Graduate Center, 1967-1968, and School of Visual Arts, 1969-1973. In 1969 Tucker was appointed curator of painting and sculpture at the Whitney. Her first show, organized with fellow Whitney curator James Monte, ”Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials,” the first large scale exhibition of Process Art (Post-Minimalism) in an American museum, set the museum in a new direction. Her career at the Whitney saw shows devoted to the art of James Rosenquist, 1972, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, 1973 and Al Held, and Post-Minimalists Robert Morris, 1970, and Bruce Nauman, 1973, rising to curator in 1973. In the early 1970’s joined the Redstockings, a feminist group Her alto voice led to another feminist/activist group, the a cappella singing group called the Art Mob. She also performed as a stand-up comedian on occasion.Tucker mounted a Richard Tuttle which caused so much controvercy that Tucker was eventually fired in 1977. Undaunted, she assembled at age 37 a board of trustees–including thephilanthropist Vera List–and opened the New Museum on Fifth Avenue (present location of the New School). This ground-floor Museum showed the controvercial and frequenntly ephemeral art for which she had been released at the Whitney. These included ” ‘Bad’ Painting” and ”Bad Girls.” She married a second time, to Dean McNeil. Akin the original plan of MoMA, she vowed to de-accession the collection every decade to keep the museum focused on modern art. In the 1980s, she was accused (or attributed) to belonging to the Guerrilla Girls, the mask-wearing feminist group of activist in the art world. Tucker became series editor of ”Documentary Sources in Contemporary Art,” an anthology of firve theory and criticism books. After moving to a space in SoHo, a show called ”Have You Attacked America Today?,” resulted in assaults to the building from angry New Yorkers. In 1999 Tucker retired from the museum and was succeeded by Lisa Philips. Her final exhibition at the New Museum was on aging, The Time of our Lives: Exhibition. She moved to California and was diagnosed with cancer around 2004; at age 66 she died in 2006. Her museum was in the midst of completing a $35 million building on the Lower East Side. Tucker was one of a group of women who established the foremost modern art museums in New York, in company with Abby Aldrich Rockefeller who founded the Museum of Modern Art, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Juliana R. Force fouinding the Whitney, and Hildegard Rebay von Ehrenwiesen of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Her museum was fashioned after her own life, “a somewhat chaotic, idealistic place where the nature of art was always in question, exhibitions were a form of consciousness raising and mistakes were inevitable.” (Smith)

    Selected Bibliography

    and Linville, Kasha and Richardson, Edgar P. American Paintings in the Ferdinand Howald Collection. Columbus, 1969; Robert Morris. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art/Praeger 1970; James Rosenquist. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1972; Lee Krasner: Large Paintings. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. 1973; and Livingston, Jane. Bruce Nauman: Work from 1965 to 1972. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Praeger, 1973; Bad Girls. New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art/Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994; and Ellegood, Anne. The Time of our Lives: Exhibition. New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1999.


    [interview] Maybach, Chris, and Gardner, Paul. Art City: a Ruling Passion [DVD]. Los Angeles: Twelve Films, 2002; Tucker, Marcia. A Short Life of Trouble: Forty Years in the New York Art World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008; [obituaries:] Smith, Roberta. “Marcia Tucker, 66, Founder of a Radical Art Museum.” New York Times October 19, 2006 p. B11; “Outspoken Art Museum Founder Marcia Tucker, 66, Dies.” Los Angeles Times October 27, 2006.


    "Tucker, Marcia." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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