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Guide to the A.I.R. Gallery Archives
ca. 1972-2008
 MSS 184

Fales Library and Special Collections
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-2596

Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Joseph Gallucci, 2007. Media updated by YZ Chin, 2009.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on January 08, 2016

Historical Note

A.I.R. Gallery was founded in 1972 as the first artist-run, not-for-profit gallery for women artists in the United States. The goals of A.I.R. are accomplished primarily through their exhibition programs: solo shows of Gallery Artists, sponsored solo shows for Fellowship Artists, group shows of National Artists, invitational solo shows through the Gallery II Program, and group shows designed to include a broader community of women artists such as the "Generations" invitational series and juried Biennial Exhibitions. The gallery also meets its mission by addressing topics of general concern to the public through lectures and symposia; by bringing the work of its exhibiting artists to the awareness of museums, collectors and critics; by working with interns and volunteers; and by making its archive of materials documenting the 30+ years history of A.I.R. available to the public.

A.I.R. (Artists in Residence, Inc.) was founded in 1972 by the following women: Dotty Attie, Rachel bas-Cohain, Judith Bernstein, Blythe Bohnen, Maude Boltz, Agnes Denes, Daria Dorosh, Loretta Dunkelman, Mary Grigoriadis, Harmony Hammond, Laurace James, Nancy Kitchell, Louise Kramer, Anne Healy, Rosemarie Mayer, Patsy Norvell, Howardena Pindell, Nancy Spero, Susan Williams, and Barbara Zucker. Together they established policy, incorporated as a 501.c.3 not-for-profit organization and renovated the gallery space at 97 Wooster Street.

The gallery doors opened on September 16, 1972, with a group show of ten gallery artists. The event was covered by a broad spectrum of publications from The New York Times to Ms. Magazine. From the first year, A.I.R. was host to many public- and community-oriented programs: an internship was established to give gallery experiences to students with art-related majors; a series of performances, panels and discussions on topics of art and feminism was created; and invitational shows, at that time called Open Air, invited non-member artists to exhibit.

The membership of A.I.R. is kept at twenty New York artists who, through monthly meetings and participation on active committees (such as Finance, Membership, Gallery Maintenance, Legal), are the governing body of the gallery. The member-artists determine the direction of the gallery, vote in new members and help sit the gallery each month. Each artist is in charge of her own exhibition; that is, she curates and installs her work, allowing for experimentation and risk not always possible in commercial venues.

In the spring of 1976 French critic Aline Dallier was asked to curate a show of contemporary French women artists entitled Combative Acts, Profiles and Voices. This was the first in a series of international shows sponsored by the Gallery, such as Women Artists from Japan (1978); Artists from Israel (1979); Dialectics of Isolation: An Exhibition of Third World Women Artists in the United States (1980, co-curated by Kazuko and Ana Mendieta); and Sweden Comes to New York (1981). The tradition of curated and invitational shows has continued to the present with such exhibitions as: Choice (1992, over 750 small works on the theme of reproductive rights); States of the Art 1993 (curated by Lowery Sims, Curator of 20th Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art); Caught Between Mind and Body (1994, curated by Betti Sue Hertz of the Bronx Arts Council on the subject of women's health); Imprint (1994, a photography exhibition); and Members Choice (1995, a group show by young women artists).

After occupying a gallery space at 63 Crosby Street from 1981-1994, A.I.R. Gallery was located at 40 Wooster Street from 1994-2002, and is now located at 511 West 25th Street.