Sep 04 2010
August 28 – October 3, 2010
Installation view. Collection of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
In 1970 Tom Marioni was invited to make an exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California. He asked sixteen friends to come to the museum on a Monday evening, when it was closed. The curator brought enough beer to go around, and everyone “drank and had a good time.” The empty beer bottles, tables, and chairs were left in situ for the run of the exhibition. Rather than a performance, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art (1970) consisted of an action and its evidence. “Since I didn’t want to subject my friends to being performers, the public was not invited. . . . It was an important work for me, because it defined Action rather than Object as art. And drinking beer was one of the things I learned in art school.” At the start of the same year, Marioni had founded the Museum of Conceptual Art (MOCA) in San Francisco, where he presented work by artists—including himself, under the pseudonym Allan Fish—experimenting with new art forms, such as conceptual art, sound art, performance and action art, installation, and video. Open to the public as a nonprofit, membership-driven museum, MOCA presented pioneering exhibitions and projects until 1984. In 1976 Marioni started Café Society, a Wednesday afternoon social club that met at Breen’s Bar, down the street from MOCA, where invited guests assembled to drink beer and talk about art. Evolving out of The Act of Drinking Beer, Café Society was a social artwork that brought people together under contrived circumstances to interact freely. Café Society has continued over the years in various iterations, including video screenings with free beer at MOCA and Marioni’s ongoing weekly Wednesday salons at his studio.
Tom Marioni drawing the circle in the Guggenheim
Organized by Anne Ellegood, Hammer senior curator.