America Is Hard to See
Audio Guide Playlist

This audio guide highlights selected works by artists in America Is Hard to See. Curators, scholars, and artists provide additional commentary.

DONNA DE SALVO: I’m Donna De Salvo, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Programs at the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

In this work, Haacke used existing, public records to construct the history of a series of buildings owned by a single family. One hundred and forty-six photographs, maps of Harlem and the Lower East Side, where these properties were located, and charts documenting the real estate transactions over the period of ownership of these works.

In many ways, it’s a highly objective document, in that it puts forward a series of facts about these various properties, owned by a real estate, owned by a landlord who was not perceived as reputable in the way that he dealt with his tenants. And this is something that is very consistent throughout Haacke’s work, is looking at systems of exchange, systems of ownership of works of art, and at the heart of it is really laying bare the kinds of transactions that are often obscured. The kinds of movement and exchanges that one thinks of in terms of economic systems, market systems, and social systems.

This work garnered enormous controversy when it was scheduled for presentation in 1971 at the Guggenheim Museum. And in fact, not only was Haacke’s show canceled, but the curator who had organized the exhibition was terminated from their position.   


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