Exhibitions - Maintenance Art

Mierle Laderman Ukeles
Maintenance Art

09.18.16 – 02.19.17

The artist Mierle Laderman in conversation with a Sanitation worker, standing beside a Sanitation truck. Mierle is a White woman with thick, long, blonde hair. She is wearing teal pants, an orange shirt, and a black, zip-up vest. The Sanitation worker is Black and dressed in a gray uniform. The truck is white and covered in graffiti.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Touch Sanitation Performance, 1979-1980. Citywide performance with 8,500 Sanitation workers across all 59 New York City Sanitation districts. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, photo: Robin Holland.

“Full and exemplary retrospectives of major but under-known American artists are rare. The Queens Museum has such a show in “Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art

– Holland Cotter, The New York Times


Since the late 1960s, Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ performances, sculptural installations, and writing have explored issues profoundly important to society today: the role of women in society, cultures of work and labor, and urban and community resilience. Her MANIFESTO FOR MAINTENANCE ART 1969! laid out the hidden, yet essential role of maintenance in Western society—and the radical implications of actively valuing rather than dismissing or hiding it


This first survey of Ukeles’ work is organized by the Queens Museum’s Larissa Harris and guest co-curator Patricia C. Phillips, who initiated the project in 2012. The show will span five decades, from her work as a pioneer of feminist performance to a practitioner of public art, in which Ukeles invites us to reconsider indispensable urban systems and the workers who maintain them. Ukeles is undoubtedly best-known for her 36+ year role as the official, unsalaried Artist-in-Residence at New York’s Department of Sanitation. Unprecedented when it began in 1978, this residency has now become a model for municipalities engaging with artists as creative agents.


The accompanying publication, Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art (Prestel: August 2016) features a major essay by Patricia C. Phillips; interviews by Tom Finkelpearl with four Sanitation Commissioners who have worked with Ukeles; contributions by Larissa Harris, Lucy Lippard, and Laura Raicovich; writings by the artist; and over 300 striking color images. Together, important perspectives on an artist who has transformed our notions of public art and the potential for the artist in the city.





The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; Lily Auchincloss Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Mark and Katie Coleman; Rivka Saker; the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc.; EMU Health; Gabriel Catone; Andrew Ruth; Helen and Peter Warwick; Manon Slome; and Elizabeth Smith; the New York City Department of Sanitation. Additional in-kind gifts were provided by Shine Electronics, Inc.; Delta Air Lines; W X Y Architects; Lower East Side Print Shop; SITU Fabrication; and The Schloss Family; the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.