From Margin to Center

From Margin to Center

The Spaces of Installation Art

By Julie H. Reiss

A study of installation art, from its marginalized beginnings in the late 1950s to its central position in today's art world.





A study of installation art, from its marginalized beginnings in the late 1950s to its central position in today's art world.

Unlike traditional art works, installation art has no autonomous existence. It is usually created at the exhibition site, and its essence is spectator participation. Installation art originated as a radical art form presented only at alternative art spaces; its assimilation into mainstream museums and galleries is a relatively recent phenomenon. The move of installation art from the margin to the center of the art world has had far-reaching effects on the works created and on museum practice.

This is the first book-length study of installation art. Julie Reiss concentrates on some of the central figures in its emergence, including artists, critics, and curators. Her primary focus is installations created in New York City—which has a particularly rich history of installation art—beginning in the late 1950s. She takes us from Allan Kaprow's 1950s' environments to examples from minimalism, performance art, and process art to establish installation art's autonomy as well as its relationship to other movements. Recent years have seen a surge of interest in the effects of exhibition space, curatorial practice, and institutional context on the spectator. The history of installation art—of all art forms, one of the most defiant of formalist tenets—sheds considerable light on the issues raised by this shift of critical focus from isolated art works to art experienced in a particular context.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262181969 208 pp. | 7 in x 8 in


$39.95 T ISBN: 9780262681346 208 pp. | 7 in x 8 in


  • Reiss has provided a clear narration of installation art's development; her argument is clear, well researched, and well argued.



  • From Margin to Center is a much-needed first history of the development of installation art in America. Reiss's research foregrounds the importance of alternative exhibition spaces in New York in the late 1960s and 1970s and highlights the significance of these spaces as centers for political and aesthetic exchange, exploration, and experimentation. The book's important documentation of artworks and performances from this period reignites and informs consideration of the frame and context for artistic practice in today's global cultural community.

    Jennifer R. Gross

    Curator of Contemporary Art, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

  • Reiss's narration of the progress of installation from alternative to mainstream is clear, well-researched, and cogently argued. This book fills a void in the field of contemporary art.

    Tom Finkelpearl

    Program Director, P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center

  • Reiss offers a lucid argument for rethinking 'installation art' and its challenge to the repressive and restrictive terms of the modernist art object. Her revisionism is a refreshing departure from the essentially formalist canon that continues to distort the meaning and implications of the radical aesthetics of the 1960s.

    Maurice Berger

    Senior Fellow, The Vera List Center for Art & Politics, New School for Social Research