Press release

The ICA presents the first major U.S. museum retrospective devoted to the art of the 1980s

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s
Nov. 15, 2012 – March 3, 2013

(BOSTON—Oct. 10, 2012) The 1980s—from the election of Ronald Reagan to the fall of the Berlin Wall—were a transformative decade for culture and society. This November, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents a monumental new exhibition, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, the first major U.S. museum retrospective devoted to the art of this period. Featuring over 100 works by some 90 artists—including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the Guerilla Girls, Jeff Koons, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter, Doris Salcedo, Cindy Sherman, and Tseng Kwong Chi with Keith Haring—the exhibition offers an overview of the artistic production in the 1980s while situating our contemporary moment within the history of the recent past. Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s is curated by Helen Molesworth, Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the ICA. The exhibition is on view from Nov. 15, 2012, through March 3, 2013.

“A decade marked by vast social and political change, the 1980s were a pivotal and tumultuous era for art and artists—one that is only now starting to feel distant enough to be viewed under a historical lens,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA. “This Will Have Been is a landmark exhibition and achievement, and we are very proud to present it at the ICA.”

This Will Have Been, which covers the period from 1979 to 1992, does not attempt to tell a properly chronological story of the decade nor define it along strict art historical terms,” said Molesworth. “Rather, the exhibition narrates the decade from the position of memory and hindsight, examining the role of art and artists during a decade shaped by powerful and converging forces: movements for social justice, mass-media saturation, and the HIV/AIDS crisis.”

Throughout the 1980s, a series of ruptures permanently changed the character of the U.S. art world. Art veered between radical and conservative, capricious and political, socially engaged and art-historically aware. Even as Reaganomics dramatically expanded art as a luxury commodity, postmodernism further challenged the very status of representation and shifted artists’ sense of their role in society. It was a time where people of color, women, and gay artists demanded to play an active role in the cultural conversation; photography challenged the primacy of painting and sculpture; the toll of the AIDS/HIV crisis politicized a broad cross-section of the art community; and the rise of globalism sounded the death knell of New York’s status as the sole “center” of the art world.

At the deepest level, This Will Have Been is shaped by two phenomena that frame the 1980s: feminism and the AIDS crisis. Within these larger outlines, the exhibition finds desire—rather than cynicism or irony—to be the real tenor of the decade. Desire is not reserved for only bodies and objects; one also finds the desire for a break with the past, for a principled and just government, and for the greater acceptance of difference. Through it all, the exhibition shows artists striving to articulate their wants, needs, and desires, in an increasingly material world.

The exhibition is further divided into four thematic sections:

The End Is Near looks at discourses about the end of painting, the end of the counter culture, and the end of history. Artists include: Dotty Attie, Robert Colescott, General Idea, Robert Gober, Jack Goldstein, Peter Halley, Mary Heilmann, Candy Jernigan, Martin Kippenberger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Christian Marclay, Allan McCollum, Matt Mullican, Peter Nagy, Raymond Pettibon, Stephen Prina, Martin Puryear, Gerhard Richter, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Doug + Mike Starn, Tony Tasset, James Welling, and Christopher Wool.

Democracy shows artists investigating the dynamics of the street and the mass media in works such as Gran Fury’s Kissing Doesn’t Kill. This section also notes the pervasive commitment to the political that shaped the art of the era, and the increasing prominence of artists of color. Artists include: Charlie Ahearn, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gretchen Bender, Black Audio Film Collective, Jennifer Bolande, Gregg Bordowitz, Eugenio Dittborn, Gran Fury, Group Material, Hans Haacke, David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Donald Moffett, Lorraine O'Grady, Paper Tiger Television, Adrian Piper, Lari Pittman, Tim Rollins and K.O.S., Christy Rupp, Doris Salcedo, Juan Sanchez, Tseng Kwong Chi and Keith Haring, Carrie Mae Weems, Christopher Williams, and Krzysztof Wodiczko

Gender Trouble elaborates on the implications of the feminist movement. While posing new ideas about sexuality and the body, the work in this section expands gender roles or questions their construction. Artists include: Jimmy De Sana, Carroll Dunham, Jimmy Durham, Guerilla Girls, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Annette Messager, Albert Oehlen, Lorna Simpson, Rosemarie Trockel, and Jeff Wall.

Desire and Longing re-examines how artists use appropriation techniques by viewing them in light of notions of desire. Contextualized by the AIDS crisis and the emergence of queer visibility, these works ultimately link desire to longing – and to feelings of loss. Artists include: Judith Barry, Ashley Bickerton, Leigh Bowery, Deborah Bright, Sophie Calle, Marlene Dumas, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Peter Hujar, G. B. Jones, Isaac Julian, Mary Kelly, Silvia Kolbowski, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Robert Mapplethorpe, MICA-TV, Cady Noland, Richard Prince, Marlon Riggs, David Robbins, Laurie Simmons, Haim Steinbach, and David Wojnarowicz.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 450-page catalogue featuring full-color reproductions of the works in the exhibition and essays by the curator of the exhibition, Helen Molesworth, as well as essays by Johanna Burton, William Horrigan, Elisabeth Lebovici, Kobena Mercer, Sarah Schulman, and Frazer Ward. Additionally, every object has a catalogue entry written by Harvard University graduate students from the History of Art Department.

Press Preview
A press preview for This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, at 9:30 am. RSVP to Colette Randall at or 617-478-3181.

Related programs

Saturday, Dec. 1
12 pm: United in Anger: A History of Act Up
2 pm: Spotlight talks
3 pm: We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco

Since the late 1980s, Dec. 1 unites individuals around the globe in the fight against HIV through AIDS awareness, supporting loved ones, and remembering the deceased. Join us to honor World AIDS Day with spotlight talks in the galleries by artists personally affected by the epidemic as well as a screening of two award-winning documentary films, United in Anger: A History of Act Up and We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco. The screenings are presented in collaboration with the Boston LGBT Film Festival. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

80s Night
Dec. 7, 5–10 pm
Basquiat, Koons, Sherman, and Prince upstairs. Jackson, Bowie, and the artist formally known as Prince downstairs. The 80s are back in full force at this end-of-year bash celebrating our new exhibition This Will Have Been. Tickets: Free for ICA members; $15 nonmembers.

Andrea Fraser: Men on the Line, KPFK, 1972
Thursday, Jan. 24, 6:30 pm
Transcribed and edited from a live radio broadcast in 1972, artist Andrea Fraser impersonates a group of men discussing their sympathies for the burgeoning feminist movement. This tour de force performance explores how the movement reshaped men's perceptions of gender identity, social anxiety, and outsider struggle. Tickets: $5

Claire Grace on This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2:00 pm
Claire Grace, art historian, doctoral candidate, and contributing writer for the exhibition catalogue, provides insight into select works on view in the Democracy section of the exhibition. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

Brown University historian Robert O. Self on Gender Trouble
Sunday, Jan. 13, 2 pm
Robert O. Self, author of American Babylon and the recently released All in the Family: The Realignment of Democracy Since the 1960s, offers historical context for select works of art created in the 1980s, on view in the exhibition This Will Have Been. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

Helen Molesworth, Barbara Lee Chief Curator at the ICA
Thursday, Jan. 24, 5:30 pm
Molesworth walks visitors through the exhibition and shares her thoughts on the work created during this important decade. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

Artist Deborah Bright
Sunday, Feb. 10, 2 pm
Deborah Bright, artist and Chair of Fine Arts at Pratt Institute, provides cultural and historical context for her work featured in the Desire and Longing section of the exhibition. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

Panel discussion: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s
Thursday, Feb. 28, 6:00 pm
Join David Joselit, Carnegie Professor of Art History, Yale University; Elisabeth Sussman, Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Haim Steinbach, artist; and moderator Helen Molesworth in an engaging conversation about the tumultuous decade highlighted in the exhibition. Tickets: Free with museum admission.

This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris: Caryn and King Harris, Katherine Harris, Toni and Ron Paul, Pam and Joe Szokol, Linda and Bill Friend, and Stephanie and John Harris.

Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Helen and Sam Zell.
Additional generous support is provided by Neil G. Bluhm; Deutsche Bank; Andrea and Jim Gordon, The Edgewater Funds; Dakis and Lietta Joannou; Susan and Lew Manilow; the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation; Agnes Gund; David C. & Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation; Marilyn and Larry Fields; The Broad Art Foundation; Gagosian Gallery; Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin; Glenstone; Luhring Augustine Gallery; Per Skarstedt; and Marianne Boesky Gallery.

Major support for the Boston presentation provided by Jodi and Hal Hess.


Additional support is provided by Saks Fifth Avenue.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care is the Lead Sponsor of education programs associated with This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s. 


Image: David Hammons, How Ya Like Me Now?, 1988, Tin, plywood, sledgehammers, Lucky Strike cigarette wrapper, and American Flag painting, 158 x 180 inches, Glenstone, Photo: Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art

About the ICA

An influential forum for multi-disciplinary arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art has been at the leading edge of art in Boston for 75 years. Like its iconic building on Boston's waterfront, the ICA offers new ways of engaging with the world around us. Its exhibitions and programs provide access to contemporary art, artists, and the creative process, inviting audiences of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the excitement of new art and ideas. The ICA, located at 100 Northern Avenue, is open Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 10
a.m. —9 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. —5 p.m. Admission is $15 adults, $13 seniors and $10 students, and free for members and children 17 and under. State Street Corporation Free Admission for Youth at the ICA is generously supported by the State Street Corporation. Free admission on ICA Free Thursday Nights, 5— 9 p.m. Free admission for families at ICA Play Dates (2 adults and children 12 and under) on the last Saturday of the month. For more information, call 617-478-3100 or visit our Web site at


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