It’s official: nostalgia trends have taken over the world. Perhaps to balance out the breakneck speed of global innovation, all the cool art girls are embracing all the twentieth-century decades, one by one.
While vintage nostalgia has was originally Tumblr’s domain, the more mainstream Instagram is also saturated in throwback accounts. Whole pages devoted to 2000s celebrity moments, New Wave movie stills and vintage Olsen twin shots are snapping up thousands of followers.
In the fashion world, even fads deemed too ugly to ever come back are succeeding against all odds—we’re looking at you, low-rise denim. Kind of makes you wonder what’s going to happen when we run out of decades. Do we start over? Go further back? Should I stock up on 1500s peasant fashion before it goes mainstream?
But if there’s one decade that will never go out of style, it’s the 70s. From the music to the hair (oh Lord, the hair!), the glam, rock n’ roll decade will never not be fertile ground for inspiration.
One flick through @70sdaily has us Googling time machines (get on it, Elon Musk!), insanely jealous of the lucky art girls who lived out their prime during that iconic decade. But since, as of the time of publication, at least, time travel doesn’t seem to be on the vacation menu, we’re bringing the 70s to 2019 by toasting to its finest art girls.
Read on to meet 10 of the coolest art girls who ruled the ‘70s (and, by extension, the universe).
1) Kim Hastreiter
If being co-founder and longtime editor of Paper Magazine wasn’t enough, Hastreiter has an eclectic CV full of cultural moments that cement her status as one of the cool art girls of the ‘70s. Her IG bio says it best: Kim is a “Cultural explorer, troublemaker, connector, original gangster, people person, Co founder PAPER.”
The “original gangster” title might seem a bit hard to prove, but the paper of record has confirmed. According to the New York Times, Hastreiter’s claim to downtown soft power is threefold: she danced with Madonna at the Roxy before Madonna was Madonna; she witnessed Basquiat’s paintings being sold on the sidewalk for $200; she once drove cross-country in a truck called the Dragon Wagon with artist and drag queen Joey Arias. Can’t argue with the facts.
After a BFA and an MFA, mentored by John Baldessari, no less, Hastreiter landed in NYC in 1976. Working as a salesgirl on Madison Avenue, she made friends with photographer Bill Cunningham, who helped her land a job at SoHo Weekly News, where she would serve as Style Editor. She collaborated on stories with artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, before founding Paper, which soon became the hottest culture magazine in town.
2) Marian Goodman
An NYC native, Marian Goodman is probably the only person in history to get into the art business for the money. Freshly divorced, she opened her eponymous gallery in 1977, making her one of the city’s—and the world’s—first successful women gallerinas.
But Goodman was no opportunist and no dilettante. In the ‘60s, she studied art history at Columbia, where she was the only woman in her class. After, she co-opened a print shop, Multiples, selling prints, multiples and books by superstar artists like Sol Lewitt, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.
Her first week as a gallerist got off to a good start when Jackson Pollock’s psychoanalyst unloaded drawings the tortured artists had bartered for therapy. Goodman hauled them straight off to the MoMA, where a curator snapped them up. The rest is history: Marian Goodman Gallery has built a steady reputation for itself representing artists like Steve McQueen and Maurizio Cattelan. Today, Marian Goodman has locations in London and Paris and continues to represent some of the world’s leading artists.
3) Paula Cooper
A decade before Goodman, another cool art girl opened a gallery in NYC. A trailblazer in many ways, Paula Cooper wasn’t afraid to dive into the art world head first. Her first show at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1968 was an anti-Vietnam War benefit showing work by Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Sol LeWitt. Decades ahead of her time, she also hosted hybrid creative soirées mixing music, dance, poetry and activism.
Cooper championed ‘70s women artists Lynda Benglis and Elizabeth Murray before any other dealer. When Artforum refused to run a picture of a naked Lynda Benglis straddling a dildo in her 1974 profile, Cooper stepped up, took out an ad in the paper, and ran the photo herself. If that’s not sticking it to the man, I don’t know what is.
Do yourself a favor ASAP and explore the gorgeous vintage pics Paula Cooper Gallery posted in honor of its 50th anniversary last year.
4) Ileana Sonnabend
Ileana Sonnabend isn’t just one of the cool art girls; she’s art world royalty. In 1961, she and her husband opened Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in Paris. The gallery introduced artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to the European market, no biggie.
In 1971, Sonnabend Gallery opened a New York location in the up-and-coming SoHo, where she continued being quietly iconic. Sonnabend showed major artists like Jeff Koons, David Hockney and Gilbert & George and introduced Georg Baselitz, Christo and Jannis Kounellis to the American market.
In a testament to her open-mindedness, Ileana Sonnabend once let performance artist Vito Acconci masturbate in her gallery for two weeks for his piece Seedbed. Although Sonnabend passed away in 2007, her gallery lives on in NYC.
5) Angela Westwater
Before opening Sperone Westwater Fischer with European dealers Gian Enzo Sperone and Konrad Fischer, Angela Westwater already had some pretty impressive experience under her belt. She started out as a gallerina at the legendary John Weber Gallery, then followed up with three years as managing editor of Artforum. Sperone Westwater Fischer (today, Sperone Westwater) opened in 1975 and went on to represent artists like Tom Sachs, Susan Rothenberg, Bruce Nauman and Julian Schnabel.
Since the ‘70s, Westwater has slowly and steadily become one of the most respected figures in the New York art world. But she’s also a big believer in giving back, serving as President of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, which has awarded millions of dollars in artist grants.
6) Mary Boone
Before there was Charlotte Yorke, there was Mary Boone. Of all the cool art girls out there, she might just be the coolest. With her flair for fashion and larger-than-life personality, Boone was arguably the first gallerina to become a cultural icon. New York Magazine even christened her “The New Queen of the Art Scene in 1982, five years after she opened her gallery.
Love her or hate her, you can’t deny that Mary Boone was in the white-hot center of the New York art scene spotlight. In the late ‘70s and ‘80s, she stood in the center of the new art boom. Against all odds, coming out of an impoverished and troubled childhood, Boone worked her way up from secretary at Bykert Gallery to superstar dealer.
From the beginning, she proved her business savvy and marketing chops: Mary Boone Gallery opened just downstairs from A-list galleries Castelli and Sonnabend. Visitors waiting for the elevator would wander into her space, and the rest is history. After launching Julian Schnabel’s career, Boone represented Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Barbara Kruger, among others.
The ‘70s had long faded, but Boone never stayed out of the spotlight for long. Her personal life was exciting and tumultuous, even more so because of the attention her flashy habits drew from the press. Earlier this year, she made headlines again, this time for a less than sexy charge: tax evasion. In February, she was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for business and personal tax fraud.
7) Helene Winer
Best known as the co-owner of Metro Pictures Gallery, by the time she opened the gallery in 1980, Helene Winer had already established herself on the international art scene. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, then just a blip on the art world map, Winer kicked off her art career as an assistant at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, then hopped across the pond to become assistant director of Whitechapel Gallery in London.
In 1970, Winer returned to LA to become Director of the Museum of Art at Pomona College, a prestigious liberal arts school where she also taught art. At Pomona, Winer showed artists like Jack Goldstein, John Baldessari, Bas Jan Ader, Ed Moses and Hirokazu Kosaka.
In 1975, Winer relocated yet again, this time to join the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. In NYC, she became Director of Artists Space, a non-profit exhibition space. It was there that she organized Pictures, a pivotal show for postmodern artists that came to be known as the Pictures Generation.
8) Ana Mendieta
In her tragically short career, this Cuban-American artist wove together all the major strands of ‘70s art movements: feminism, body art, land art and performance art. In her Silueta Series, started in the ‘70s, Mendieta used her own body, natural materials and the Earth to make what she called “earth-body” sculptures, the first of their kind. Part video art, part photography, part performance, pictures and films of her sculptures survived until today, although the artist did not. Mendieta’s most sensation pieces involved blood: in 1972, she stood against a white wall, a decapitated chicken bleeding out against her naked body (Untitled, Death of a Chicken).
It’s safe to say that by the time Mendieta made her way to NYC (by way of Rome) to join the first gallery for women in the US, Artists in Residence, she already had a clear vision for her work. Perhaps as a reference to her country’s bloody past, violence frequently cropped up in Mendieta’s art. Mendieta and her siblings had been sent to the US as political refugees—her father was a political prisoner, jailed for rebelling against the communist dictatorship.
Haunted by the loss of her motherland, Cuba, she sought a primordial, spiritual connection with the Earth through her art. Despite all the darkness she faced in her early life, Mendieta saw redemption in nature and in spirit.
Sadly, one big theme of her art—violence against women—was echoed in her death. In 1985, at age 36, Mendieta fell from the 34th-floor apartment she shared with her husband, Carl Andre. Andre testified that the couple had been fighting when Mendieta walked into her bedroom and out the window, but some accused the artist of pushing his wife. Although Andre was acquitted, the controversy continues to cast a shadow over a brilliant life.
9) Emma Amos
The youngest member and only woman in Spiral, a black artists collective, Emma Amos is sort of a major badass. Growing up in the American South, Amos was acutely aware of lingering racism, reflected in her paintings.
When she moved to NYC after art school to pursue a career as an artist, she was surprised that the situation wasn’t much better in the so-called progressive city. Blocked from galleries and curators, turned down from most of the jobs she applied to, Amos persevered until she found a teaching job at the Dalton School.
Over the course of the ‘70s, she became a professional textile designer by day, art student by night, and painter on the weekends—talk about a full schedule. She also taught textile design at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, and became successful as a commercial weaver, partly because of the boost in popularity that textile art got from the feminist art movement.
Ironically but understandably, with all that on her plate, feminism didn’t make it onto Amos’ radar until the 1980s. Before then, like most Black women, she saw feminism as a movement for middle-class white woman. But that changed when she joined the feminist collective Heresies, which published art and writing by overlooked women. In Heresies, Amos had her first experience of working with white feminists for a common goal: fighting the patriarchy in the arts.
Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via Zaleb, Paper Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Paula Cooper Gallery, Modernism, Artsy, Mondo Blogo, Hyperallergic, Artists Space, Huffington Post, The Red & Black, The Village Voice.