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Vito Acconci (American, 1940-2017)


Also known as:  Acconci, Vito Hannibal

Birth Place: New York City (New York state, United States)


Vito Acconci (January 24, 1940 – April 27, 2017) was a multi-disciplined installation artist who pioneered the practice of performance and video art in the second half of the twentieth century. His provocative pieces inspired a generation of artists who continue his practice of blurring the boundaries between the real world and the art world.  Whether it was art on canvas, film, furniture, or even sculpture Acconci inspired by breaking new ground on social taboos and evolving the base definition of what art could be. 

Born to middle-class parents in the Bronx, Acconci started his career not in the visual arts, but in the literary. He followed a BA in literature from Holy Cross with an MFA in poetry from the University of Iowa. His early poetic works were heavily inspired by the absurd elements of the Situationist movement. 

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw Acconci’s transition from poet to performance artist. After self-publishing the poetry magazine 0 TO 9 (1969), he began to experiment with photography, film, and live performance. From the beginning, his work was controversial. One installation, Seedbed (1972) required Acconci to lay hidden under a ramp at the Sonnabend gallery while broadcasting fantasies through a loudspeaker about the visitors walking above him. Ever the visionary, it was Seedbed that most critics and art historians point to as the nascent beginnings of performance art. 

In the 1980s Acconci transformed his art practice again, this time choosing sculpture and architecture as his medium of choice. Most of these pieces required audience participation. Instant House (1980) required the viewer to pull ropes to erect four walls around them. Many ensuing pieces were intended to be played with, sat on, or interacted with. To deal with the scope of these projects Acconci founded Acconci Studio in Brooklyn, a collaborative group of designers, architects, and visual artists. 

The foundation of Acconci’s studio allowed him an entirely new outlet for creativity, furniture design, prototype houses, and gardens. He extended himself to large-scale public works throughout most of the 1990s. Acconci’s interest in blending public and private space manifested in a series of projects, perhaps most famously in Walkways Through the Wall (1998) and Dirt Wall (1992) for the Arvada Center in Arvada Colorado. In both of these pieces, the artist plays with the idea of public space, subverting expectations and creating curious combinations of the intimate and the performative. 

Acconci continued his prolific pace in the decades leading up to his death. Well into his seventies, he produced installation after installation for both public and private spaces. From the cheeky Lobby-for-the-Time-Being (2009) in the Bronx Museum of the Arts to Waterfall Out & In (2010) for a water treatment plant in Brooklyn, all of these projects showed a continued refinement of the aesthetics that Acconci had been practicing for a full half-century. He taught at many prestigious art institutions including the San Francisco Art Institute, the California Institute of the Arts, and Yale. He died in 2017, at the age of 77. 

Vito Acconci Frequently Asked Questions:

How much are Vito Acconci paintings worth?

A Vito Acconci lithograph can run in the hundreds of dollars, while his paintings have been sold recently for about $5,000 USD. 

What are the most famous works of Vito Acconci?

0 to 9 (1969), Seedbed (1972), Instant House (1980), and Walkways Through the Walls (1998)

What is the value of Vito Acconci’s artwork? 

Since Acconci produced a lot of performance art and installation pieces, it’s hard to put a hard number on his work, but his paintings are worth thousands of dollars. His installations are considered priceless and extremely valuable. 

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