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The exhibition by Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Maintenance Art Works 1969–1980, is the first comprehensive solo exhibition of the artist’s earlier work in the UK.

Though Ukeles’ took a seminal position in early conceptual and feminist art and is represented in almost every anthology of 1960s and 1970s artists, her work has not yet been explored in its wider significance. The exhibition presents major works spanning a decade of production and is based on a show at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts gallery in New York 1998.

The work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles (born 1939 in Denver, USA) concerns the everyday routines of life. In 1969, following the birth of her first child, Ukeles wrote her “Manifesto for Maintenance Art” as a challenge to the oppositions between art and life, nature and culture, and public and private. Her work looked to highlight otherwise overlooked aspects of social production and questions, still very relevant today, the hierarchies of different forms of work, especially of housework and low-wage labour. Ukeles was interested in how artists could use the concept of transference to empower people to act as agents of change and stimulate positive community involvement toward ecological sustainability. Since 1977, Ukeles has acted as artist in residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation and realised radical public art as public culture in a system which serves and is owned by the entire population.

“I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a mother. (Random order). I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking, renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also, (up to now separately) I ‘do’ Art. Now I will simply do these everyday things, and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.”
(Ukeles, Manifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969).

Read the Manifesto here.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art Works 1969–1980 is organised in collaboration with the Grazer Kunstverein and curated by Krist Gruijthuijsen, director of the Grazer Kunstverein.

The exhibtion will be followed by Ukeles’ very first publication, “Mierle Laderman Ukeles:  Seven Work Ballets”, which focuses on her Ballet Works produced between 1983 and 2012. The publication is edited by Kari Conte and co-published by Sternberg Press, Kunstverein Amsterdam, Grazer Kunstverein in collaboration with Arnolfini.


Exhibition tours

Every Saturday, 2pm, free

The free tours of our galleries are led by a member of staff, or an invited guest – an artist, writer, or curator – and are a chance to hear the personal interpretations and insights of the tour leader, learn more about the work on show, and task any questions you may have about the exhibition. All welcome.

Share your pictures and comments @arnolfiniarts #MierleLU 

Download the Exhibition Guide here 

Reading Room Resources: Download the reading list for the current exhibitions here.