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A Short Life of Trouble

Forty Years in the New York Art World

Marcia Tucker (Author), Liza Lou (Editor), Liza Lou (Afterword by)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 226 pages
ISBN: 9780520265950
May 2010
$24.95, £20.00
Other Formats Available:
This engrossing memoir brings to vivid life the behind-the-scenes struggles of Marcia Tucker, the first woman to be hired as a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the founder of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Tucker came of age in the 1960s, and this spirited account of her life draws the reader directly into the burgeoning feminist movement and the excitement of the New York art world during that time. Her own new ways of thinking led her to take principled stands that have changed the way art museums consider contemporary art. As curator of painting and sculpture at the Whitney, she organized major exhibitions of the work of Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, and Richard Tuttle, among others. As founder of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, she organized and curated groundbreaking exhibitions that often focused on the nexus of art and politics. The book highlights Tucker's commitment to forging a new system when the prevailing one proved too narrow for her expansive vision.
prologue / 1

one / 1945–1956 / 3
two / 1957–1959 / 1 3
three / 1960–1962 / 2 6
four / 1963–1964 / 4 6
five / 1965–1966 / 6 5
s i x / 1967–1968 / 7 2
seven / 1969–1970 / 7 9
eight / 1971–1974 / 9 1
nine / 1975–1976 / 1 0 8
ten / 1977–1980 / 1 2 0
eleven / 1980–1983 / 1 3 8
twelve / 1983–1984 / 1 4 9
thirteen / 1984–1993 / 1 6 0
fourteen / 1994–1995 / 1 7 5
fifteen / 1997 / 1 8 3
sixteen / 1998–2004 / 1 9 1

afterword by liza lou / 1 9 9
author’s acknowledgments / 2 0 5
editor’s acknowledgments / 2 0 7
photography credits / 2 0 9

Marcia Tucker, who died in 2006, was a curator of contemporary art and the founder and director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City. Liza Lou is an artist.
“Offers some much-needed inspiration [and] ample evidence of Tucker’s take-no-prisoners attitude and passion for “difficult” art.”—New York Times Book Review
“A remarkable piece of writing. . . . [Tucker] has composed a literary monument to her heroic life in art, as moving as it is entertaining.”—Artforum
“A candid, entertaining, and illuminating account of the 1960s art world. . . A perfect antidote to this bloated, spectacle-heavy moment.”—Martha Schwendener Bookforum
Marcia Tucker’s courage, conviction and chutzpah are inspiration for those of us who seek to lead meaningful professional lives. Meaning, she reminds us, may very well be found at life’s margins. . . . It may well serve as a model for the good times that are yet to come.”—Museum
“A vivid, candid, self-critical and moving account of Tucker’s life. . . . It is extremely readable and novice curators should find it inspiring.”—John A. Walker The Art Book
“A good book about a good person.”—Art + Auction
“A joyful exploration of all things art-related. . . . Tucker’s balanced assessment of her work and personal life is commendable.”—Bust
“An unassuming, humbled, even self-effacing metaphor for the art that is life in the art milieu.”—Migill Book Reviews
“A great read [and] a page turner. . . . In less than 200 pages she encapsulates her life, sharing her triumphs and insecurities.”—Pelican Press
“Tucker’s book is conventional, accessible, even chatty. But this modest volume, in concert with the shiny playful building on the Bowery, denotes a remarkable legacy.”—Village Voice
"Marcia was instrumental in introducing so many artists throughout her career, and I was one of them."—Bruce Nauman

"I know of no other curator who has left a major museum and said, 'I'll start a new museum.' Marcia was for me a mentor, then a beacon, and later a role model. I consider myself fortunate."—John Baldessari

"Marcia was a rebel with a cause: shaking up the staid world of art museums. She did it with vision, guts, and humor. We are forever indebted to her example."—Guerrilla Girls

"A Short Life Of Trouble—gossipy and delicious, smart and often deeply moving—takes us through Marcia Tucker's tough but fascinating days as a young, adventurous curator at the Whitney Museum to her ambivalent triumphs and constant challenges as the visionary founder of the New Museum, and beyond. The author emerges as a fierce, outspoken champion of contemporary artists, especially the risk-takers who are often marginalized and overlooked or not an easy sell. Her intelligence, passion, immense generosity of spirit, and wry, witty observations on the battles and machinations of the New York art world of the 1980s and 1990s are alive on every page. Although in her quest to live a just, meaningful existence she was often hardest on herself, Marcia Tucker clearly knew how to have fun and made every minute count. This poignant memoir lets us glimpse the all-too-brief but rich and remarkable life of an extraordinary human being."—Jessica Hagedorn, author of Dream Jungle

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