Four decades out front

Photographer Gillian Wearing

Ordinary people: Photographer Gillian Wearing offers unorthodox anthropology in her exhibit “Mass Observation,” opening at the ICA tonight.

Andy Warhol got his first 15 minutes at the Institute of Contemporary Art. The now-celebrated 1965 exhibition/happening put Penn’s contemporary art gallery on the cultural map as well.

Warhol is only one of several notable artists that have been elevated into the public spotlight through exhibitions organized by the ICA over the past 40 years. Others, such as rock musician Patti Smith, one of the four artists featured in the exhibits that open the ICA’s 40th anniversary year, have already achieved a degree of fame and notoriety. What they all have in common is the ability to make you think—or at least sit up and take notice—by pushing and poking at artistic conventions.

Besides “Strange Messenger,” the first museum exhibition of Smith’s works on paper, the ICA’s fall shows feature “Mass Observation,” Gillian Wearing’s slightly-off-center photographs of ordinary Britons; “Traces of Friday,” a multi-artist exhibit that looks at the artifacts and effects of tourism, and “The Flowers of Romance” by Virgil Marti, the latest in the ICA’s ongoing series of ramp installations.

ICA FALL EXHIBITIONS: Sept. 4 through Dec. 14 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 S. 36th St. Admission $3, students over 12/artists/seniors $2, ICA members/children 12 and under/PennCard holders/all visitors Sundays before 1 p.m. free. Info: or 215-898-5911/215-898-7108.

Originally published on September 4, 2003