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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Eleanor Antin papers
    Date (inclusive): 1953-2010
    Number: 2012.M.5
    Creator/Collector: Antin, Eleanor
    Physical Description: 36.73 Linear Feet (64 boxes, 2 film reels, 1 flat-file folder)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The papers of artist Eleanor Antin contain comprehensive documentation of her work and work processes throughout her career as a pioneer in the fields of conceptual, feminist, and performance art. Included are extensive correspondence, notebooks and sketchbooks, ephemera, thousands of photographs and negatives, and master recordings of video, film, and audio works.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    A key figure in the development of conceptual, feminist, and performance art, Eleanor Antin has created an influential body of work in an impressive range of media, including photography, improvised and theatrical performance, installation, film and video, drawing, writing, and sculpture. Often imbued with a tone of deadpan humor, her projects deal nonetheless with issues as serious and complex as gender, race, culture, and identity.
    Eleanor Antin was born in 1935 in the Bronx, New York, to Polish immigrant parents. Her mother was an actress in Yiddish theater, and her father worked in the garment industry; both were active in leftist politics. Antin was educated in New York at the Art and Music high school, City College, and the New School for Social Research. She also studied acting. After a brief stint as an actress, she returned to City College to complete her degree; there she met poet-critic David Antin, whom she married in 1961.
    Eleanor Antin shifted her focus in the 1960s from acting to conceptual object-text artworks when she was part of a circle of artists that included members of Fluxus. One such work of this phase is Blood of a Poet Box, consisting of an unassuming container that houses one hundred microscope slides bearing a drop of blood from a writer; each author's name-including Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, and John Cage-is methodically listed on the inside of the box's lid.
    The Antins moved permanently to San Diego in 1968, and the phase of Antin's work that involved conceptual photography and installation culminated in her signature piece 100 Boots (1971). Modeled on the literary formats of picaresque and serial novels, 100 Boots took the form of fifty-one picture postcards, mailed out periodically to members of the art world, that illustrate the epic tale of one-hundred rubber boots marching from Southern California to New York. Each postcard presents a snapshot of their trek as they walk through a farm, past oil rigs, visit a cemetery, or ride the Staten Island Ferry on their way into Manhattan.
    Beginning in 1972, Antin began to draw on her theatrical background in a series of works in which she performed as personas she had invented and written narratives for; soon she filmed these performances as well. The explicit leftist-feminist turn of works such as The Adventures of a Nurse (1976) and Before the Revolution (1979) together with their layered humor and exuberant innovation, established her as a pivotal figure in feminist film. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, her work often dealt with Jewish and Russian history, in addition to the plight of women in society. In the past decade, the setting for her work has moved further back in time, to ancient Rome.
    The significance of Antin's work has been recognized by publications and exhibitions since the late 1960s and early 1970s, and over the last four decades it has continued to shape the direction of subsequent generations of artists.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers except for audiovisual material that needs reformatting.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Eleanor Antin papers, 1953-2010, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2012.M.5

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired from Eleanor Antin in 2012.

    Processing History

    Annette Leddy and Emmabeth Nanol processed and cataloged the collection in 2012, retaining Antin's original groupings as series.
    Selected audiovisual material has been digitized and is available online . Access is available only to on-site readers and Getty staff.

    Digital Material

    Selected audiovisual material has been digitized and is available online: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/2012m5av . Access is available only to on-site readers and Getty staff.

    Related Archival Materials

    David Antin papers, 1954-2006, accession no. 2008.M.56. Link to finding aid: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/cifa2008m56 .

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Eleanor Antin papers document the artist's professional career, beginning with audio cassettes of her performances as an actress in the 1950s. Series I includes professional correspondence with art critics, curators, and artist-colleagues, such as Lucy Lippard or Brian O'Doherty. The notebooks in Series II span three decades and include notes, drafts, and sketches of all of Antin's works, offering insight into her composition process and her source material. Series III contains these same materials in a more developed or finished state, including completed screenplays, shooting scripts, and exhibition installation plans. It also includes a number of unpublished works, including early poetry and experimental text works from the 1960s, and unpublished plays and performance plans from the 1970s and 80s. These projects are also documented by a very complete set of announcements in Series VI, and reviews and press releases in Series VII. Several thousand photographs In Series VIII (approximately 1100 prints, 1000 slides, and several thousand negatives) document most of Antin's artistic output, including many destroyed and lost works from the 1950s and 1960s, rejected works from the 100 Boots series, and works that Antin pulled from circulation in the 1970s. Audiovisual materials in Series IX bring these materials more vividly to life and includes the master copies of Antin's video, film, and audio works, many of which are not available elsewhere. Series V contains work by others, including poetry, artist books, and many manuscripts of essays about Antin. Series IV contains personal and other miscellaneous items.


    The papers are arranged in nine series: Series I. Correspondence, 1965-2009, undated; Series II. Notebooks, 1970-2001, undated; Series III. Projects, circa 1965-2009; Series IV. Personal/Miscellaneous, 1973-2008, undated; Series V. Work by others, 1962-2010, undated; Series VI. Ephemera, 1960-2010, undated; Series VII. Reviews and Press Releases, 1965-2009; Series VIII. Photographs, 1965-2007, undated; Series IX. Audiovisual and digital materials, 1953-2010.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Conceptual Art
    Performance art -- United States
    Feminism and art -- United States

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Acetate film
    Videodiscs (video recording disks)


    Acker, Kathy
    Antin, David
    O'Doherty, Brian
    Lippard, Lucy
    Antin, Eleanor