Jeanette Ingberman, a Founder of Exit Art, Dies at 59
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: August 26, 2011
Jeanette Ingberman, a founder of the New York cultural center Exit Art, which for three decades has been a hotbed of avant-garde work by artists from around the world, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 59.
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Her death, from complications of leukemia, was announced by the center.
With the artist Papo Colo, Ms. Ingberman founded Exit Art in 1982. Now located in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, it encompasses exhibition and performance spaces that present art, theater, poetry, music, film and video.
What unites its diverse offerings, Ms. Ingberman said in interviews, is the center’s founding ethos: that the making of art is inextricably interwoven with political and social commentary. With that, Exit Art has focused on showing the work of historically marginalized artists, including women, minorities, foreigners, and gays and lesbians.
Artists whose work has been presented there are today among the best known in the world. They include Krzysztof Wodiczko, a Warsaw-born artist known for slide and video projections of monumental scale; Tehching Hsieh, a Taiwanese-born performance artist whose harrowing works have involved his being caged or otherwise restrained; Julie Mehretu, born in Ethiopia, whose paintings feature dynamic, enticingly cryptic, quasi-architectural forms; Sue de Beer, a photographer and video artist known for haunting, ultra-realist images; and David Wojnarowicz, whose rage-filled works in various media dealt often with AIDS, of which he died in 1992.
The daughter of Polish Jews who had survived the Holocaust, Jeanette Ingberman was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 23, 1952. She attended high school at the Yeshivah of Flatbush and earned a bachelor’s degree in art history and studio art from Brooklyn College.
Ms. Ingberman later earned a master’s degree in art history from Columbia University, where her teachers included the distinguished art historian Meyer Schapiro. Concentrating on the history of modern art, Ms. Ingberman wrote her master’s thesis on the intersection — often a fraught and rocky place — between art and the law.
She began her career as a curator in the 1970s, first working for the International Center of Photography and later becoming the chief curator of the Bronx Museum of the Arts. In that capacity, she met Papo Colo, a Puerto Rico-born artist, who became her life partner. He was the center’s artistic director, she its executive director.
Exit Art was originally located on an upper floor of 578 Broadway, in SoHo; in 1992, the center (which during this period was known as Exit Art/The First World) moved to 548 Broadway.
Group shows organized by the couple over the years have included “Illegal America” (1982), an exhibition about art censorship that later moved to the New York Public Library, and “Reactions” (2002), a response to the Sept. 11 attacks in which solicitations they sent to thousands of people for works no bigger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches resulted in an outpouring of drawings, letters, photos and poems from well-known and unsung artists alike.
Exit Art moved to its present location, at 475 Tenth Ave (between 36th and 37th Streets), in 2003. Recent exhibitions have included “Fracking: Art and Activism Against the Drill” and “Autotopia: Cars for a Better Tomorrow,” about ecologically friendly vehicles.
Besides Papo Colo, whom she married in 1992, Ms. Ingberman is survived by a brother, Israel.
If there was a defining thread that ran through all the couple’s artistic endeavors, it could best be characterized as a deliberate fluidity of definition. As Ms. Ingberman explained in an interview with The New York Times in 2000, “We’re constantly asking ourselves: ‘What is an exhibition, anyway?’ ”
Exit Art is a non-profit cultural center established in 1982. Located in Hell's Kitchen, Manhattan, New York City, United States, the two-story gallery exhibits contemporary visual art, installation, video, theater, and performance.
Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo founded Exit Art as an alternative exhibition space. Beginning with “Illegal America,” the very first show at Exit Art, and continuing through to today, the gallery has focused on representing the underdog, dedicating shows to the exploration of ideas and people outside the political, social, sexual, and aesthetic mainstreams. Exit Art co-founder Jeanette Ingberman died August 24, 2011 from complications of leukemia. 
Throughout its history, Exit Art has taken on many homes. It was one of the first galleries to move to SoHo, setting up a space in 1982. In 2002, the gallery moved to its current location in Hell’s Kitchen.
The gallery has been lauded for its diverse and daring programming.[attribution needed] The 1992 show “Fever” was declared to be one of the ten most important shows of the decade by Peter Plagens from Newsweek, and the gallery’s 18-year retrospective, The End, won the Association of International Art Critics Award for Best Show in an Alternative Space in 2000.
Artists who have exhibited at Exit Art include Willie Birch, Chakaia Booker, Patty Chang, Sue DeBeer, Jimmie Durham, Nicole Eisenman, Inka Essenhigh, Jane Hammond, David Hammons, Tehching Hsieh, Jerry Kearns, Julie Mehretu, Shirin Neshat, Roxy Paine, Adrian Piper, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Juan Sanchez, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Fred Tomaselli, Cecilia Vicuña, Krzysztof Wodiczko, David Wojnarowicz, and Martin Wong.
Jeanette Ingberman died from complications of leukemia on August 23, 2011.
- ^ “Every Exit is an Entrance” Village Voice http://www.villagevoice.com/2003-03-11/news/every-exit-is-an-entrance/
- ^ NY Times Obituary
- ^ “Summing Up Doom and Gloom” Newsweek http://www.newsweek.com/id/116047
- ^ "AICA Picks Top Shows - International Association of Art Critics" by Stephanie Cash and David Ebony, Art in America, Jan, 2001