A conceptual artist whose medium ranged from experimental poetry and performance art to architecture, Acconci was a seminal figure in the development of performance art in the late 1960s to mid-1970s.
Widely regarded as one of the most influential artists on the Body Art scene, key works included Following Piece (1969), where he stalked strangers in public, and Seedbed (1972), where he hid himself under a ramp in Sonnabend Gallery and stated sexual fantasies aloud with the implication he was masturbating (a version of which Marina Abramovic performed in 2005). These career-defining works exemplified his exploration into the body, while Theme Song (1973), a clip of himself lying on the ground eerily speaking to the invisible watcher, delved deeper into the psychological and sociological self with a penetrative tone that marks many of his works.
However, by 1988, Acconci’s interests turned towards architecture when he opened his own practice in Brooklyn. One of his most noted commissions including the façade for the Storefront for Art and Architecture (1992), which still maintained the uncomfortable blurring between private and public spaces that dominated his practice.
In 2016, MoMA PS1 exhibited a survey of Acconci’s works, a format which the artist found challenging and unconducive to his practice and artistic ethos. “He was only recently beginning to be fully understood,” read a statement from Sotheby’s owned Art Agency Partners, an adviser to the Acconci Studio and estate. “The bodily failure of Acconci, an artist whose work was concerned with the body and its failures, comes too soon.”
Acconci’s widow, Maria Acconci, has announced she is planning to open a centre dedicated to the late artist (details to be finalised). He archived each of his own works since the 1960s with meticulous detail, suggesting that he had intended for it all to one day be on display. “His work and archives will live on as we plan a place for his generative art, architecture, design and performance to keep living like a Mobius strip—a future only Vito could have visualised,” she said in a statement to artnet News.