This Week in History


Jeanette Ingberman, founder of Exit Art, is born

January 23, 1952
Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo
Full image
Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo outside the original Exit Art.

Jeanette Ingberman was a New Yorker through and through. Born in Brooklyn to Polish Holocaust survivors, she went to high school at the Yeshivah of Flatbush, went on to Brooklyn College, and earned her master’s degree in art history from Columbia University.  She began work as a curator at the International Center of Photography, then went on to become chief curator at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

It was there she met her life partner, Papo Colo, a Puerto Rican-born artist.  Together the two forged Exit Art in 1982, whose ethos, the New York Times wrote, was the “that the making of art is inextricably interwoven with political and social commentary. With that, Exit Art … focused on showing the work of historically marginalized artists, including women, minorities, foreigners, and gays and lesbians.”

The gallery’s 18-year retrospective, “The End,” won the Association of International Art Critics Award for Best Show in an Alternative Space. Two years later, Exit Art moved from Soho to Hell’s Kitchen.  Among its exhibits was “Reactions” (2002), a response to the Sept. 11 attacks, in which solicitations the pair 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. When Exit Art closed in 2012, the organization had presented more than 200 exhibitions, events, festivals, and programs featuring more than 2,500 artists.

Jeanette Ingberman died of leukemia at 59 on August 24, 2011.

She was remembered by Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center for the Arts: “Jeanette Ingberman was one of the most life affirming, fun, inspirational people on this planet. She attracted many, many people to her organization because it was always a joy to be with her. You never walked away from a conversation with Jeanette without having learned something.  … I hope that young people who wish to work in the arts will study her work for years to come. It is a lesson in creativity supported by discipline, in commitment supported by sacrifice, and, ultimately, of the joy of pursuing one's own personal mission.”

Sources: “In Memory: Jeannette Ingberman,” Huffington Post; “Jeanette Ingberman, Founder of Exit Art, Dies at 59,” New York Times, August 26, 2011; “January 23: Jeanette Ingberman’s Exit Art,” Jewish Currents; “Exit Art, 1982 - 2012,” Paris Review Daily.

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