Gregory Sholette

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Gregory Sholette
Gregory Sholette.jpeg
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
CitizenshipNew York
EducationAssociates Degree in fine art
Bachelor of Fine Arts
Master of Fine Arts
Alma materBucks County Community College
The Cooper Union
University of California
University of Amsterdam

Gregory Sholette (born 1956, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) has dedicated several decades to the study of the relationship between art and politics. His work is often references in current debates in the fields of activist and socially engaged art criticism.


Sholette is a Professor in the Queens College Art Department, City University of New York, as well as an associate of the Master in Design Studies: Art, Design where he co-directs the Social Practice Queens initiative and the Public Domain, Harvard Graduate School of Design.[1]. Sholette holds an Associates Degree in fine art from Bucks County Community College (1976), a BFA from The Cooper Union (1979), and an MFA from the University of California, San Diego (1995). He attended the Whitney Independent Studies Program in Critical Theory (1996), and received a PhD from the Heritage and Memory Studies Program at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2017). Between 2011 and 2014 he served as a charter member of the Home Workspace Curriculum Committee in Beirut, Lebanon.

Sholette is also co-founder of several New York City based art collectives and group projects, including Political Art Documentation/Distribution or PAD/D (1980-1988) with Jerry Kearns and with Lucy R. Lippard [2]; REPOhistory (1989-2000)[3] ; Gulf Labor Coalition (2011-ongoing) [4] ; It's The Political Economy, Stupid! with Oliver Ressler (2012-2016); Dark Matter Supercollider Games (2015, S.a.L.E Docks cultural center, Venice, Italy) [5] ; and the CUNY-based educational initiative Social Practice Queens with artist Chloë Bass (2010-ongoing)[6]

Sholette is an occasional contributor to cultural journals such as Afterimage, Artforum, ASAP, CAA Art Journal, e-flux, FIELD, Frieze, Hyperallergic, Manifesta Journal, October, Oxford Art Journal, Texte zur Künst, and the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest.

Art Criticism and Aesthetics

Gregory Sholette’s main contribution to the domain of art criticism and aesthetics can be categorized according to four different ideas:

Tactical Media

In a special issue coordinated by Gregory Sholette and Gene Ray in Third Text journal, both authors defend the relevance of tactical media and DIY creative strategies in a context of ongoing privatization and securitization [7]. By looking at the counterhegemonic protests of early 2000s and the controversy arising from the censorship suffered by collectives such as Critical Art Ensemble in the 2000s [8] , both authors argue that “Tactical Media clearly belongs to that cultural shift, so strong in the 1980s and ’90s, from macro-history to micropolitics.” [9] Sholette developed this topic in 2004 through The Interventionist: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life, a book co-edited with Nato Thompson[10].

Tactical Media also plays a decisive factor in the artistic production of some of the art collectives integrated by Sholette. For instance, in 1992 REPOhistory produced alternative signs giving account of silenced episodes of New York City history as a way of suggesting the existence of a multilayered past lying behind the surface of well-known buildings [11].

Collective Art and Modernism

In Collectivism after Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination, Gregory Sholette and Blake Stimson claim that collaborative artwork emerges as a central tool in challenging capitalism’s thrive for individualism. Both authors argue that only by historicizing artistic collectivism could it be possible to grasp its true potential. In this sense, they claim that “Collectivism can be and should be periodized, that we can gain from giving collectivism itself greater definition as a history, and that we occupy a distinct position and face a distinct opportunity now as a new period in that history emerges.” [12] Sholette and Stimson developed this argument in collaboration with art critics and scholars such as Jelena Stojanović, Reiko Tomii, Okwui Enwezor, Alan Moore and Brian Holmes.

Dark Matter and Art’s Economy

Since 1980 Sholette has investigated the economic and ideological structures of the contemporary art world and especially its marginalized cultural collectives, or what he describes as a lumpenography of the art world by following Lius Aponte-Parés [13], focusing on the forgotten, repressed or speculative genealogies of redundant, politically invisible cultural labor [14] that actually maintains and reproduces the mainstream high art world marketplace [15]. Sholette labels these artistic practices and institutions "dark matter," a concept further developed in Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture 2010) [16].

Theorist Marc James Léger describes Sholette's concept of artistic dark matter as "the work of autonomous and participatory cultural production by amateur , informal, unofficial, autonomous, activist and non-institutional workers. This dark matter is largely invisible to those cultural administrators - curators, directors, collectors, critics, historians and artists - who are the gatekeepers of large cultural institutions. However, the same institutional art world is dependent on this dark matter as well as the resources of its members."[17] Or as Susan Ryan interprets Sholette's term, it involves art "so embedded in reality that it is off the art radar." [18] Gregory Sholette points to a plethora of mock institutions" writes Art Historian Kuba Szreder which are "native to artistic dark matter—research institutes, informal universities, collectives of urban gardeners, tribes of survivalists, temporary service points—each of which tends to operate in an institutional landscape ravaged by hostile forces of late capitalism, filling the vacuum left after crises of public institutions.” [19]

Central to the articulation of Dark Matter is the engagement with the mainstream conditions of the art system through the definition of what Sholette calls bare art and our bare art world[20] . Borrowing from Giorgio Agamben’s notion of bare life [21], Sholette conceives bare art as art deprived of any socially transformative capacity and dedicated to financial management and the reproduction of the status quo. The idea of bare art also differentiates Sholette’s theorization of the main dynamics at play within the field of artmaking with these of Peter Osborne or Hal Foster: “Sholette’s examination of bare art departs from the same problematic as Osborne and Foster, but refuses the idea that problems manifested in the art world can be addressed from within art criticism, however thoroughly it may be reformed. The transformation of art is too fundamental to be resolved in this way, because art can no longer be held apart from the forces that seek to integrate it into neoliberal capitalism. This does not spell the end of art’s critical potential: rather, that critical potential now derives from the contradictions within capitalism that have been exposed by the rapid expansion of the art system.” [22] In this sense, Sholette argues that “there are exactly as many artists as the system requires for reproducing itself, just as there always are in a market-driven artistic economy. What has changed is the capacity to conceal this fact as the privileged status of art, its autonomy, and the exception it represents to capitalist markets is subsumed by post-Fordist enterprise culture.” [23]

In 2017 Sholette published his most recent monograph, Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism. The main idea advanced in this book is that art has become simultaneously part of the increasing financialization of everything under neoliberal capitalism and a valuable resource for civic mobilization and progressive social transformation. A key concept of this research is the proposal that we have entered a world of Bare Art.

In the media



  • Art As Social Action: An Introduction to the Principles & Practices of Teaching Social Practice Art (co-edited with Chloë Bass, Skyworth/Allworth Press, 2018) ISBN-13: 978-1621535522
  • Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism (Pluto Press, 2017) ISBN-13: 978-0745336848
  • Merciless Aesthetic/Nemilosrdna estetika (WHW, Croatia, 2016);
  • Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (Pluto Press, 2010) ISBN-13: 978-0745327525
  • It’s the Political Economy, Stupid (co-edited with Oliver Ressler, Pluto Press, 2012) ISBN-13: 978-0745333694
  • Collectivism After Modernism: the Art of Social Imagination After 1945 (co-edited with Blake Stimson, University of Minnesota Press, 2006) ISBN-13: 978-0816644629
  • The Interventionists: A Users Guide to the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life (co-edited and designed with with Nato Thompson and Arjen Nooderman, MASS MOCA/MIT Press, publications, first printing 2004). ISBN-10: 026220150X


  9. Gene Ray and Gregory Sholette, "Whither Tactical Media?" Third Text 22 (2008), p.520
  12. Blake Stimson and Gregory Sholette, "Introduction: Periodizing Collectivism", in Blake Stimson and Gregory Sholette (eds.), Collectivism after Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination after 1945 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), p.3
  13. Léger, Marc James (January 2012). "Revenge of the Surplus" (PDF). Monthly Review: 49–54.
  14. Cossu, A., P. Serafini, and J. Holtaway. (2007). Artwork, Art Labour and Activism: Protest, Media and Culture. Lanham, MD, USA: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 3, 6, 10, 14, 242, 247. ISBN 978-1786601889.
  15. Ressler, Oliver and Bruce Barber (October 8, 2015). "Revitalizing Debates around Collective Action and Democracy: A Conversation between Oliver Ressler and Bruce Barber". Journal of Visual Culture. Vol 14, Issue 2 (2): 224–232. doi:10.1177/1470412915592871. See also Sholette, Gregory (1995). "Allegory and Desire in the Art of the Diorama (graduate thesis)". University of California, San Diego; Hankwitz, Molly (Spring 2018). "Dark Matter by Gregory Sholette: Mass Artistic Resistance to the Neoliberalization of Everyday Life". Otherzine. Issue #33: unpaginated.
  16. Cottington, David (2013). The Avant-Garde: A Very Short Introduction. London, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0199582730.
  17. 1968-, Léger, Marc James,. Brave new avant garde : essays on contemporary art and politics. Winchester, UK. ISBN 9781780990507. OCLC 758984348.
  18. Ryan, Susan Elizabeth (2014). "Social Fabrics: Wearable + Media + Interconnectivity". Leonardo. 42 (2): 199. doi:10.1162/leon.2009.42.2.114. ISSN 0024-094X.
  19. Szreder, Kuba (2017). "Productive Withdrawals: Art Strikes, Art Worlds, and Art as a Practice of Freedom". e-flux. 87.
  22. Kim Charnley, "Introduction", in Kim Charnley (ed.) Gregory Sholette: Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism (London: Pluto Press, 2017), p.10
  23. Carlos Garrido Castellano, “Activism against Nostalgia and Self-Defeatism, book review,” Afterall, February 21, 2018:

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