Alloway, Lawrence, 1926-1990

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Lawrence Alloway, born in England in 1926 and largely self-educated, became a major 20th century critic of American art, known for his pluralism and inclusiveness. As a young man he was associated with the Independent Group in England, a circle of artists, critics and writers that included Reyner Banham, and that questioned conventional distinctions between high and low art. As a director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in London from 1954 to 1959, he introduced American Abstract Expressionism to post-war England. In 1961 Alloway settled in New York and remained there for the rest of his life, teaching at Bennington College (1961-1962) and SUNY Stony Brook (1968-1981), curating at the Guggenheim Museum(1962-1966), and always simultaneously working as an art critic, which he considered his true vocation.

Beginning as a book reviewer for the London Sunday Times (1944-1946), Alloway wrote for and edited various art journals, including Art News (1953-1957), Art International (1957-1961) and Artforum (1971-1976). His longest-running and most influential position was, however, that of art reviewer for the Nation (1968-1981). Toward the end of his life he served on the Editorial Board of Woman’s Art Journal. He also wrote poetry throughout his life.

Notorious for having invented the term Pop Art, Alloway nonetheless treated a wide range of subjects, from William Hogarth to science fiction, including movies, design, public sculpture, earthworks, neo-realism, and feminism. Scorning the limiting assumptions of a traditional art history education, he anticipated the now current concept of visual culture as early as 1957 in his essay “The Long Front of Culture.” He also analyzed the art world from a sociological viewpoint, both as a market and as a political context. Among his various books, at least two remain classics of art criticism: Topics in American Art since 1945 (1975) and Network:The Art World Described as a System (1972).

In 1955 Alloway married the figurative artist Sylvia Sleigh after having courted her for several years during her marriage to another man. Through Sleigh, Alloway became closely associated with women artists in New York during the 1970s heyday of feminism and became an advocate of parity for women within the art world, authoring the notable “Women’s Art and the Failure of Art Criticism” (1979). He also reported on the museum worker strikes of the 1970s, resulting in another influential essay, “Museums and Unionization” (1975).

He died in 1990 of a neurological disease.

From the guide to the Lawrence Alloway papers, 1935-2003, (The Getty Research Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Alloway, Lawrence, 1926-1990. Alloway, Lawrence: Art World Personality Files. Whitney Museum of American Art, Library
creatorOf Piper, Adrian, 1948-. Adrian Piper papers, 1966-1990. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Baziotes, William, 1912-1963. William and Ethel Baziotes papers, 1916-1992. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Alloway, Lawrence, 1926-1990. Correspondence to Edward F. Fry, 1964. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Papers of Alfonso Ossorio and Edward Dragon Young, 1902-2000 Harvard Art Museums. Archives
referencedIn Oral history interview with John Coplans, 1975 Apr. 4-1977 Aug. 4. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers, circa 1920-1991, bulk 1946-1983 Archives of American Art
creatorOf Alloway, Lawrence, 1926-. Artist file. Brooklyn Museum Libraries & Archives
referencedIn Claude Fredericks papers, circa 1850-1988 (bulk 1941-1988) Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Ramos, Mel, 1935-. Mel Ramos papers, 1962-1971. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf ALLOWAY, LAWRENCE. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
contributorOf Sylvia Sleigh papers, 1803-2011, bulk 1940-2000. Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Susan Crile interviews, 1972 Aug. 1 - 3. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Lawrence Alloway papers, 1935-2003 Getty Research Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Acconci, Vito, 1940- person
associatedWith Baziotes, William, 1912-1963. person
associatedWith Coplans, John. person
associatedWith Crile, Susan, 1942- person
associatedWith Dubuffet, Jean, 1901-1985. person
correspondedWith Edward Dragon Young, 1921-2011 person
associatedWith Flack, Audrey. person
associatedWith Fredericks, Claude person
associatedWith Johnson, Ray, 1927-1995 person
associatedWith Kaprow, Allan. person
associatedWith Mayer, Rosemary. person
associatedWith Newman, Barnett, 1905-1970. person
correspondedWith Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-1990 person
associatedWith Parsons, Betty. person
associatedWith Piper, Adrian, 1948- person
associatedWith Ramos, Mel, 1935- person
spouseOf Sleigh, Sylvia, 1916-2010 person
associatedWith Smithson, Robert person
associatedWith Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. corporateBody
associatedWith Whitney Museum of American Art. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Feminism and art
Art criticism
Realism in art--20th century
Abstract Expressionism
Women artists--20th century
Women artists
Pop art
Art, American--20th century
Conceptual art
Art critics
Art historians--20th century


Birth 1926-09-17

Death 1990-01-02





Ark ID: w6553bw1

SNAC ID: 84234072