The archive of Conceptual artist Mary Kelly has been acquired by the Getty Research Institute in California. It includes her monumental project Post-Partum Document, 1973–79, and later works such as Interim, 1984–89, and Gloria Patri, 1992.
“Mary Kelly is one of the leading artists from the postmodern era in the 1980s and one of the most influential figures to pursue feminist interventions into artistic practice,” Glen Phillips, the curator of modern and contemporary art at the Getty Research Institute, said. “She was also one of the foundational figures to the development of both Conceptual art and feminism in Great Britain in the 1970s, a key figure in the transmission of poststructuralist and psychoanalytic theory to artists and arts scholars in the United States, and one of the most important arts educators of her generation. In short, she has been a step ahead of cutting-edge art practices for decades.”
Also included in the archive are prototypes of her work, audio reels of the Women’s National Liberation Conference in 1971, audiovisual material, journals on Marxism and feminism, flyers she collected while abroad, research and projection material, ephemera, and materials related to her influential work as an educator. The archive will be catalogued and made available at the Getty in stages.
Trained as a painter, Kelly moved to Beirut, where she was exposed to Jacques Lacan and various threads of Marxist theory, to teach art. After the birth of her son, she drew upon Lacanian psychoanalytic ideologies to help her raise him and recorded her experiences in Post-Partum Document, which was published in book form by Routledge and Kegan Paul in 1982. Most of Kelly’s work in the 1970s was created through the Berwick Street Collective. The group was known for its sociological project Women and Work: A Document on the Division of Labour in Industry, which studied 150 women who worked at a metal-box foundry from 1973 to 1975.
“Because my studio practice is project based, involving extensive research that often overlaps with interests in activism and pedagogy, the concept as well as the material form of an archive is central to the way I work,” Kelly said. “The Getty Research Institute’s curatorial vision not only supports this approach, but I believe, will enhance the discursive potential it implies. I am thrilled to be included in the collection and honored to be part of an ongoing collective legacy of such significance.”