Willoughby Sharp Biography

Willoughby Sharp (b. 1936, New York City), the former publisher of Avalanche magazine (1970- 1976), is an internationally known artist, curator, gallerist, teacher, author, and telecom activist.

Sharp met Joseph Beuys in Dusseldorf in 1958. From then until the artist's death in 1986, they had a close, collaborative relationship. Sharp was instrumental in bringing Beuys' work to the attention of the American art world. Starting with an ARTFORUM interview (December, 1969), he also featured Beuys in the first issue of Avalanche magazine (1970). Then in 1972, Sharp produced the Beuys "Videoview" which constituted Beuys' first solo show in New York at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., N.Y. He also produced "Public Dialogue" in which Beuys performed as part of Mr. Sharp's "Videoperformance" exhibition in 1974. In 1974, at Beuys' request, Sharp videotaped "I Like America, America Likes Me" his performance at the Rene Block Gallery, New York, which has recently been released as "America" (1974-2003). In 1979, Beuys invited Sharp to curate the film/video sections of his retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Sharp began his media work in 1967 by shooting a small number of films in 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm including "Earth," (1968, Collection: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and "Place & Process," (1969, Collection: MoMA, New York). After these films, he started producing a prodigious body of video works in 1/2, 3/4 and 1-inch tape. These works included video sculpture, video installations, "Videoviews," (1970-74), Videoperformances (1973-77), cable television programs (1985-86), and broadcast TV programs (2001-).

In February 1969, at the invitation of Hans Haacke, he presented a three-part video installation, "Earthscopes," at Cooper Union, N.Y., which included the only showing of a video catalogue of the historic "Earth Art" exhibition that he had curated at the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. In March 1969, Sharp created "Einstein's Eye," a closedcircuit b/w video sculpture exhibited at the Richard L. Feigen Gallery in Soho, N.Y.

The following year, Sharp's film "Place and Process" was included in MoMA's "INFORMATION" exhibition curated by Kynaston McShine. Also in 1970, Sharp curated "Body Works," the first video traveling show with works by Acconci, Fox, Serra, Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim and Wegman which was presented at the Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, CA.

At the San Jose State TV studios in 1970, Sharp began the "Videoviews" series of videotaped dialogues with artists which he continued after he bought one of the first Sony 3400 Porta-Pac video recording systems in 1972. The "Videoviews" series consists of Sharps' dialogues with Bruce Nauman (1970), Joseph Beuys (1972), Vito Acconci (1973), Chris Burden (1973), Lowell Darling (1974), and Dennis Oppenheim (1974). More recently, working with ARTENGINE, N.Y., a collaborative video production/post-production company in partnership with Duff Schweninger, Mr. Sharp has produced an ongoing series of 30-minute documentary programs on Dennis Oppenheim (2001), Keith Sonnier (2002), Earle Brown (2002), and Morton Subotnik (2003).

In 1976, under an NEA grant, he produced "Five Video Pioneers: Acconci, Serra, Sharp, Sonnier, Wegman" (Collection: MoMA, N.Y.). That year he also represented the United States in the Venice Biennale.

Shortly afterward, Sharp started to produce a series of international, multi-casting, pre-Internet projects which simultaneously interlaced information from computers, telefax, and Slow-Scan TV. In September 1977, he instigated a collaboration with a large group of San Francisco and New York artists which resulted in the first artists' trans-continental satellite work, "Two Way Demo." This has led to Sharp's current global collaborative work on a series of interactive telecommunications and streaming transmissions. This ongoing series of projects honors the accomplishments of electrical geniuses Guiliermo Marconi (1981), Heinrich Hertz (1986) and Nikola Tesla (2005-06).

Before completing his education at Brown University, the University of Paris, the University of Lausanne, and Columbia University (where he was a doctoral candidate in art history under Professor Meyer Shapiro), he worked at IBM World Trade, New York. In 1975 he received an honorary Ph. D. from Milton College, Milton, Wisconsin.

Mr. Sharp has taught on the faculties of the School of Visual Arts, Humanities and Science Department (1984-88); the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, where he was also the director of the Fine Arts Center (1988-90); and the New School University, Parson's School of Design, Graduate Faculty, Digital Design Department, N.Y. (2000-2003). For the last 38 years he has been a visiting artist at numerous art institutions and he has shown his video in museums in the U.S. and abroad.

Since 1969, Sharp has had more than 20 solo exhibitions at museums, and art galleries such as: Brown University; the University Art Museum, Berkeley; The Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco; CAYA, Buenos Aires, Argentina; the University of Iowa; the Ontario College of Art, Toronto; the University of California, Los Angeles; the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Pumps Gallery, Vancouver. His work has also been seen in many group shows in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.

Sharp has been the contributing editor to four publications: Impulse , Toronto, Canada (1979-81); Video magazine, San Francisco (1980-82); Art Com, San Francisco (1984-85), and the East Village Eye , N.Y. (1984-86). He has published three monographs on contemporary artists, contributed to many exhibition catalogues and has written articles, essays, and interviews featured in ARTFORUM, Art In America , Arts magazine, Avalanche magazine, the Leica Journal, Quadrum, and Studio International.

Sharp has received numerous grants, awards and fellowships both as an individual or as the Executive Director of the three non-profit arts organizations that he has founded (The Center for New Art Activities, Inc. N.Y.; The Franklin Street Arts Center, Inc. N.Y.; and WORLDPOOL, Toronto, Canada): a Rockefeller Foundation individual artists grant (1971); Coordinating Council for Literary Magazines (1971-75); the J. M. Kaplan Fund, NY (1971); the New York State Council on the Arts (1975-77, 79, 85); the NEA (1976-78, 80-81); the Beard Fund, NY (1977); the Department of Communications, Canadian Government (1981); the Canada Council, Explorations Department, (1981); an ACE cable TV award (1986); a DAAD Berlin grant with Pamela Seymour Smith, (2006); and an Emily Harvey Foundation artists-in-residence grant with Pamela Seymour Smith (2006).

His video and film works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, N.Y.; ZKM (Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie) in Karlsruhe, Germany; The Collection of the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Rhode Island School of Design, R.I.; the National Art Gallery, Ottawa, Canada; The Western Front, Vancouver, B.C, Canada, as well as many private collections worldwide.

Willoughby Sharp lives in Brooklyn, New York with his partner, Pamela Seymour Smith and their cat, Bernini. They can be reached by email at sharp.smith@earthlink.net


  • Attends the World's Fair, Flushing Meadows, Queens and seesDavid Sarnoff's demonstration of RCA-TV.
  • 1948
  • Studies drawing with Mrs. Gold at The Allen Stevenson School, New York.
  • 1950-54
  • Founds and operates Parties, Inc., New York, a telephonic social events network.
  • 1956
  • Employed at IBM World Trade, New York.
  • 1958-59
  • Befriends and starts work with Yves Klein and members of the Zero Group in Dusseldorf (Piene, Mack and Uecker).
  • 1958-59
  • Studies aesthetics with Prof. Rene Berger, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, author of "Art and Communication" (1972).
  • 1959-61
  • Gets aesthetic inspiration from three Brown Professors: William Giordy; George Downing; and Francois Bucher, with whom he does an honors thesis.
  • 1960
  • Meets Ira Schneider at Brown University who becomes a life-long friend and collaborator.
  • 1961-67
  • Graduate Studies with Prof. Meyer Shapiro and Prof. Ted Reff, Columbia University Department of Art History and Archeology, New York.
  • 1963
  • Meets and befriends Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968).
  • 1966
  • Curates the "Kinetic Environments I, II," Central Park, New York at the invitation of Mayor John V. Lindsay, Thomas Hoving, Director, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and August Heckshire, Director of Parks, New York.
  • 1966
  • W.S. and Paul Maenz, found Kineticism Press, with an office in the Pan Am Building, New York.
  • 1967
  • Curates "Slow-Motion," Rutgers, The State University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Jan. 25-Feb. 10 (Catalogue essay with works by Duchamp, Haacke, Mack, Sonnier, Soto, Man Ray, Takis, Uecker and others).
  • Curates "Luminism," George Washington Hotel, New York (Catalogue essay with works by Flavin, Mack, Paik, Takis and Uecker).
  • Delivers "Machines & Mobiles," thesis, to the Department of Art and Archeology, Columbia, University, New York and receives an M.A.
  • 1968
  • "Luminism and Kineticism" a 40-page essay by Willoughby Sharp is included in "Minimal Art A Critical Anthology," (ed.) Gregory Battcock, E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York, 1968 (WS included photo of "Zero Group Demonstration," page 343).
  • Meets and befriends Professor Frank Popper, author of "Art of the Electronic Age."
  • Curates "'Kineticism: Systems Sculpture in Environmental Situations," for the Olympic Games Exhibition, Mexico City, Mexico.
  • Presents "Art's Enemy Is The Object" a multi-media event for the Color Society at New York's Sheraton Hotel.
  • Kineticism Press starts Avalanche magazine, thirteen issues (1970-1976),Willoughby Sharp, Publisher; Liza Bear, Editor.
  • 1969
  • Shoots a series of short Super 8 films at the Woodstock Music Festival,NY
  • Present "Einstein's Eye" a closed-circuit video installation at the Richard L. Feigen Gallery. 141 Greene Street, New York.
  • Instigates the start of the Artworker's Coalition by liberating Takis' "Electromagnetic Sculpture" (1964) from its installation in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
  • Curates "Earth Art" exhibition, The Andrew Dickson White Museum ofArt, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and produces a "videocatalogue" devoted to the exhibition showing Smithson, Heizer, De Maria, Haacke, Oppenheim et al.
  • 1970
  • Participates in the "'!nformation" exhibition, MoMA, NY (Curator: Kynaston McShine).
  • Commission the first videoworks by Vito Acconci and Terry Fox for the first traveling video exhibition "BodyWorks", which opens at Tom Marioni's Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, California.
  • 1971
  • Participates in a lecture series at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with John Cage and Buckminster Fuller.
  • Receives an "Individual Artists" grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, New York.
  • Purchases a 1600 SONY Porta-Pac, an early substitute for a mobile, record/playback video system.
  • 1972
  • Starts producing the "Videoviews" a series of video dialogues with Avalanche artists (with Acconci, Beuys, Burden, Nauman, Oppenheim).
  • 1973 -77
  • Creates series of psycho-dramatic "Videoperformances"
  • 1973
  • Executes "The Pain Factor" at Vehicule Art Center, Montreal, Canada, the first in a series of ongoing video performance.
  • David Ross invites W.S. to participate in "Circuits: A Video Invitation," a traveling exhibition of art on TV.
  • 1974
  • Curates and participates in "Videoperformance", 112 Greene Street, New York with Acconci, Beuys, Burden, Oppenheim, Rosenbach, Serra, Sharp, Sonnier, Wegman.
  • 1975
  • Receives Honorary Ph.D. from Milton College, Milton, Wisconsin
  • 1977
  • Network integrator of "Two-Way Demo" the NASA-sponsored, transcontinental satellite-delivered program linking artists in New York and San Francisco over Cable TV.
  • 1978
  • Pre-Internet collaborative multicasts over telephone wires with artists using voice, Slow-Scan TV, facsimile, and communicating computers, over an eightnodal North American network.
  • Founding partner of WORLDPOOL, Toronto, a non-profit educational center devoted to new telecommunications transmissions across North America.
  • Received the first NEA, Visual Arts Department grant for a computer project entitled "CANCOM" which, at first uses Controlled Data's Plato network of 16,000 users and then the I.P. Sharp PC-connected network.
  • 1979
  • Appointed as Video Curator of the Joseph Beuys retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, which features TV programs that Beuys did with W.S.
  • 1979-86
  • Contributing editor: Impulse magazine, Toronto; Video magazine, San Francisco; ARTCOM magazine, San Francisco; and The East Village Eye, New York.
  • 1979
  • Records audio-tape "The Phone is My Clone" which is issued on Tellus 2(an audiozine), New York.
  • Receives an NEA grant for the "Mobile Artists Satellite Earth Receiving Station," (MASERS), a personal, portable global TV receiving unit.
  • 1980
  • Instigates "Marconi Amplified," the Canadian Department of Communications and Canada Council-funded, nine-city Canadian tour celebrating the 80th anniversary of Marconi's first trans-Atlantic wireless transmission, three dots: the letter "S".
  • 1981
  • Produces a series of three, one-hour documentary TV programs, "Art and Telecommunications: Computers, Robots, Satellites," from symposia with Dr. Robert Am, Robert Horvitz, Nam June Paik, Keith Sonnier, and others, organized for the School of Visual Arts, New York.
  • 1982
  • Producer of a series of Microwave-receive art works in the series "Framing Found Frequencies" which are exhibited in a New York gallery and sold to collectors.
  • 1984
  • Executed a Cable-TV videoperformance for American TV CO, CATV, Iowa.
  • Organized computer classes in the mindset of artists through Machine Language, New York.
  • 1984-88
  • Teaches a series of four courses grouped under the theme of, "Creativity and the New Electronic Technologies," at the Humanities and Science Department, School of Visual Arts, New York.
  • 1985-86
  • Co-produces with Susan Britton, the "Willoughby Sharp Show" for Time-owned Manhattan cable TV.
  • 1985
  • Creates a number of videoproduction partnerships: Video Lab, (1985); Machine Language (1986-89); and ARTENGINE, (2001 to present).
  • 1986
  • Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria. Commissions a 60-minute edit of the Willoughby Sharp Show (1985-86)
  • Forms INTERCOMM a new technology collaborative with Tim Binkley, George Chaikin, Ira Schneider, and W.S. They produce a bi-directional cable-TV microwave transmission "Who Killed Heinrich Hertz"?
  • 1988
  • Works with Prologica, then Brazil's third largest computer company attempting to produce "The Integrator," a 32-bit computer with a built-in videosystem utilizing the Chaikin algorithm.
  • Registers Teleculture as a business in New York State.
  • 1990 T
  • elecommunication work of W.S. is documented in a book "Vom Verschwinden der Ferne Telekommunikation und Kunst" (1990).
  • 1997
  • Launches www.sharpgallery.com, a pioneering online exhibition enterprise.
  • Starts publishing a weekly email newsletter, "The Sharp Art Report" (TSAR) with a subscribership of more than 3,000 individuals and art institutions.
  • 2000
  • ARTENGINE, an electronic media production company is formed at 561 Broadway with Duff Schweninger, Evelina Dominitch and Dmitry Gelfand. Video programs on Keith Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim, Earle Brown and Morton Subotnick are produced.
  • 2001
  • "The TeleCulture: A Personal History of Art and Technology" given at The School of Visual Arts, Computer Department at the invitation of Victor Acevedo.
  • Teaches "TeleCulture" at The New School University, Parsons School of Design, Graduate Faculties, New York.
  • 2004
  • Diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer. Ceases all activities during cancer treatment and recovery.
  • 2005
  • Founds partnership, sharp.smith, with Pamela Seymour Smith and they embark on "The Grand Tour" (Berlin-Prague-Belgrade-Karlsruhe-Dusseldorf), giving 8 presentations of videoworks and a Videoperformance (NBK, Berlin, The National Gallery of Art, Prague; The Belgrade Cultural Center, Belgrade; ZKM, Karlsruhe and others).
  • Receives, with Pamela Seymour Smith, two grants: DAAD Berlin and The Emily Harvey Foundation, New York/Venice, Italy.
  • Founds Video Artists Collective at 537 Broadway, with Davidson Gigliotti, Beryl Korot, Jaime Davidovitch, Shalom Gorewitz, Pamela Seymour Smith and others.
  • Buys Hawkins Technologies HNC 230G wireless, remote, networking video camera which was activated during the "Eye-to-Eye Transmission" (New York- Sardinia, Italy) featuring George Chaikin's algorithm origination from the computer Department, Lehman College, CUNY, New York.
  • 2006
  • A Memorial commemorating Joseph Beuys' death 20 years ago and a celebration of Willoughby Sharp's 70th Birthday, White Box, Chelsea, New York (23 Jan. '06)
  • "Electronic Everything" Teleculture presentations at the New School of Visual Arts, New York and Ramapo College, Mahwah, New Jersey.

  • Willoughby Sharp