In 1965, Sturtevant made a name for herself in the New York art world by “making her work the work of other artists,” as one critic noted at the time. Her versions of artworks by her male peers such as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns were often misinterpreted. Sturtevant was never interested in making replicas or exact copies. Instead, she adopted style as her medium to disrupt and investigate the underlying structures of art: whether aesthetic, political, economic, or cultural. As she clarified in a 1971 letter:
The work cannot be treated in a material or non-intellectual way
I am not Anti-Art
I am not saying anyone can do it […]
I am not making copies
I am not making imitations
I am not interested in painting sculptures or objects
I am not interested in being a “Great Artist”
That’s real medieval thinking.
Sturtevant’s work received renewed attention in the mid-1980s when a younger generation of artists began engaging with appropriation. However, she maintained that her work was always centered on thinking rather than notions of authorship: “The appropriationists were really about the loss of originality and I was about the power of thought. A very big difference.”
Sturtevant (b. Lakewood, OH, 1924; d. Paris, 2014) was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011. Her work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris; Kunsthalle, Zürich; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Serpentine Galleries, London; MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.