Marcia Tucker was a hero of do-it-yourself aesthetic rabble-rousing. She changed the art world a little bit—which is a lot. On October 17 Tucker died at her home in Santa Barbara, California. She was 66 and had been living with cancer.
Tucker’s story is legend in the art world: In 1975, as curator for the Whitney Museum of American Art, she organized a Richard Tuttle exhibition. The show was trounced by critics; museum trustees and higher-ups turned on her; she was canned. Then, Tucker did something people often talk about doing but rarely do. She started her own place called the New Museum, an upstart institution dedicated to contemporary art that was the last alternative museum of its kind formed in New York. Nudge-nudge, young disgruntled museum people.
Tucker created something lasting, chaotic, and effective. As she put it in 1998, “Richard Tuttle ruined my life.” Of course, she meant that in a sense he made her life. Tucker also excelled at ending things. In 1997, after 22 years of directing her beloved institution, she did another thing people don’t do much: She voluntarily stepped aside. Nudge-nudge, museum people everywhere, and I suppose also art critics. Like I said, Tucker was a hero.