The Art of Participation

1950 to Now

The Essential Survey of Participatory Art

The book The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now covers the rich and varied history of participatory art, from early happenings and performances to current practices that demand audience interaction. As the hallmarks of Web 2.0 (browsing, sharing, collecting, producing) increasingly permeate every aspect of society, this timely project reveals the ways in which artists and viewers have approached the creation of open works of art.

Original essays by Rudolf Frieling, Boris Groys, Robert Atkins, and Lev Manovich identify seminal moments in participatory practice from the 1950s to the present day. Hundreds of color illustrations introduce work by all the artists in the accompanying exhibition, with reproductions of significant projects by other major figures rounding out the survey.

Cover and sample pages from The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now

Your Input Wanted

Contribute to the development of a second publication to be published in spring 2009. A compilation of photographs and reflections, the companion volume will document the participation of visitors like you over the course of the show.

  • Upload images of you or friends interacting with the artwork to Flickr and tag them “SFMOMAparticipation.”
  • Join in the conversation on the SFMOMA blog.
  • Participate in the exhibition's online artworks.

Your contributions could end up inside the book or even on the cover!


The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is generously funded by The James Irvine Foundation and SFMOMA's Collectors Forum. Additional support is provided by Goethe-Institut San Francisco. Media support is provided by The Examiner and SFExaminer.com.

The James Irvine Foundation