Celebration Red: A Visit by Alison Knowles

Artist Alison Knowles

By AJ Fox, BAMPFA Media Relations Manager
Photos by Ximena Natera, courtesy Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Have you checked out our new retrospective of Alison Knowles yet? BAMPFA is so proud to host the first comprehensive exhibition dedicated to this remarkable artist, who has been pushing the conceptual art world in exciting new directions for six decades—beginning with her role as the sole female cofounder of the contemporary art collective Fluxus, which launched in 1962. Ever since that time, Alison has been creating poetic works from ordinary materials and found objects, inviting us to rediscover the most familiar aspects of our daily lives with fresh eyes.

Everyday objects left within the grid of Celebration Red

And that’s exactly what happened on the exhibition’s opening weekend, when this indomitable 89-year-old artist flew from New York to join us in Berkeley for the opening weekend of by Alison Knowles: A Retrospective (1960-2022). To kick off this unprecedented retrospective, Alison revived one of her most iconic “event pieces” in BAMPFA’s cavernous Crane Forum.

Participants and museum visitors occupy the steps of BAMPFA's Crane Forum, where Celebration Red took place.

Appropriately for such a festive occasion, the piece is entitled Celebration Red, and it consists of a large red grid installed on the floor of the museum onto which visitors are invited to place red objects donated from their everyday lives. Guided by Alison’s singular vision, these individually unremarkable items are transformed into a delightful ruby-hued matrix, reminding us that artistic inspiration can spring from even the most prosaic materials.

Celebration Red was enjoyed participants of all ages.

Most recently executed at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2016, Celebration Red was a smashing success at BAMPFA on Saturday, July 23, with dozens of art lovers young and old joining Alison to co-create a unique version of the piece that remained on view, and in play, in the Crane Forum all weekend long.

The objects contributed to Celebration Red weren't limited to artificial things: locks of red hair made it in the grid as well!

Visitors donated an eclectic array of red objects, ranging from cherries to ketchup bottles, lipstick to traffic poles—even a lock of red hair snipped on site by Alison’s granddaughter (with a pair of red scissors, naturally). Alison presided with grace over the whole project, which she blessed with her own handmade contribution: a small circular coaster cut from red felt, with her signature in sharpie on one side and a sketch of her own iconic spectacles on the other.

by Alison Knowles: A Retrospective (1960-2022) is on view at  BAMPFA through February 12, 2023.