PUNK. Its traces in Contemporary Art

Punk was born in London and New York between 1976 and 1978 as an explosion of discontent and dissatisfaction towards a situation without a future, which immediately caught on and spread geographically. A rage that still resonates today. The journalist and music critic Greil Marcus outlined this for the first time in 1989, in 'Lipstick Traces. A Secret History of the Twentieth Century', a journey through the history of the antecedents of the movement, going back to Dada and Situationism. The exhibition draws on this book and performs the same exercise in reverse: a prospective exercise that looks for vestiges of punk in the artists of today.

1900-03-18 15:02:05

APACHES. The savages of Paris

Toulouse-Lautrec paints a singer from the Moulin Rouge, Aristide Bruant, various times. Bruant performs “Chez les apaches”, a song dedicated to the urban tribe that terrorized the Paris bourgeoisie during the “Belle Époque”. A violent subculture, the product of a disenchanted youth, the APACHES spend their time stealing, fighting with the police, and dancing during the night. Their favourite weapon is the Apache revolver, a false pistol consisting of a handgrip made of a knuckle-duster, a pinfire cartridge, and a double-edged knife.

1916-02-05 15:02:05


On February 5, 1916, in the attic of a theatre in Zurich, Hugo Ball, Tristan Tzara, Marcel Janco, Emmy Hennings, and Jean Arp launch the CABARET VOLTAIRE. There they organize the first Dadaist evenings: they ridicule the works performed in the theatre downstairs, parody the bourgeois artist, and rebell against literary and artistic conventions with phonetic poetic readings such as Hugo Ball’s “Karawane”.

1917-03-01 15:02:05

MARCEL DUCHAMP (R. Mutt) presents "Fountain"

In 1917 the Society of Independent Artists is founded in the United States and organizes the first exhibition of modern contemporary US-American art, with works by 1200 artists arranged alphabetically by last name. Marcel Duchamp, in charge of the selection, submits a URINAL PLACED UPSIDE DOWN AND SIGNED R. MUTT. Several members of the jury resign, believing this an attack on the association. The urinal is lost after the day of the inauguration.

1950-04-09 15:02:05


On April 9, 1950, Easter Sunday, THE LETTRISTS MICHEL MOURRE AND SERGE BERNA enter the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. During a pause in the Resurrection mass, Mourre, dressed as a Dominican monk, climbs on the pulpit and pronounces, before an audience of thousands of faithful, a blasphemous sermon written by Serge Berna and based on the idea of the death of God by Nietzsche.

1951-03-01 15:02:05

WILLIAM BURROUGHS a model for musicians such as Patty Smith o Lou Reed

In 1951, in Mexico City, WILLIAM BURROUGHS and his wife Joan Vollmer, high on heroin, play at re-enacting the scene of William Tell shooting the apple placed on his son’s head. By accident Burroughs kills his wife and is sentenced to prison for murder. There he begins to write. Years later, William Burroughs becomes a model for musicians such as Patti Smith, Genesis P-Orridge, Ian Curtis from Joy Division, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits or Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, with whom he collaborates on several occasions.

1951-07-12 15:02:05


At the Cannes Film Festival in 1951, “Treatise on Venom And Eternity” is shown, the first feature film by ISIDORE ISOU, FOUNDER OF THE LETTRIST MOVEMENT. The film is a manifest for “discrepancy cinema”: sound and image are treated independently and lack any coherence between them. Despite the heckling, the film wins the prize from the avant-garde audience.

1952-06-30 15:02:05

HOWLS FOR SADE, first feature film by GUY DEBORD

On June 30, 1952 the FIRST FEATURE FILM BY GUY DEBORD, HOWLS FOR SADE, is shown at the Avant-Garde 52 film club in Paris. The film follows the precepts of “discrepancy cinema” and depicts a succession of blank scenes with narration (phrases taken from Civil Code or from literacy works by diverse authors) interspersed with mute scenes in black, the longest one lasting for 20 minutes.

1961-03-01 15:02:05

PIERO MANZONI presents "Artist Shit"

In 1961, the artist PIERO MANZONI presents “Artist Shit” at the Pescetto de Albissola Marina gallery in Milan: ninety cylindrical tins that each contain 30 grams of feces from the artist, carefully sealed and labeled. They are sold by weight, at the same price as the current one for gold.

1965-03-18 15:02:05

The PROVOS appear in the Netherlands

In the mid-1960s the PROVOS appear in the Netherlands. A non-violent political action group, they use humor and art to attack the structures of power. Their actions are “white plans”. The first one is the “Bicycle white plan”: a demonstration against car pollution with a multitude of white bicycles blocking Amsterdam traffic. Their most famous white plan is for the legalization of marihuana.

1967-11-01 15:02:05

The STOOGES perform their first concert

At the end of 1967, the STOOGES perform their first concert at the Grande Ballroom in Ann Arbor. Iggy Pop appears with shaved eyebrows, a nightgown from the nineteenth century, his face painted white, and a wig made of aluminium paper, and slinks around the stage. Meanwhile, the drummer bangs empty oil barrels with a hammer and they attach a microphone to blender filled with water and turned on.

1968-12-25 15:02:05

KING MOB. The devil's party

In Christmas 1968, before the doors of the Selfridge’s department store in London, Santa Claus distributes toys among the children. Accompanying him, leaflets are also handed out blaming the English for the economic situation in the country and attacking them as lazy. The police arrive and arrest the group, KING MOB, in its first action: an anarchist and Situationist group in which Malcolm McLaren allegedly participated.

1972-03-18 15:02:05

Divine in the "Pink Flamingos" film

DIVINE, the drag queen embodied by Glenn Milstead, appears in 1972 eating dog shit in “Pink Flamingos”, the film directed by John Waters. Divine is provocative, defends cannibalism and ugliness, is far beyond the politically correct, and her objective is to transgress the limits of decorum and convention.

1974-03-18 15:02:05

"Too much too soon", the second studio record by the NEW YORK DOLLS

In 1974 the NEW YORK DOLLS release their second studio record, “Too much too soon”. Malcolm McLaren becomes their manager briefly. In London they visit his shop, where he sells clothes designed by Vivienne Westwood: torn t-shirts with Situationist proclamations, leather, latex. The New York Dolls also wear torn clothes and tight leather.

1975-12-03 15:02:05

Johny Rotten's audition for the new singer of the Sex Pistols

Thin and ugly but extravagant dresser, in 1975 JOHNNY ROTTEN is invited by Malcolm McLaren to audition for the new singer of the Sex Pistols. The audition is held at his shop, “Too fast to live, too young to die” (later on called “Sex”), and Rotten decides to sing “Eighteen” by Alice Cooper, as he does not know any of the “mod” songs on the records at the shop.

1976-07-06 15:02:05

The Damned perform as the warm-up act for the Sex Pistols

On July 6 1976, The Damned perform as the warm-up act for the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. Brutal, dark, violent, like children left alone in the studio, that is how they sound. In October of that year they release the EP “New Rose”, and in February 1977 their first studio album, the first punk record: “Damned, Damned, Damned”.

1976-12-01 15:02:05

COUM TRANSMISSIONS present at ICA the "Prostitution show"

In 1976, the group COUM TRANSMISSIONS, made up Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti, exhibit at the ICA in London, where a few weeks previously The Clash had performed. The exhibition is titled “Prostitution Show”: they do sexual and eschatological performances, display sexually explicit photographs with used tampons and syringes, the face of the Queen of England, … Throbbing Gristle and LSD play at the inauguration, attended by Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux, and others from the punk scene in London.

1976-12-01 15:02:05

The Sex Pistols on the TV show "Today"

On December 1 1976 BILL GRUNDY INTERVIEWS THE SEX PISTOLS on the TV show “Today” on Thames Television, which is broadcast in the afternoons. The interview is brief: Johnny Rotten lets loose a “shit” and Steve Jones adds “fuck” various times. It is the first time that taboo words are heard on British television. Free publicity for Johnny Rotten’s group; incidentally, the interview destroys the host’s career.

1977-01-02 15:02:05

The SUICIDE Club of San Francisco

In the 1970s the SUICIDE Club of San Francisco, a secret society dedicated to adults games, organizes nude parades on the streetcars, urban exploration excursions to spaces closed to the public, food battles, fake demonstrations, and the first flash mobs.

1977-01-07 15:02:05

The Sex Pistols scandal on the Thames River

On June 7 1977 MALCOLM MCLAREN rents a private boat so that de Sex Pistols can play “God Save the Queen” when they pass by the site where Queen Elizabeth II’s 25 anniversary is being celebrated. All the boat’s occupants, including the Sex Pistols, Vivienne Westwood, and McLaren, are arrested when they reach Westminster Palace.

1977-05-05 15:02:05

KAKA DE LUXE, the first group of the “Movida”

In 1977, Alaska and El Zurdo look for two musicians (bass and drums) at the Rastro flea market in Madrid to form a band. At a stand with fanzines and records by Vainica Doble they meet Nacho Canut and Carlos Berlanga, deciding right then and there to form KAKA DE LUXE, the first group of the “Movida” (the post-Franco movement in Madrid and Spain). The band also includes Manolo Campoamor, later a member of Radio Futura.

1978-01-01 15:02:05

Glenn O'Brien, the host of TV Party

From 1978 to 1982 Glenn O’Brien, who had belonged to Andy Warhol’s Factory, hosts “TV PARTY”, a show on public access cable TV that features appearances by David Byrne, Blondie, The Clash, or Jean-Michel Basquiat, who O’Brien had met when he wrote the script for “New York Beat”. The film was shot in 1980-1981 and premiered in 2001 as “Downtown 81”, starring Basquiat and narrating his life in New York’s SoHo between the Mudd Club and CBGB.

1978-03-05 15:02:05

“OCAÑA, retrato intermitente” [Intermittent Portrait]

Ventura Pons immortalizes in “OCAÑA, retrato intermitente” [Intermittent Portrait], the performances of the Andalusian artist on the Rambla street in Barcelona, where he parades dressed in drag since 1973. The film documents the life of this idiosyncratic personality: homosexual, transgressive in post-Franco Barcelona.

1978-12-01 15:02:05

The Clash at the “Rock Against Racism” festival

In 1978, The Clash play at the “Rock Against Racism” festival in London’s Hyde Park. JOE STRUMMER WEARS A T-SHIRT THE LOGO OF THE RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion, popularly known as the BaaderMeinhorf terrorist group).

1979-01-12 15:02:05

BLACK FLAG debut with "Nervous breakdown"

In January 1979, the independent record company SST releases its first record, the debut of the Californian band BLACK FLAG, “Nervous breakdown”, with cover and logo designed by Raymond Pettibon. Together with bands such as Bad Brains, Teen Idles, Middle Class, or The Untouchables, this is the origin of the hardcore scene in the United States.

1983-04-09 15:02:05

“Mucha policía, poca diversion [Lots of Police, Little Fun], ESKORBUTO's first demo

In 1983, the Basque band ESKORBUTO record in Madrid their first demo, “Mucha policía, poca diversion [Lots of Police, Little Fun]. When they leave the studio they pass by a police station, where the police search them because of their suspicious appearance. Upon finding the recording, the police apply the Anti-terrorist Law and arrest the band members for 36 hours.

1983-04-23 15:02:05

Action by the Russian group Voina in Saint Petersburg

On June 2010, at 1.40 am, activists from the Russian group Voina elude the security check to cross the Liteny drawbridge in Saint Petersburg to paint a 65 meter long penis on it. With the help of a bicycle they cover the bridge’s asphalt with 55 liters of white paint. Minutes later, the penis arises in front of the building known as the Big House, the headquarters of the Russian state security service.

1983-04-23 15:02:05

The band LAS VULPES on TV

On April 23 1983 the band LAS VULPES appear on the TV show “Caja de ritmos” on Spanish public television network. They play a female version of “I wanna be your dog” by the stooges, titling it “Me gusta ser una zorra” [I like to be a Slut]. The press media pounced on the performance and the program was cancelled.

1990-03-01 15:02:05

Raymond Pettibon designs the cover of the Sonic Youth sixth album

“Goo”, the sixth album by Sonic Youth, is released in 1990 with a cover designed by Raymond Pettibon. On the single “KOOL THING”, ONE CAN HEAR CHUCK D FROM PUBLIC ENEMY, whom they met in the studio during the recording of Public Enemy’s second record “It takes a nation of millions to hold us back”.

1990-12-31 15:02:05

The punk band Bikini Kill lead the RIOT GRRRLS feminist movement

In the mid-1990s, the RIOT GRRRLS emerge on the US-American hardcore and grunge scene, led by the punk band Bikini Kill. Kathleen Hanna, leader of the band and feminist activist, urges women in the audience to come up to the front rows during concerts and men to make space for them so they can dance the pogo, slamming into one another. In this way they launch a movement of empowerment, so that women can take a more active role in the underground music world, and have a strong impact in many publications and fanzines.

1994-03-01 15:02:05


In 1994 a group of runners disguised as salmon take part in the San Francisco marathon. But they run in a direction opposite to the established route. The action is organized by the CACOPHONY SOCIETY, which has cells around the United States and is also responsible for the annual Santa Con, a concentration of Santa Clauses in large department stores during Christmas, and for the Burning Man festival in the desert of Nevada.

1994-08-23 15:02:05

Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty burn a million pounds sterling

On August 23 1994 Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, members of the band The KLF, take the journalist Jim Reid and the concert promoter Alan Goodrick to a cabin on the Scottish island of Jura so that they can witness the BURNING OF A MILLION POUNDS STERLING. The action is part of the activities that precede the final separation of the band, among which is the complete elimination of their music catalog in record shops.

2012-02-21 15:02:05

The PUSSY RIOT group bursts into the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow

On February 21 2012, the Russian punk group PUSSY RIOT bursts into the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow and performs an iconoclastic “Te Deum” against Vladimir Putin from the altar. Wearing colourful dresses and balacavas, the woman sing “Mother of God, Virgin Mary, drive Putin away” make political proclamations against the Russian government, in favour of feminism, and for the rights of homosexuals.

2012-03-05 15:02:05

"My Shanora" by Atlas Sound

On March 5 2012, Bradford Cox, under the name of Atlas Sound, plays a concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. During the concert someone in the audience screams for songs from other musicians. In response to the request, Bradford Cox sits down at the drums and plays “My Shanora” and brings the person up on stage to dance. After almost an hour, THE AUDIENCE LEAVES THE HALL AND BEGINS TO THROW CHAIRS UP IN THE AIR.

PUNK. Its traces in Contemporary Art

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