AVANT - Street Art Press - New York City, 1980's
origins of the street-as-gallery movement

avant street art 80s nyc new york - the villagerDrasher, Katherine. “If It’s Fine Art You Want, Don’t Look in the Galleries: Avant’s on the Street.” Villager. June 30 1983. 31. Print. (enlarge)

Drasher, Katherine. “If It’s Fine Art You Want, Don’t Look in the Galleries: Avant’s on the Street.” Villager. June 30 1983. 32. Print.

history street art press 1980's nyc village voiceTrebay, Guy. “Photo caption.” The Village Voice. Jan. 1983. Print.

NYTimes Brooklyn Terminal Show 1983 avant. Glueck, Grace. “Art: A huge Exhibition At Brooklyn Terminal.” The New York Times. Sept. 30 1983. C20. Print. Image: Avant's double-diamond sculpture hanging in backround.

MoMA 2017: Exhibition Catalogue "Club 57"

MoMA 2017: Exhibition "Club 57" and AVANT


Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1996, by David Robinson.

From: Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1990, Copyright David Robinson.

Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1996, by David Robinson.Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1990, Copyright David Robinson. Page 55. avant: CHC

Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1996, by David Robinson.Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1990, Copyright David Robinson. Page 59. avant: CHC

Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1990, Copyright David Robinson. Page 60. avant: CHC

Soho Walls - Beyond Graffiti, 1990, Copyright David Robinson. Page 61.


Terminal Show press 1983New York Magazine, 1983. Review: "Brooklyn Terminal Show". Image: Avant's double-diamond sculpture hanging in foreground.

51X 1980s Walter Robinson aka WinshieldEast Village Eye, 1983. Review: Avant at Gallery 51-X.

street art poster 1980'sOfficial poster for first touring nyc street art exhibition in Europe and US galleries and institutions.

nyc street art press 1980's village voiceVillage Voice, 1983. Annoucment: Avant at Garbrielle Bryers Gallery, Soho, NYC.

nyc street art press 1980'sMoufarrege, Nicolas A. New York Native. June 7-20 1982. Print.

street art press NYC 1980'sTully, Jud. Art/World. Vol.7-No.5. Feb. 1983. Print

nyc street artists press 1980'sRobinson, Walter. “East Village 1984 – A Brief Chronology.” Art In America. 1984. Print.

street art press 1980'sstreet art press nyc 1980's Darton, Eric. “Stepping Out with Mr.Art – Avant Steals the Show.” East Village Eye. Nov. 1982. 24-25. Print. Avant "Stolen Show" organized & curated by DF.

Arts Weekly, 1983. Invitation card for "Stolen Show".

nyc street art japaneese press 1980'sJapaneese Magazine, 1984.

nyc street art french press 1980's

nyc street art french press 1980s

L'Express, 1982.

Japaneese Cosmomolitan, 1983.

New Museum, NYC, street art exhibition 2007Cameron, Dan. “East Village USA.” The New Museum of Contemporary Art. New York. 2004. Essay "It Takes a Village." 46. Print. (Exhibition East Village USA catalogue, 2004)


AVANT, also known as AVANT street art guerrilla collective, was the artist group active in New York City from 1980 to 1984. By 1984 AVANT had produced thousands of acrylic on paper paintings and plastered them on walls, doors, bus-stops and galleries city-wide. Principal artists were Christopher Hart Chambers[1], David Fried[2], and Marc Thorne.

AVANT[3][4] was a group of five young New York artists working collectively who wheat pasted handmade original poster sized works of non-calligraphic art in the streets of NYC.[5] While the members of Avant assert that they began in the winter of 1980, the earliest available press documentation of their street art or art exhibitions is found in the New York Native from June 1982[6], wherein a later article published in the Villager places their origins at January 1981.[7] By 1984 avant had produced thousands of acrylic on paper paintings and plastered them on walls, doors, bus-stops, galleries and museums city wide, concentrated mostly in lower Manhattan. As a group, they were capable of producing hundreds of individual paintings per week, and deployed them in the streets on a regular basis.[8][9] They also mounted three dimensional artworks to street sign poles and commandeered bus stop advertising light boxes, replacing the contents with their own original works of art, then relocking the cabinets.[10] Over 40 exhibitions of AVANT's work were held in New York galleries and nightclubs between 1981 and 1884.[11][12] Over a typical artist-gallery financial dispute, they actually managed to commandeer a gallery in Soho to open the 1982 September season with a self curated exhibition.[13] Another fresh concept was to start an exhibition in the street that would continue into a gallery. They called this the “Drive-In Show,” which started with a dozen numbered oversized paintings pasted high up on a parking lot wall in Soho, and continued up the block in Gabrielle Bryers Gallery starting with painting number 13.[14]


1. ^ http://www.christopherchambers.com
2. ^ http://www.davidfried.com
3. ^ Glueck, Grace (1983-09-30). "Art: A huge Exhibition At Brooklyn Terminal". The New York Times: pp. C20. “...and the work of Avant, an arists’ group that slaps up its dashed off posters all over town…”
4. ^ Cameron, Dan; Julie Ault, Liza Kirwin, Alan W. Moore (2004). East Village USA. New York, New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art. pp. 46. “...artists whose work would soon find a place in the highly variegated East Village milieu- including Linus Coraggio, David Finn, Ann Messner, the collective Avant, and Ted Rosenthal- first made themselves known to many viewers in the streets and empty lots of the Lower East Side.”
5. ^ Drasher, Katherine (1983-06-30). "Avant’s on the Street". The Villager: pp. 31-32. "If it’s fine art you want, don’t look in the galleries: Avant’s on the Street.~ The most successful of the young artists today is conscious of art as business. If he shows his work indoors he is usually selling it and renting the exhibition space. He is entering a world that can be as complicated as the pursuit of real value in art. Street artists, Dondi, Ero, Quick, Scharff, Haring and Avant among them, have all at some time avoided marketing, giving out what they believe in with little regard for its preservation or financial value. ~ The street work, if less impressive only for its cheap durable constitution is not being left behind. “The gallery work is not always worth more in terms of emotional content. ”Avant prides itself in having initiated most of the Soho street art: they “curate the street,” and are still challenged."
6. ^ Moufarrege, Nicolas (1982-06-07). "Galleries: Arty, Party, Smarty". New York Native. "On May 16 the Pyramid showed a group of young painters called AVANT: art’s answer to rock groups…they are the ones responsible for the ubiquitous AVANT posters and graffiti around the city."
7. ^ Drasher, Katherine (1983-06-30). "Avant’s on the Street". The Villager: pp. 31-32. "The exhibit opening at NYU Contemporary Arts Gallery July 1, should dispel illusions that arise from Avant’s 16-month history of distributing art anonymously to the city."
8. ^ Drasher, Katherine (1983-06-30). "Avant’s on the Street". The Villager: pp. 31-32. "None of the work is up for more than a week now. Avant has to go out three to four times a week to keep the show going. They respect the work of other artists when they put up their own, although they’d like to see more fully realized work. Competition amongst street artists is hot, “real art war,” but the great diversity prevents disrespect. Hambleton, responsible for the ubiquitous black “shadow men” painted on location, said of one of Avant’s paintings, “that’s interesting. You work on your paintings.”
9. ^ Tully, Jud (1983-02-01). "Exhibitions". Art/World. “Avant was born as an art militia of five artists “getting up” on Manhattan streets with original paintings cum posters. Painting on the average fifty “sketch” poster paintings apiece per week, they were bound to become ubiquitous. And they were bound to grow as painters, before our eyes. Bryers exhibits their works on canvas, revealing individuality within the group, and a depth that is mostly only inferred in the “posters.” As “passionists” AVANT is part of the tumult at the base of the recently painterly expressionism, and is very “New York” in the relation to Graffiti street impulse “afflicting” our city. As a symptom of the vitality of our town, we would not want to dismiss it…”
10. ^ Drasher, Katherine (1983-06-30). "Avant’s on the Street". The Villager: pp. 31-32. “Guerilla tactics have to do only with the mounting of the open-ended street show of Avant. They will not stop short of breaking the law by stealing costly advertising space in bus stops. ~ The five work in different mediums and styles separately and get together to put up the work, plastering it on the outside of buildings, bolting it onto street signs, and substituting it for advertisements in bus stop “light boxes.”
11. ^ Drasher, Katherine (1983-06-30). "Avant’s on the Street". The Villager: pp. 31-32. “The group is not adverse to staying within the law, having their gift to the city recognized as such. They believe that art should be exposed in more universal, unconditional ways, and are looking forward to a grant to make advertising media (billboards, prime time T.V., sky writing) vehicles for art. Avant stuck to one method of acquiring a name in the art world. The Catch-22 of is that safe artists, who are not known and shown, look better to the NEA. Not only is Avant undoubtedly looking better to grant-givers, but as street artists they are looking good to commercial galleries now. Avant has had over 20 shows in the last eight month and has one planned in Cologne for the fall. Slide performances, music, plays, radio shows are part of Avant’s range.”
12. ^ Robinson, Walter (1984). "East Village 1984 - a Brief Chronology". Art In America: pp. 138. "...Fun Gallery, which opened in the fall of ’81 on East 10th St., the East Village’s version of West Broadway... Fun Gave birth to the Lower East Side careers of such artist as Jean Michel Basquiat, Fab Five Freddy, Futura 2000, Kieth Haring, Kiely Jenkins, Lee Quinones, Kenny Scharf and Dondi White. ~ The East Village’s next new gallery was 51X on St. Marks Place, founded by artist Rich Colicchio a few months after Fun opened and also featuring graffiti art. Recent exhibitions there have been work by Judy Rifka and Avant, a group of five young painters who formerly made collaborative, generic abstractions.”
13. ^ Darton, Eric (1982-11-01). "Avant Steals the Show". East Village Eye: pp. 24-25. “When M. Bilhaud packed his quitte bagge and went en vacances recentment, little did he know that his gallery at 96 Grand St. would be playing host to Avant who, having been left in charge, hijacked the space – squaring the boeuf for a previous association w/said gallery which had left them, fiscally at any rate, holding the short end of the baton. Voice leur revenge! The Stolen Show.”

14. ^ Trebay, Guy (1983-01). "Arts - photo caption". The Village Voice. “Avant- those arrant guardians of the street-as-gallery-space-tradition –have been out and plastering again. By their unique habit of putting up poster-size original works in public places shall ye know them, unmistakable because their stuff looks more like unframed canvasses than the usual graffiti or murals. In fact, it’s oil and acrylic on newsprint. This time they’ve struck on the wall of a parking lot where Grand and Wooster meet. About 10 feet high in a straight line you’ll see 12 paintings by Peter Epstein, Chris Chambers, Mark Thorne, David Fried and Jed Tulman. For specific information read the daubed matter on the carpark attendant’s booth. There is also a current exhibition by them at Gabrielle Bryers Gallery which closes on January 29. Threatens avanterrorist Peter Epstein “ ‘claimed’ exhibitions will continue at any spaces we find that are curatable.”

AVANT - CV (very incomplete)



The Pyramid Lounge
Club 57
The Underground


Lucky Strike



The All Fools’ Show
East Village Festival


Chinese Chance


P.S. 1
The Terminal Show



Grand Illusion
Galleria Del Rio


51X (2x)
Westbeth Space
Alain Bilhaud Gallery
Kalt Gallery
American State of the Arts Gallery Exchange Corp. (aka A.S.A.G.E. Gallery)


NYU Loeb Students’ Center (Contempoary Arts Gallery)
KWOK Gallery
Alain Bilhaud Gallery
Gabriel Bryers Gallery
Penn State University Show of East Village Art - Pennsylvania
American State of the Arts Gallery Exchange Corp. (aka A.S.A.G.E. Gallery)
Galleria Lo Zibetto (MIlano)
Di Reggio Calabria, Facolta’ di Architechtura e Storia dell’ Arte Cattedra Evan Pugh
Dipartmento di Conservazione dei Beni
Architrttonici e Ambientali
Facolta’ di Architectura
Politechnico di Milano
Gugu Ernesto Gallery, Cologne, Germany


Jim Diaz Gallery
John Gerstadt Gallery
Stuart Neil Gallery
American State of the Arts Gallery Exchange Corp. (aka A.S.A.G.E. Gallery)

Event flyers & exhibition PR & Invitation cards

street art nyc 80s avant & friends at NYU contemporary Arts Gallery

urban primitive streetart soho

nyc street art WBAI 1980's

51X Gallery Rich Colicchio 1980s

51-X Gallery east village 80s

AVANT image for AD in ArtForum, '83.

AVANT: Fragment of first photo-card 1981