Active 1969 - 1994
b. 1946, Vancouver
b. 1945, Winnipeg
d. June 5, 1994, Toronto
b. 1944, Parma, Italy
d. February 3, 1994, Toronto
Formed in Toronto in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, General Idea is internationally recognized for work that tackled such subjects as the myth of the artist, the role of mass media, the relationship between the body and the identity, issues of gender and sexual repression, and famously HIV/AIDS activism at a time when talking about the disease was a taboo. The members of General Idea were key figures in the 1970-80s conceptual art scenes and, with equal parts humor and criticality, created work across a variety of mediums and platforms. Performances and fictionalized, self-referential mythologies played a large role in their work – the group staged beauty pageants, boutiques, television talk shows, trade fair pavilions, and more, and their work often took on unconventional forms of media such as prints, magazines, posters, crests, and postcards.
General Idea has been the subject of several major traveling museum exhibitions: The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, Kunsthalle Basel; Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Musée d'art contemporain, Montreal (1984-85). The Armoury of the 1984 Miss General Idea Pavillion, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; 49th Parallel, New York; University Art Gallery, California State University, Long Beach; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo (1968-87). Fin de siècle, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart; Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, Barcelona; Kunstverein, Hamburg; The Power Plant, Toronto; Wexner Center for the Visual Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA, (1992-1993). General Idea Editions: 1967–1995, The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville; Kunstverein Munich; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Kunsthalle Zürich; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, and Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga (2003-2007). Haute Culture: General Idea. Une rétrospective, 1969–1994, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2011).
Additionally, the group has been the subject of several important solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario (1975 and 1993), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (1979), the Vancourver Art Gallery (1984), and Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst (now Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst), Ghent (1984). General Idea has exhibited in the Canadian Pavilion at the 40th Venice Biennale (1980) and at Documenta 7, Kassel (1982).
General Idea’s work is included in the collections of important institutions worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; The Art Institute of Chicago; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; The National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Tate, London.
All images © The Estate of General Idea.