Franklin Furnace was founded in 1976 to serve artists who chose publishing as a primary,"democratic" artistic medium, and were not being supported by existing artistic organizations. From its inception, Franklin Furnace's energies have been focused on three aspects of "time-based" programming: A collection of artists' books; a performance art program for emerging artists; and exhibitions of time-based arts, both site-specific works by contemporary artists, and historical and contemporary exhibitions of artists' books and other time-based, ephemeral arts.
During the last 20 years, Franklin Furnace has gained a national and international reputation for identifying artists who have changed the terms by which contemporary art is discussed; mounting scholarly exhibitions that have embodied the history of 20th Century avant-garde activity; and standing up for the right of the artists to freedom of expression as guaranteed under the First Amendment.
Among those artists who were given the opportunity to mount their first New York shows at Franklin Furnace are Ida Applebroog, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Dara Birnbaum, Matt Mullican, James Coleman, Krysztof Wodiczko, Guillaume Bijl, and Willie Cole; while among the performers who got their start here are Eric Bogosian, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Robbie McCauley, Michael Smith, Theodora Skipitares, Paul Zaloom, David Cale, and Karen Finley. Additionally, Franklin Furnace's performance art program has enabled more established artists like Laurie Anderson, Vito Acconci, Richard Foreman, Carl Andre, Lee Breuer, William Wegman, and Jennifer Bartlett to experiment in ways that would be inappropriate for mainstream venues that attract larger audiences. Franklin Furnace's exhibition program has included many historically notable exhibitions of time-based art of an ephemeral nature -- exhibitions on Cubist books and prints, for example, on Fluxus, or Russian Samizdat art -- critically celebrated exhibitions that have contributed to art historical scholarship.
In November, 1993, Franklin Furnace and the Museum of Modern Art signed an agreement to merge Franklin Furnace's collection of artists' books published internationally after 1960, the largest repository of this nature in the United States, with that of MOMA, forming a resource of unparalleled value: the Museum of Modern Art/Franklin Furnace/Artist Book Collection.
Franklin Furnace's basement performance space was closed by the New York City Fire Department in 1990 in response to an ananonymous caller, and since that time Franklin Furnace has been presenting performance art to new audiences throughout the City by developing strategic partnerships with institutions great and small, from The New School for Social Research to Dixon Place. Now, Franklin Furnace is presenting new temporal art to worldwide audiences through a collaboration with Pseudo Programs, Inc.