Hammer Projects: Tom Marioni

Hammer Projects: Tom Marioni

For over forty years, Tom Marioni has been experimenting at the boundaries of art. His first art action—One Second Sculpture (1969) in which he released a coiled metal tape measure into the air and allowed it to fall to the ground—encapsulated Marioni’s desire to eradicate the distinctions between sculpture, music, drawing, and performance by embodying all of the genres at once. A key figure in the invention of Conceptual Art in the 1960s, Marioni’s identity as artist, writer, and curator also defies categorization. In 1970, he founded the Museum of Conceptual Art in San Francisco as a venue to support his own work and that of his friends and colleagues, and he has published his writings in various periodicals and books. Through the decades, Marioni has continued to, in his words, “observe real life and report on it poetically,” amassing a body of work comprised of drawings, prints, actions, and writings that articulate his desire to unite people and ideas. For his Hammer Project, Tom Marioni will present his on-going artwork Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art. Along with the bar-like installation and remaining empty Pacifico beer bottles from private gatherings he will host as part of the piece, the exhibition will feature a selection of Marioni’s drawings and ephemera, including two site-specific wall drawings made for the occasion of the exhibition.

Organized by Hammer senior curator Anne Ellegood.

Please note that the beer salons held in conjunction with Marioni’s project are by invitation only, in accordance with the wishes of the artist.


Tom Marioni was born in Cincinnati in 1937 and lives in San Francisco. He was a key figure in the emergence of Conceptual Art in the 1960s, and he founded and ran the Museum of Conceptual Art in San Francisco from 1970 to 1984. In 1981 Marioni was honored as a Guggenheim Fellow, and he founded the Art Orchestra in 1996. Since 1963 his work has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions, including The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, Oakland Museum of California (1970); The Museum of Conceptual Art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1979); Cutting the Mustard, Le Consortium, Dijon, France (1984); The Germans, the Italians, the Japanese, Museo ItaloAmericano, San Francisco, and Yoh Art Gallery, Osaka, Japan (1987); The Artist’s Studio (Starting Over), Capp Street Project, San Francisco (1990); Golden Rectangle, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2004); and Tom Marioni: Beer, Art, and Philosophy (The Exhibition) 1968–2006, Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati (2006). Marioni’s work has been featured in thematic exhibitions internationally, and he has staged his performances and actions at venues around the world. He was the founding editor of Vision Magazine in 1975 and is the author of Beer, Art, and Philosophy: A Memoir (Crown Point Press, 2003) and other publications.


By Corrina Peipon

In 1970 Tom Marioni was invited to make an exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California. He asked sixteen friends to come to the museum on a Monday evening, when it was closed. The curator brought enough beer to go around, and everyone “drank and had a good time.”1 The empty beer bottles, tables, and chairs were left in situ for the run of the exhibition. Rather than a performance, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art (1970) consisted of an action and its evidence. “Since I didn’t want to subject my friends to being performers, the public was not invited. . . . It was an important work for me, because it defined Action rather than Object as art. And drinking beer was one of the things I learned in art school.”2 At the start of the same year, Marioni had founded the Museum of Conceptual Art (MOCA) in San Francisco, where he presented work by artists—including himself, under the pseudonym Allan Fish—experimenting with new art forms, such as conceptual art, sound art, performance and action art, installation, and video. Open to the public as a nonprofit, membership-driven museum, MOCA presented pioneering exhibitions and projects until 1984. In 1976 Marioni started Café Society, a Wednesday afternoon social club that met at Breen’s Bar, down the street from MOCA, where invited guests assembled to drink beer and talk about art. Evolving out of The Act of Drinking Beer, Café Society was a social artwork that brought people together under contrived circumstances to interact freely. Café Society has continued over the years in various iterations, including video screenings with free beer at MOCA and Marioni’s ongoing weekly Wednesday salons at his studio. 

 Café Society  The Society of Independent Artists

Bicycle WheelFountain The Act of Drinking Beer nouveau réalisme  Le Vide 

 723 Utensils des cuisines  18 Happenings in 6 Parts

 The Act of Drinking Beer  4’33”  Le Vide 

 One Second Sculpture  Drum Brush Drawing Out-of-Body Free-Hand Circle

 Beer, Art, and Philosophy: A Memoir 

 Beer, Art, and Philosophy


Hammer Projects is made possible with major gifts from Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Additional generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley, L A Art House Foundation, the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles, and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.