Trade in your item
Get a $2.00
Gift Card.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene 1974-1984 Paperback – November 6, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0691122861 ISBN-10: 0691122865

6 New from $68.26 21 Used from $20.00
Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$68.26 $20.00

Frequently Bought Together

The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene 1974-1984 + New York Noise: Art and Music from the New York Underground 1978-88: Photographs by Paula Court
Buy the selected items together


Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691122865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691122861
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Honorable Mention for the 2006 Museum Publications Design Competition, Books Category, American Association of Museums

"The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene 1974-1984 celebrates the era's creative commotion, much of it scattershot and under the mainstream radar."--New York Times Style Magazine

"For readers with an interest in New York's art history, the detailed chronology alone makes the book essential source material."--Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

From the Inside Flap

"This is a terrific and important book. It brings an interdisciplinary view to one of the most fecund decades in the history of avant-garde art."--Peggy Phelan, Stanford University

"In the late 1970s, when Gregory Battcock and I were both writing art columns for the Soho Weekly News, he divided Manhattan into two kinds of people: the Downtown Slouches and the Uptown Swells. This is a book filled with facts and anecdotes, told by astute eyewitnesses and not detached scholars, about the Downtown Slouches--and the wonderful crazy things they did, and made, over a remarkable ten-year period. All of the contributing writers and artists emphasize one crucial issue: for everyone living and working below Fourteenth Street at that time, identity was synonymous with geography--urban space was our mental space. We were refugees from the America of the 1950s and 60s, outcasts of the suburbs and the shopping malls. We wrote, painted, performed and played music in grateful homage to our spiritual home--and our offerings have borne fruit, as this book makes abundantly clear, by illuminating the history of American art."--Shelley Rice, New York University

"After the Vietnam War we thought we could change the world with a cultural revolution. Read this book and find out how we did it: Art and more Art and lots of Art."--Karen Finley, Visiting Professor, Tisch School for the Arts, New York University

"A magnificent, groundbreaking, blinding bright, really important book."--Dennis Cooper, author of The George Miles Cycle

"This is history still alive. More than memory, it is our identity. Did we know what we were doing? Yes. We were coming in on energy. And creating the ultimate conflagration. Some kind of end-times party. It's all over because it's all over everything we see, hear, and do now. These writings overflow with exquisite passion for a juiced time. Eventually they swept the streets. But we were already out of there."--Thurston Moore, singer and guitarist for Sonic Youth

Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Besenkopf on January 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
I agree with the previous reviewer: why no Basquiat? Yet that brings me to my major issue with the book, which is the uneven quality of the included essays. Berbard Gendron's essay on downtown music and Matthew Yokobosky's essay on no wave cinema are useful and interesting, yet the reader is punished with Robert Siegle's vague essay on downtown writing, an absurd essay about modernism vs postmodernism, and an absolutely awful essay by Carlo McCormick. Here's a sentence by McCormick:

"Between the communality of the great psychedelic orgy and the mortal dread of viral transmission, the concupiscence of youth proliferated a polymorphous perversity that explored the politics of desire, the social ideals of attraction, and the aesthetics of fetish in a carnal celebration of ideogrammatic Sexpressionism."

Someone get him a copy of _The Elements of Style_.

In any case, the book is filled with some really interesting photos and reproductions, so I'd say it's worth a look. I just wouldn't pay full price.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kerianne Morgan on November 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book indeed contains a good cross-section of the artists, writers & performers navigating around the downtown NY art scene between 74 & 84. Great photographs & an excellent Chronology feature at the end of the book. BUT: How do you get by sub-titling a book The New York Art Scene 1974-1984 without showing one photo of or one piece of work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, or writing one full paragraph concerning him? There are only scattered mentions of him here & there & the only photo we get are a couple of stills from Downtown 81. It's true that I didn't buy this book expecting in-depth Basquiat coverage, but still, there could have been at least a bit more on him. I'm only knocking off one rating star for that since besides the lack of Basquiat pictures, this book is an excellent summary/chronology of an increasingly important & often overlooked period of American art.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By john on September 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Too little graffiti was covered.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?