Charlotte Moorman

Charlotte Moorman was a cellist and performance artist celebrated as a central figure of the New York avant-garde scene during the 1960s and 70s. Deemed “the Jeanne d'Arc of new music” by composer Edgar Varese, Moorman was not only known for her music performances, but the experiences elicited by her exhibitions. 

Born in 1933, Charlotte Moorman hailed from Little Rock, Arkansas. She attended Julliard, where she studied classical cello. She employed her classical training as a member of the American Symphony Orchestra for several years, studying under British conductor Leopold Stokowski. 

In 1963, Moorman further expanded her legacy when she founded the annual New York Avant Garde Festival, through which she met one of her biggest collaborators, fellow artist Nam June Paik, with whom she would maintain a partnership until her death in 1991. Moorman's collaborative efforts with Paik included several of Paik's most recognized pieces, such as TV Bra for Living Sculpture and TV-Cello. She was also featured in many of his classic performances and videotapes, including Global Groove in 1973. Moorman rose to further prominence within the public eye in 1967, when her topless performance of Paik's Opera Sextronique led to an indecent exposure charge and a reputation as the "Topless Cellist." In addition to her work with Paik, Moorman collaborated with and performed works for several artists throughout her career including Joseph Beuys, Jim McWilliams, Otto Piene, John Cage, and Yoko Ono.”

An avant-garde artist at her core, the majority of Moorman's performances were characterized by an absurd brand of playfulness, though her approach to music was anything but. Moorman approached her work with structure and seriousness, opting to perform in a concert gown regardless of whether she was hanging from a trapeze or suspended by balloons. 


Nam June Paik / Charlotte Moorman - TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969) and Chamber Music (1969)

Grey Art Gallery: A Feast of Astonishments Charlotte Moorman and the Avant Garde1960s-1980s   

Kaldor Art Projects: Project 5 Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik