P.S.1 was founded in 1971 by Alanna Heiss as the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc., an organization devoted to organizing exhibitions in underutilized and abandoned spaces across New York City. In 1976, P.S.1 opened its first major exhibition in its permanent location in Long Island City, Queens, with the seminal Rooms exhibition. An invitation for artists to transform the building’s unique spaces, Rooms established the P.S.1 tradition of transforming the building’s spaces into site-specific art that continues today with long-term installations by James Turrell, Keith Sonnier, Richard Serra, Lawrence Weiner, and others.
For the next twenty years, the building was used as studio, performance, and exhibition spaces, in support of artists from around the world. After a building-wide renovation, P.S.1 reopened in 1997, confirming its position as the leading contemporary art center in New York. True to the building’s history and form, the renovation preserved much of the original architecture as well as most of its unique classroom-sized galleries. In 2000, P.S.1 became an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art to extend the reach of both institutions, and combine P.S.1’s contemporary mission with MoMA’s strength as one of the greatest collecting museums of modern art.