The 1971 Miss General Idea Pageant is one of General Idea’s best-known conceptual projects. This mail art and performance piece was one of a series of faux beauty pageants the group created to interrogate glamour, fame, and the art world. The pageant format and the figure of Miss General Idea were key elements of the group’s mythology, structures around which they continued to create art in subsequent years.
General Idea found sixteen potential applicants among their network—artists across North America—and mailed out entry kits to these “finalists.” Each kit contained rules and regulations, pageant documents, and a pageant gown. The extravagant award ceremony took place in Walker Court at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. The ceremony was carefully scripted and included music, speeches, and prizes. It was all captured on video as a television event, with the crowd as a stand-in for a television audience.