Institutional critique

Art and architecture: which comes first?

CHAPTER 4: Institutional critique

Institutional critique refers to an approach to artmaking that prompts critical questions about the functions of art (social, political) and the places in which it is displayed (museums, galleries). In other words, institutional critique is an attempt to peek behind the curtain of the systems and people that make seemingly-anonymous organizations run. Andrea Fraser does just that in Museum Highlights, a video of the artist listening to the audio guide at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Her humorous reactions to the sometimes-sensual recording beg the questions whose voice represents the museum, and what implications does that voice carry? Ramiro Gomez, too, takes a museum as the subject of his work in The Broad, a newly-built structure in downtown Los Angeles housing the collection of Eli and Edythe Broad. A lone woman pushes a trashcan in front of the museum’s pristine façade, emphasizing the contrast between the cold, glamorous white monolith and her quotidian task.

Image credit:
Stuart Davis
Lawn and Sky, 1931 (detail)
Oil on canvas
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991

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