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Institutional Critique Essay

1831 words - 7 pages

When someone enters an art gallery, they believe they are going to view art, but under the guise of Institutional Critique, this notion often false. Instead of being the traditional art of painting, sculptures, and installations, viewers encounter, in the work of Hans Haacke, Daniel Buren, and Michael Asher in the 1970s, not much to look at, but a lot to think about. In essence, Institutional Critique is a protest against museums/galleries demanding them to view art and art exhibition in new ways, exemplified by Conceptual art where words, video, readymades, and even ideas are art. Institutional Critique manifested from the protests of the 1960s, one of which philosopher Michel Foucault participated in Paris, 1968. Clearly, Institutional Critique gathered its raison d’être from these protests and imported them into the gallery space, but these protests continue today in the Occupy movements, highlighting Institutional Critique’s lasting impression and influence. Some key elements of Institutional Critique are site-specificity, its lack of commodification, WHAT ELSE. To understand Institutional Critique better, it is necessary to analyze the early works in this methodology through the works of Hans Haacke, Daniel Buren, and Michael Asher, but all other these works use the methodology to analyze different aspects of the art institution, but these uses of Institutional Critique cohesively display the main aspect of the methodology: protest. After all, Conceptual art is an avant-garde movement that in essence is a protest against mainstream art forms. Adding Michel Foucault’s “A Lecture from Power/Knowledge” to the discourse will further highlight the aspects of Institutional Critique, but also display its current relevancy to the Occupy protests.

Hans Haacke is a German-American Conceptual artist who generally exhibits his art in New York, but during the early 1970s, this was not the case. In 1971, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was to present a solo show of Haacke’s work, which was to include the controversial piece, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Board of Trustees (1974), but the museum director cancelled the exhibition. This was partially due to Haacke’s refusal to omit the work from the show, but mostly because of the piece’s subject matter. This piece consists of two framed panels with lists of the museum’s board of trustees, which would be acceptable to showcase because this knowledge would be readily available, but Haacke added five more panels listing the corporate sponsors of the museum along with each member’s other affiliations with corporations. This work exposed the inner mechanisms of the institution by revealing the trustees’ questionable affiliations and the financial backers of the museum. In addition, this piece exemplifies Institutional Critique precisely because of its focus on the museum itself over the artwork. After all, this piece cannot be sold at auction, which is an essential aspect of galleries and museums. The piece...

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