Institutional Critique

Institutional Critique

Institutional Critique is an art term that describes the systematic inquiry into the workings of art institutions, for instance galleries and museums, and is most associated with the work of artists such as Michael Asher, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Andrea Fraser, Fred Wilson and Hans Haacke.

In more technical terms, Institutional Critique is an artistic term meant as a commentary of the various institutions and assumed normalities of art and/or a radical disarticulation of the institution of art (radical is linguistically understood in its relation to "radix" which means to get to the "root" of something). For instance, assumptions about the supposed aesthetic autonomy or neutrality of painting and sculpture are often explored as a subject in the field of art, and are then historically and socially mapped out (i.e., ethnographically and or archaeologically) as discursive formations, then (re)framed within the context of the museum itself. As such, it seeks to make visible the historically and socially constructed boundaries between inside and outside, public and private. Institutional critique is often critical of how of the distinctions of taste are not separate from aesthetic judgement, and that taste is an institutionally cultivated sensibility.


Institutional critique is a practice that emerged out of the developments of Minimalism and its concerns with the phenomenology of the viewer, as well as formalist art criticism and art history (i.e., Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried), conceptual art and its concerns with language, processes, and administrative society, and appropriation art and its concerns with consumption and identity. Institutional critique is often site-specific, and perhaps could be linked to the advent of the "earthwork" by minimalist artists such as Robert Smithson and Walter De Maria. Institutional critique is also often associated with the developments of structuralist and post-structuralist philosophy, critical theory and literary theory.


Artists associated with institutional critique include Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, Mark Lombardi, Michael Asher, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles, since the 60's, Antonio Muntadas, Fred Wilson, Renée Green, Andrea Fraser among others since the late 80's or more recently Matthieu Laurette, Graham Harwood and Carey Young, all of whom have typically taken a critical eye to the modern art museum and its role as a public and private institution.

Haake's exhibition at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne was cancelled due to the inclusion by Haacke of the work "Manet '74" that connected the funding of the museum to the cultural politics of the Cold War. In 1993 Haacke shared, with Nam June Paik, the Golden Lion for the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Haacke's installation "Germania" made explicit reference to the Biennale's roots in the politics of fascist Italy.


One of the criticisms of institutional critique is its complexity. As many have noted, it is a practice that often only advanced artists, theorists, historians, and critics can participate in. Due to its highly sophisticated understanding of modern art and society, as part of a privileged discourse like that of any other specialized form of knowledge, it can often leave layman viewers alienated and/or marginalized.

Another criticism is that it can be a misnomer, since it could be argued that institutional critique artists often work within the context of the very same institutions. Most institutional critique art, for instance, is displayed in museums and galleries, despite its critical stance.

Institutional Critique and the Internet has been a heavy contributor to institutional critique. interventions tackled the praxis of art business and digital culture institutions, from the perspective of curation. net.artists have actively participated in the debate over the definition of within the context of the art market. promoted the modernist idea of the work of art as a process, as opposed to a conception of art as object making. But the question of how this process should be presented and accessible within the art world, either sold in the art market, or shown in the institutional art environment, is problematic for digital works made for the web. The web, as marketable as it is, cannot be restricted to the ideological dimensions of the legitimate field of art, the institution of legitimation for art value, that is both ideological and economical. "All for Sale" by Aliona is an early experiment whereby she claimed that because of the crashed art market and the end of social patronage, rather than work the traditional low-paid jobs out of work artists usually seek, she would sell her body in an artistic act of prostitution. [cite web| url = | title =All For Sale | accessdate =2007-09-03 | accessmonthday =| accessyear =| author =Aliona| last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | date = | year = | month = | format = | work = | publisher = | pages = | language =English | archiveurl =| archivedate =]


Further reading

*Meyer, James, [1993] , "Whatever Happened to Institutional Critique?" Reprinted in Peter Weibel, Kontext Kunst, .
*Buchloh, Benjamin, [October 55, 1990] , "Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions", pp. 105–143.
*Fraser, Andrea, [September 2005] , "From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique", Artforum, XLIV, No. 1, pp. 278–283.
*Bryan-Wilson, [2003] Julia, "A Curriculum of Institutional Critique", in: Jonas Ekeberg (ed.), New Institutionalism, Oslo: OCA/verksted, pp. 89–109.
*Welchman, John C. (ed.), [2006] , "Institutional Critique and After (SoCCAS Symposium Vol. II)", JRP|Ringier

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