Michael Asher (artist)

Michael Asher (artist)
Michael Asher
Born 1943 (age 67–68)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Field Conceptual artist

Michael Max Asher (born July 15, 1943) is a conceptual artist, described by The New York Times as "among the patron saints of the Conceptual Art phylum known as Institutional Critique, an often esoteric dissection of the assumptions that govern how we perceive art."[1] Rather than designing new art objects, Asher typically alters the existing environment, by repositioning or removing artworks, walls, facades, etc.

Asher is also a highly regarded professor of art, who has spent decades on the faculty at California Institute of the Arts. Cited by numerous successful artists as an important influence in their development, Asher's teaching has been described by British journalist Sarah Thornton as his "most influential" work.[2]


Born in Los Angeles, California, Asher is the son of gallerist Betty Asher and Dr. Leonard Asher [1].

He is a teacher at the California Institute of the Arts, where his "post-studio art" course consists of intensive group critiques that can focus on a single work for eight hours or more. His Writings, 1973–1983, on Works 1969-1979, co-authored by the art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, was published by The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Chapter 2 of Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton is set in Asher's Post-Studio Crit class. Thornton describes the Crit as a "rite of passage" for the students and as the artist's "most influential" work - "an institutional critique that reveals the limits of the rest of the curriculum." [3]


Asher's work takes the form of "subtle yet deliberate interventions – additions, subtractions or alterations – in particular environments."[4] His work in the late 1960s and early 1970s consisted of dividing up gallery spaces using partition walls and curtains, and designing environments that reflected or absorbed sound. In the 1970s he began to remove elements from spaces, for example sandblasting away layers of paint or removing the partition walls separating an exhibition space from the gallery office. In 1979 he started to reposition objects in museum collections.[4]

His untitled 1991 work featuring a granite drinking fountain juxtaposed with a flag pole was his first permanent public outdoor work in the United States. It is part of the Stuart Collection of public art on the campus of the University of California, San Diego.

He has exhibited at documenta (1972, 1982) and the Venice Biennale (1976), and his solo museum shows include the Centre Pompidou (1991), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2003), Art Institute of Chicago (2005) and Santa Monica Museum of Art (2008).


  1. ^ Roberta Smith, How Art Is Framed: Exhibition Floor Plans as a Conceptual Medium, March 8, 2008.
  2. ^ Sarah Thornton. Seven Days in the Art World New York: WW Norton, 2009. ISBN 978-0-393-33712-9)
  3. ^ Sarah Thornton. Seven Days in the Art World New York: WW Norton, 2009. ISBN 978-0-393-33712-9)
  4. ^ a b James Rondeau, Thinking Space, Frieze, March 2008.

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