Institutional Critique


The critique of art institutions, such as museums, galleries, private collections, or publications, through artworks. A frequent target of avant-garde attacks since the late 19th-century, the institutions of art were condemned perhaps most fervently in the Futurist Manifesto (1909), which called upon artists to “set fire to the library shelves! Turn aside the canals to flood the museums!” The term “institutional critique,” however, has come to designate a strand of conceptual art beginning in the 1960s and associated with Michael Asher, Marcel Broodthaers, Daniel Buren, and Hans Haacke. These artists sought to expose the ideologies and power structures underlying the circulation, display, and discussion of art. In his seminal 1972 work the eagle from the Oligocene to the present, for example, Broodthaers brought together 266 found objects and displayed a wall text alongside each one that read “This is not a work of art,” thus questioning museums’ role in exhibiting and conferring status to artworks, as well as the role of the artist as the maker of original artworks.

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