After Modernism, Week 7 – The Gallery and Institutional Critique

During this lecture we explored the development of the environment of the Gallery, and its importance to the way that we interact with artworks.

This was a topic that I had very little knowledge of, and found it really interesting to learn the relevance of the development of art institutions.

We examined the following:

  • Gallery Architecture

– As a result of enlightenment thinking, there was a strong acknowledgement that artworks should be collected and be available to the public

– The gallery architecture consequently was inspired by Greek architectural language

  • The Princely Collection – The evolution of the gallery interior

– The public owned gallery space moved away from class based collection that meant art was exclusive only to a few, and towards an environment that was open to all

– Some galleries, such as the National Portrait Gallery, are reminiscent of the princely way of displaying

  • Artists Looking at Traditional Gallery Space

– Karen Korr, a photographer that examines interactions with the gallery space

Her work explores how a viewer relates to work within an art institution. In this particular photograph – ‘pleasures of imagination’, Korr manages to capture the fantasy of viewers being alone in the gallery, being able to imagine that they themselves own the collection.

  • Institutional Critique

– Examining the art gallery as a preserver of art

Daniel Buren questions this with ‘Works in situ’ 1969

His work remains partly in the gallery, but extends to the outside.

I really like this work and feel it to be an incredibly strong reaction to the idea of preservation within a gallery space. With it, he questions how art work wants to be treated. A gallery’s role has become to protect artworks from damage and destruction, but Buren questions whether this is how it should be treated – if it wants to be passively viewed or whether its relevance is lost when it is not interacted with.

  • Cabinets of Curiosities

Another format that art objects have been displayed in, a more accessible way than Princely collections

  • The Spectacular Museum

A new type of museum, one that is so extravagantly designed that the art itself must change so that it can compete with the architecture. An example of this being the Guggenheim in New York

  • Mega Art

Art made in response to the change in gallery architecture, work that is scaled up, for example Jim Dine, Three Red Spanish Venuses, 1997

  • The Museum Without Walls

The influence of photography and print in the way that we are now able to relate to artworks.

Artwork in the past had to be visited by the people that wished to view it, however now we live in an age where artwork can come to the people. A simple google search will allow anyone to access many images of artworks, but this begins to prompt the question, What is an image?

Is an artwork lost in a reproduction? Are we even viewing the artwork?

The context of meaning is also often lost through this process, and the circulation of imagery removes much of its uniqueness and holiness.


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