Museum Highlights: a Gallery Talk by Andrea Fraser, 1989

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12 Contemporary Artists
Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk by Andrea Fraser, 1989

Andrea Fraser is a contemporary artist who is mostly recognized for her works in the domain of institutional critique. Andrea Fraser uses the "art world" and all its resources as the primary material of her works. She analyzes the functions of art and the art business in her work, taking sociological, psychoanalytical, and feminist perspectives. In her performances, texts, video and audio works, Fraser reveals secret, personal and social conflicts within the art business. She works humorously and provocatively, and with great acting skill.
It could be said that one of her most significant works is Museum Highlights; a videotaped performance accomplished in 1989. In this performance, Fraser presents herself as the character: “Jane Castleton”, a museum tour guide called at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. During the performance, Fraser conducts a visit to all different areas of the museum describing them with exceedingly dramatic expressions. She caricaturizes Philadelphia’s upper middle-class to such a degree that her tour of the city’s Museum of Art degenerated into a meaningless mix of quotations from magazine articles and nostalgic memoirs, which she pronounces in comedic manner. The artist recites quotations from Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Judgment”; a 1969 anthology of essays called “On Understanding Poverty”; and a 1987 article in The New York Times with the headline “Salad and Seurat: Sampling the Fare at Museums.”

In the foreground, a woman; Jane Castleton, is dressed conservatively with a prim gray suit and white stockings. Her white shirt is buttoned up to the neck and she is wearing her hair in a tight bun. Speaking directly to the audience, she engages them in a formal presentation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She describes the conception of the role of a
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