About This Artwork

Andrea Fraser
American, born 1965

Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, 1989

Color video, sound; 29 min. loop

Contemporary Art Discretionary Fund; restricted gift of James Cahn and Jeremiah Collatz, 2008.82

© 1989 Andrea Fraser

Andrea Fraser is a performance and video artist who has been regarded primarily as a pioneer of "institutional critique," since she structures her work around existing museum practices and protocols such as gallery talks and welcome speeches. Although they often begin rationally, her performances progressively unravel, frequently devolving into discussion of eccentric topics or performances of taboo behaviors. Spanning more than a decade, the five works in the Art Institute's collection are among Fraser's earliest and most influential creations.

Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk documents Fraser's use of an invented persona—a formally attired, uptight docent named Jane Castleton—to present a social history of the art museum that focuses, as one scholar described it, on the "relationships between class and taste, private philanthropy and public policy."1 The work was the first of its kind and remains a landmark in the recent history of performance art.

1 Yilmaz Dziewior, Andrea Fraser: Works, 1984 to 2003, exh. cat. (Dumont/D.A.P., 2003), p. 13. For more on Fraser, see Yilmaz Dziewior and Andrea Fraser, Andrea Fraser (DuMont, 2002); and Andrea Fraser and Alexander Alberro, Museum Highlights: The Writings of Andrea Fraser (MIT Press, 2007).

— Entry, Film, Video, New Media, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 35 (1), pp. 98–99.

Interpretive Resources

View mobile website