Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum  book cover
1st Edition

Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum

ISBN 9780815399247
Published December 18, 2017 by Routledge
180 Pages

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Book Description

This unique book proposes a re-reading of the relationship between artists and the contemporary museum. In Australia in particular, the museum has played a significant role in the colonial project and this has generally been considered as the predominant mode of artists' engagement with such institutions and collections. Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum expands the post-colonial frame of reference used to interpret this work, to demonstrate the broader implications of the relationship between artists and the museum, and thus to offer an alternative way of understanding recent contemporary practices. The authors' central argument is that artists' engagement with the museum has shifted from politically motivated critique taking place in museums of fine art, towards interventions taking place in non-art museums that focus on the creation of knowledge more broadly. Such interventions assume a number of forms, including the artist acting as curator, art works that highlight the use of taxonomic modes of display and categorization, and the re-consideration of the aesthetics of collections to suggest different ways of interpreting objects and their history. Central to these interventions is the challenge to better connect the museum and its public. The book will be essential reading for scholars, professionals and students in the fields of contemporary art and museum studies, art history, and in the museum sector. These include artists, curators, museum and gallery professionals, postgraduate researchers, art historians, designers and design scholars, art and museum educators, and students of visual art, art history, and museum studies. This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: situating the artist/museum relationship; Institutional practices and artists’ critiques; Post-colonial engagements: playing with history; The artist as curator; Beautifying the museum: the aesthetics of collections; Conclusion: artists and museums now; Bibliography; Index.

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Jennifer Barrett is associate professor in Museum Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney and Jacqueline Millner is senior lecturer in Critical Studies at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.


'Museums have changed profoundly over the last twenty years, and one of the most vital symptoms and drivers of change has been the engagement of contemporary artists with them. Artists' interventions have been predictably controversial and much debated. It is time for a more balanced analysis and this book offers one, along with an overview of the distinctive and important history of contemporary engagement with institutions in Australia.' Nicholas Thomas, University of Cambridge, UK ’Informed by, but going beyond the perspectives of institutional critique and the new museology, Australian Artists in the Contemporary Museum throws welcome light on the distinctive forces shaping contemporary Australian art practices: the legacies of colonialism, Indigenous art practices, and feminist interventions. It also rescues questions concerning the relations between art practices and museums from the narrowing horizons of art history by exploring the political interventions that Australian artists have made across the museum sector as a whole, rather than just art museums. An important and timely book.’ Tony Bennett, University of Western Sydney, Australia