Spies in the House of Art - Photography, Film, and Video at Metropolitan Museum of Art

02/07/12 through 08/26/12 Fifth Ave. @ 82nd St. Map

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Artists are the secret constituency of museums, inspired and challenged not only by the objects and collections they display but also by the spaces in which they are shown and the authority they represent. Most artists aspire to see their works in museums, even if they joke among themselves about how museums are mausoleums, places where art goes to die. In telling stories about how and why art gets made, museums provide a ready-made foil for artists to react against and clarify their own positions.

This selection of photography, film, and video from the permanent collection surveys the various ways museums inspire the making of works of art. A museum can be the setting for a new work or provide the raw material for creations that build upon a previous aesthetic experience. The camera can highlight the estrangement of objects from their original functions, unlock from a straitlaced decorousness of display the desires -- libidinal or otherwise -- that engendered the objects in the first place, or make visible the imaginative projection that underlies much looking at art. At a time when the automatic reflex of a technologically harried and distracted museum visitor may be to point and shoot, capture and move on, these works suggest the benefit of stepping back, reflecting, and lingering.

In an unprecedented commingling of old and new works, Andrea Fraser's video Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk (1989) will be exhibited alongside paintings by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel, and Franz Xaver Winterhalter in Gallery 809 within the Galleries of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art, around the corner from the main installation. A complementary installation of a dozen photographs from the medium's beginnings to the early 1970s will be on view through May 6 in Gallery 850.

Venue Description: Sun.-Thurs., 10am-5:30pm; Fri.-Sat., 10am-9pm. Recommended admission: $25.

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