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Andrea Fraser, American, Born 1965
New York artist Andrea Fraser is best known for her series of "gallery talks"—enactments that highlight gender and class relations inherent in the structures and histories of art organizations. In 1989, the Philadelphia Museum of Art invited Fraser to perform Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, a tour in which she adopted the fictional persona of a docent named Jane Castleton. Visitors gathered in the Museum’s West Entrance on five designated days, waiting for the scheduled "Contemporary Viewpoints Artist Lecture by Andrea Fraser" or for one of the Museum's numerous docent-led tours. Castleton arrived instead, ready to talk to anyone who would listen. She led these unsuspecting visitors on tours of not only the galleries, but also the restrooms, Museum Store, and cafeteria. In addition to talking about art, she discussed topics such as corporate and private sponsorship.
While Fraser's gallery talk appears improvisational at times, it was thoroughly researched and entirely scripted. The factual components of the tour were taken from municipal reports, Museum pamphlets, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s On Understanding Poverty, and other sources. Critical of the official voice of the museum, Fraser strives to further our awareness of what large art establishments expect from their visitors. Humorous and subversive, Museum Highlights brings to light the subtle, yet intrinsic, preconceptions that shape our relationship to these institutions.
Purchased with funds contributed by the members of the Committee on Modern and Contemporary Art