Stephen Willats

The Fetish Inside the Museum, 1986

The art institution and the artist rely on the audience acquiring special knowledge, a prior knowledge, to internalise the artwork’s meaning and to motivate their attention. So the artwork’s authority is not just given by its being isolated, by the physicality of the museum, but also socially in that prior knowledge is a condition to the internalisation by the audience of the artwork’s meaning. For the artist attempting to build a social model of art practice, it would seem that there is an almost intractable cycle in which the artworks that are most favoured by the Art Museum are those that can most effectively forward an emulative idealisation that reinforces the social ideology of property.


Printed in Society Through Art, Stephen Willats, Haags Centrum voor Aktuele Kunst, Den Haag, 1990