Einat Amir, Acknowledgement, 2007
January 29 - May 22, 2011
Curators: Ruth Direktor, Yeala Hazut, Natalie Smith and Ilana Tenenbaum
It seems that no other milieu is capable of examining itself quite as ironically and as self-reflexively as the art world. Artists, curators and writers have a remarkable capacity to study themselves from the outside and to analyze, with a good measure of sarcasm, the system they operate within and the mechanisms of power that they themselves produce. This ability for self-examination requires a significant amount of self-awareness, self-irony and sophistication - qualities that aptly describe the artists included in this small exhibition.
"Gatekeepers" is a term that provokes an instinctive hostility of the kind often directed at those in positions of power. In an art-world context, "gatekeepers" are often linked with "tastemakers" - another expression associated with a powerful status. Together, these two expressions allude to what is perceived to be a closed group of expert insiders, or even conspirators, who determine who is "in" and who is "out," what is worthy of attention and what is not, what is condoned and what is condemned. This exhibition centers on these figures, on what they represent, and on the manner in which they themselves become the subject of various artworks.
"Gatekeepers" features works by five Israeli artists (Sigalit Landau, Doron Solomons, Shay-Lee Uziel, Einat Amir and Jack Faber), two American artists (Louise Lawler and Andrea Fraser), and an Albanian artist living in Milan (Adrian Paci). Their points of departure for examining various art-world roles are all related to their relatively weak status, which is shaped either by gender, by national identity or by distance from international art centers. The two American artists are women, while the men were all born on the periphery of the international art world. Both individually and collectively, these artists contribute to undermining the mythical aura that (still) surrounds art.
Given its status as the most powerful art-world institution, the museum is the subject of most of these attacks. Several of the works featured in this exhibition are concerned with the least conspicuous and glamorous functions in the museum world - security cameras, the restorer, the gallery docent. Other works are concerned with the very experience of wandering through the museum and observing the works, or with curators and gallerists; two works are structured as roll-calls of artists' names, which reflect art-world mechanisms of reception and recognition. Significantly, these works all share a subversive dimension.
The exhibition itself is not presented in a single, autonomous space; the works are scattered throughout the museum, so that the viewers may come upon them unexpectedly in various areas. The eight works included in "Gatekeepers" are thus assimilated into a number of different exhibition contexts, while simultaneously maintaining a distinct identity. Each in their own way, they attempt to question and undermine existing institutional conventions.