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Outside the Museum

Discover the work of two artists who thought beyond the confines of a museum.

Untitled (Wide White Space Gallery Announcements)

after Daniel Buren
(French, born 1938)

1974. Five folded double-sided lithographs, sheet (each): various dimensions

This photograph depicts one of 200 green-and-white striped posters Buren pasted around Paris without authorization, in the middle of the night. Buren insists the photographs in this book are not works of art, but rather, as he called them, “photo-souvenirs” of works he installed in public spaces like subway stations, billboards, and store windows.

The poster depicted here is one in a series of striped materials—including posters, billboards, fabric, and clothing—that Buren began producing in 1966. Buren considered this motif of alternating colored and white vertical stripes (each precisely 3.4 inches [8.7 centimeters] in width) to be a stand-in for painting, and hoped it would free painting from its traditional burden of having to tell a story, represent something or someone, or express emotion.

Buren hoped to liberate painting from the confines of the museum as well, by pasting them up in highly trafficked public spaces. Like other Conceptual artists, Buren was concerned that museums and galleries were assuming the authority to define art. As he put it, “The museum/gallery instantly promotes to ‘art’ status whatever it exhibits with conviction, i.e., habit, thus diverting in advance any attempt to question the foundations of art.”

An image, especially a positive print, recorded by exposing a photosensitive surface to light, especially in a camera.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A distinctive and often recurring feature in a composition.

An element or substance out of which something can be made or composed.

Art that emerged in the late 1960s, emphasizing ideas and theoretical practices rather than the creation of visual forms. In 1967, the artist Sol LeWitt gave the new genre its name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in which he wrote, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product.” Conceptual artists used their work to question the notion of what art is, and to critique the underlying ideological structures of artistic production, distribution, and display.

A Closer Look
In this photograph, Buren’s work is partially covering an announcement about a leftist student protest soon to take place.