It is artists-as much as museums or the market-who, in their very efforts to
escape the institution of art, have driven its expansion. With each attempt
to evade the limits of institutional determination, to embrace an outside, to
redefine art or reintegrate it into everyday life, to reach "everyday" people
and work in the "real" world, we expand our frame and bring more of the
world into it. But we never escape it.
Of course, that frame has also been transformed in the process. The
question is how? Discussions of that transformation have tended to revolve
around oppositions like inside and outside, public and private, elitism and
populism. But when these arguments are used to assign political value
to substantive conditions, they often fail to account for the underlying
distributions of power that are reproduced even as conditions change,
and they thus end up serving to legitimate that reproduction. To give the
most obvious example, the enormous expansion of museum audiences,
celebrated under the banner of populism, has proceeded hand in hand
with the continuous rise of entrance fees, excluding more and more lowerincome
visitors, and the creation of new forms of elite participation with
increasingly differentiated hierarchies of membership, viewings, and galas,
the exclusivity of which is broadly advertised in fashion magazines and
society pages. Far from becoming less elitist, ever-more-popular museums
have become vehicles for the mass-marketing of elite tastes and practices
that, while perhaps less rarified in terms of the aesthetic competencies
they demand, are ever more rarified economically as prices rise. All of
which also increases the demand for the products and services of art