In his influential 1989 essay on conceptual art, From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions, Benjamin Buchloh describes how, after its closure, conceptualism became a kind of unconscious for all artistic production after 1969. Taking as his initial premise that conceptual art made the most rigorous investigation of the post-war period into the conventions of pictorial and sculptural representation, as well as a fundamental critique of traditional visual paradigms, Buchloh constructs a historical narrative that culminates in an information art that reactivates the postulates of the productivist avant-garde of the Russian Revolution whilst questioning the role of the artist, who is bureaucratically redefined as a mere employee who catalogues. This historical process of conceptual art is closed by such works as Hans Haackes Visitors Profile, a statistical compilation of the features of visitors to an exhibition and, most importantly, by Marcel Broodthaerss Musée a vendre par faillite, also a premonition of an imminent future: the disappearance of the space for critique inside the museum as a central, legitimising institution in the bourgeois public sphere and its transformation in the hands of the new mass entertainment industry (as reflected in the spectral reappearance of pictorial and sculptural paradigms from the past, which conceptualism had abolished). Nonetheless, the historic closure of conceptualism did not necessarily entail its disappearance; rather, it entailed its interiorisation into critical artistic practices, ushering in what we now call institutional critique, which itself emerged in the wake of conceptual art as a relative and ambiguous continuation of the radical avant-garde in the museum context, increasingly mediated by the cultural industries after the 1980s.

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