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Institutional Critique


In art school we’re taught to think deeply, to question each other, to judge everything, to find fallacies, to make visual arguments – of famous work, of each other’s work, of our own work. 

In a senior seminar called Institutional Critique (named after the book), we learn to challenge the system that laid the groundwork for the masterpieces we spent the last four years so deeply studying and admiring. For example, we realize how a white gallery wall or a store-bought pre-primed canvas creates limits to what constitutes as “art,” suggesting its definition as a framed, rectangular picture that ultimately needs to match the colors in our living room.

Going to school in New York City you also have some of humanity’s most established museums and galleries at your fingertips. They’re home to celebrities: Les Demoiselle d’Avignon (Picasso, 1907) at the Museum of Modern Art, Torqued Ellipses (Richard Serra, 1997) at the Dia: Beacon and various Yayoi Kusama Instagram-worthy installations at David Zwirner.

There’s also the Metropolitan Museum of Art, arguably the most institutionalized of them all. The location of too many important works to name here, but also not enough of them. Not enough names of artists from Africa, South America, Asia and Asia Pacific.

These past few weeks have brought to light a criticism I’m ashamed that I didn’t come to myself. An institution I felt could do no wrong is in fact incredibly guilty of a lack of diversity, accessibility, and inclusion. Anisa Tavangar (Barnard College, 2020) said it best in her thesis, which you should read in full here, or excerpted on her Instagram post, here.

It’s all true. The museum upholds white supremacy. 

It’s not as simple as that, and I’m still unpacking what that means and what to do about it. At first, it was honestly a bit paralyzing. What could I do? What should I do? My instinct, for whatever reason, was to create this space. A store of curated “art objects” to raise money for programs that develop artistic talent in underrepresented communities. As a start, a portion of profits will go to my alma mater, Barnard College, Columbia University, as well organizations in my home country of the Philippines that support youth art development.

Within “Coffee Table Talks” I’ll be sharing my humble knowledge on a range of topics to do with the history of art, as well as hopefully bringing awareness to important contemporary discoveries. 

It’s just a start, and I’m grateful you’ve made it this far. I hope you enjoy the collection.

xx