New Institutionalism, a mode of curating that originated in Europe in the 1990s, evolved from the legacy of international curator Harald Szeemann, the relational art advanced by French critic and theorist Nicolas Bourriaud, and other influential factors of the time. New Institutionalism’s dispersed and varied approaches to curating sought to reconfigure the art institution from within, reshaping it into an active, democratic, open, and egalitarian public sphere. These approaches posed other possibilities and futures for institutions and exhibitions, challenging the consensual conception, production, and distribution of art. Practitioners engaged the art institution with renewed confidence by imbuing it with the potential for new aesthetic experiences and different relationships among artists, institutions, and spectators beyond engrained modernist ideologies. Working in these new modes, the art institution could become a site of fluidity, unpredictability, and risk.
The first in a series of readers examining changing characteristics of art institutions, this publication thinks through New Institutionalism by bringing together facsimiles of seminal texts, new critical essays, a history of trends and practices, and commissioned artist projects and contributions. These are complemented by documentation from the inaugural year of programming at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University focused on reimagining CCVA as a twenty-first-century institution.