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Fred Wilson

Guarded View

1991

Artist

Fred Wilson (1954-)

Title

Guarded View

Date

1991

Medium

Wood, paint, steel and fabric

Dimensions

Dimensions variable

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation

Accession number

97.84a-d

Object Label

Fred Wilson’s Guarded View aggressively confronts viewers with four black headless mannequins dressed as museum guards. Each figure wears a uniform, dating to the early 1990s, from one of four New York City cultural institutions: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Despite this specificity, the faceless mannequins underscore the anonymity expected of security personnel, who are tasked with protecting art and the public while remaining inconspicuous and out of view. Wilson himself worked as a museum guard in college, and explained: “[There’s] something funny about being a guard in a museum. You’re on display but you’re also invisible.” He challenges this dynamic by placing these ordinarily unnoticed figures at the center of our attention, pointing to the hidden power relations and social codes that structure our experience of museums. Wilson’s inanimate guards themselves become sculpture—figures that we are meant to observe but are incapable of observing us.

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