Andrea Fraser’s brand of performance during the 1990s popularized the institutional critique art movement, a loosely-formed artistic practice meant to critique the very institutions that are involved in the sale, display, and commerce of art. Fraser’s work typically comments on the politics, commerce, histories, and even the self-assuredness of the modern-day art museum, including the hierarchies and the exclusion mechanisms of art as an enterprise.
Arguably Fraser’s most famous performance, Museum Highlights involved Fraser posing as a Museum tour guide at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1989 under the pseudonym of Jane Castleton. During the performance, Fraser led a tour through the museum describing it in verbose and overly dramatic terms to her chagrined tour group. For example, in describing a common water fountain Fraser proclaims “a work of astonishing economy and monumentality … it boldly contrasts with the severe and highly stylized productions of this form!” Upon entering the museum cafeteria: “This room represents the heyday of colonial art in Philadelphia on the eve of the Revolution, and must be regarded as one of the very finest of all American rooms.”