The Impossible Museum

Peter Friedl

Issue #23
March 2011

He stands before us, large as life, the old artist in his museum. With his right arm he holds up the heavy, purple velvet curtain so that we can cast a first glance at the wonders of the carefully arranged collection in the long, light hall behind. On the left wall begin several rows of showcases: miniature dioramas, all the same size and shape. Exhibited within are stuffed birds of various provenances. Above them, reaching up to just under the ceiling and completing the wall, are a series of uniform format paintings; portraits, clearly of historic celebrities.

One can also see a few visitors. A father instructs his young son who is holding an open book in his hands (the museum guidebook?). A Quaker woman stands startled and fearful in front of a huge mastodon skeleton, the museum’s half-covered showpiece; and in the far back is a man with his arms crossed. The serious-faced artist in the darkly lit proscenium invites us to enter the main space of his school of knowledge, set in the central perspective. He has laid aside the normal attributes—palette, paints, brushes. Discernible on the wooden floor around him, brought together as though a still life, are the corpse of a wild turkey (perhaps a souvenir from an excursion to the Rocky Mountains) and taxidermist instruments; on the right side of the picture, a phallic mammoth bone and a jaw.

Charles Willson Peale, The Artist in His Museum, 1822. Oil on canvas. Courtesy Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

The work in question is the infamous self-portrait, The Artist in His Museum, which 81-year-old Charles Willson Peale painted in 1822, five years before his death. It was commissioned by the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Museum Company in recognition of the artist’s life accomplishment—the collection kept in the Pennsylvania State House that Peale, founder of the Philadelphia Museum Company, assembled and maintained as a family business from 1784 onward. For the most part, the decisions and activities of the newly created board of trustees were in response to the wishes of the founder, who, at the time, was also the only stockholder. The founding of a stock company had become necessary to maintain the collection for the city of Philadelphia. “All the national museums in the world … were from beginnings of individuals,” wrote the artist in 1790 in his first appeal, “To the Citizens of the United States of America,” which was printed in several newspapers.1 Yet Peale’s greatest wish would remain unfulfilled: the transformation of his museum into a publicly-funded national museum. He donated his Self-Portrait in the Character of a Painter (1824) to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. This institution, too, was founded by Peale, together with other artists—including one of his sons, Rembrandt Peale—and several businessmen.

Peale switched from saddlery, the first trade he learned, to the more profitable field of painting. A true “son of liberty,” he took part in the American Revolution and painted all of its heroes. For example, he immortalized George Washington a total of sixty times. Peale exhibited his portraits—or copies of them, if they had been sold—in his home studio gallery. That’s how it all began. In 1785, an elderly Benjamin Franklin had returned after nearly ten years of service as US ambassador to France. Regarding the museum issue, he and the other friends of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia had gathered a few ideas and more detailed concepts from the Old World, including, for example, the venerable Ashmolean in Oxford (“Britain’s first public museum”), which was preceded by the Musaeum Tradescantianum; and the British Museum, founded from the collection left behind by Sir Hans Sloane in 1753. Generally praised was also Sir Ashton Lever’s collection of nature objects and curiosities, which had moved from Manchester to London. The one-person endeavor was called “Holophusikon.” After the owner’s bankruptcy, the collection was raffled off in a lottery (since neither the British Museum nor Russian Czar Catherine II wanted to buy it), and ultimately sold at auction. For Peale, who had purchased several of the objects, this was not a good sign.

Frontispiece illustration from A Companion to the Museum (Late Sir Ashton Lever’s), London, 1790. © UCLA Library, Los Angeles.

Like Thomas Jefferson, with whom he maintained brisk exchanges throughout his entire life and who contributed numerous exhibits to his museum over the years, Peale was convinced that the study of nature would foster republican virtues. He was guided by Rousseau’s pedagogical program. In his museum, above the entry of which was written: “School of Nature,” the audience should experience “rational amusing.” Just as there was a natural order, so, too, could a political order be postulated, and a firm connection between the two created. The rapidly growing collection followed the ordering principle of Linnaeus’ “Systema naturae.” The labels were written in Latin, English, and French “so that no visitor ought to expect any attendant to accompany them through the rooms.”2 The culmination was the two rows with portraits of figures from the Revolutionary War, all uniformly framed and in the same format, towering over the realm of carefully classified natural phenomena, guarding over the audience. They were the guarantee of a continuity that should carry on to the future.

Charles Willson Peale, “Lizard” sketch from a specimen brought by Lewis and Clark, ca. 1806. Courtesy The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.

Peale was not a philosopher but he proved to be a skillful taxonomist. And so he staged and presented the harmony of the world with its universalist claims until even the things themselves believed in their order. His museum was conceived to pass on useful knowledge to all social classes “in our country.” It was meant to entertain and at the same time teach, and to do so entirely democratically for men and women of all ages. To finance all of that, “catchpenny shows” were also necessary at times.

Things are exhibited in order to guide the view of the beholder. By means of natural objects and artifacts it was possible to derive the New World in post-revolutionary America from a distant, pre-historical past and summarize it descriptively and clearly. The museum documented the conquest of the West, for example, by purchasing and displaying trophies brought back by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Jefferson has been credited with the first systematic excavation of a “Native American” burial mound. Peale exhumed the “American Incognitum,” a mastodon skeleton on a farm in the Hudson River Valley.3 As Mieke Bal described, referring to the example of the American Museum of Natural History (a later, grandiose, revenant of Peale’s museum), nature was equipped “with that fundamental, defining feature of culture: history.”4 Indians as well as fossils became part of natural history. In one of the first anthropological breviaries, Joseph-Marie Degérando’s Considérations sur les diverses méthodes à suivre dans l'observation des peuples sauvages (1800), a philosophical traveler sails to the end of the world, turning into a colonizing time traveler who traverses a century with every step—back to the past.5 This was the birth of the comparative method, which would serve many more masters and interests. In the course of the nineteenth century, it would lead to Lieutenant General Pitt Rivers’s typological exhibition displays and the ethnographic human parks of the World’s Fairs.

The Kwakwaka’wakw troupe at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.

But history could also be made in Peale’s museum: on December 1, 1796, various tribesmen from the South and the Northwest Territory met there. The victorious Great Father, who had successfully shifted the borders further north once again, had invited them all to Philadelphia. Peale prepared life-size wax sculptures of Weyapiersenwah (or Blue Jacket), the Shawnee war chief, and his blood brother Muscquaconocah (Red Pole), both of whom had co-signed the treaty of Greenville. The paying public in Peale’s panopticon could marvel at them alongside eight other wax figures modeled on real, existing figures from the Oonalaska Islands to the West African Gold Coast, Kamchatka to “Otaheite,” and even a Chinese worker.

In May 1804, Alexander von Humboldt came for a visit. After five years of self-financed expeditions to South America, the baron from Prussia, who had reached celebrity status, had sailed on the Concepción with his companions Aimé Bonpland and Carlos Montúfar from Havana to Delaware Bay and continued on via New Castle to Philadelphia. Peale guided the guests through the museum and created silhouettes of Humboldt with the “Physiognotrace.” They then traveled together via Baltimore to Washington, a city with 3,000 inhabitants and 700 slaves, to meet President Jefferson. Before Humboldt embarked on his return trip to Europe, he sat for three days so that Peale could paint a portrait of him in the usual standard format for his museum.6

Nothing in this world exists without reason. “The study of Natural History will aid us to escape from the prejudices of ignorance, and convince us that nothing was made in vain,” noted Peale for one of his public lectures in 1823.7 In his museum display of domesticated nature, a similar idea of order was realized in the US-American grid cities, or in the layout of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon prison, the prototype of modern disciplinary society. This same order, or chaotic rationality, is what inspires the capitalist market and organizes the production and consumption of goods and services. It appears just as neutral as it is natural.

1791 design for the Panopticon by Jeremy Bentham, Samuel Bentham, and the architect Willey Reveley. © UCL Library, London.

Yet, in The Artist in His Museum, a few signs reveal that this world of appearances is not to be trusted blindly. The telltale theater metaphor turns the artist into more of an impresario and showman than natural scientist, and it is not such a great step from there to the allure of the ring, to the dreamy tide of bad taste. Or does the precious curtain possibly refer to an aristocratically-tinted unconscious? Did the rational Peale also harbor an irrational Peale? He found names for his children in Pilkington’s Dictionary of Painters: Raphaelle, Rembrandt, Angelica Kauffman, Titian, Rubens, and Sophonisba. All would become painters, naturalists, photo pioneers, or museum people in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, and elsewhere. Who knows what Peale would have said to the exhortation of the Marquis de Sade, one year his senior, “You know nothing, if you do not know everything.” He certainly knew nothing of Goya’s Los Caprichos. A pre-study for plate 43 of Caprichos, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, is entitled Ydioma universal (universal language). The purple curtain over which our enlightened master of ceremonies has control divides various spheres, for which the different lighting conditions are further evidence. The speaking I, whose voice, as we know, is removed and hidden from museum displays in order to not disturb and expose the fictions of the history told there, always leaves behind traces of some sort or another.8 However, visitors and beholders often cannot decipher them at first glance. In the best case, one can call the result, analogous to certain artworks, a museum of the second order. When Peale painted his picture, the world of the American Enlightenment had already disappeared. It is not possible to hold back time, not even in a museum. In his self-portrait, the museum founder transformed himself into an artifact from the past.

Chinese pheasants from the royal aviary in Paris (with the Peale’s Museum labels), 1787. Courtesy Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge.

Georges Bataille wrote just a few lines about the history of the museum in his 1930 lemma for the “Dictionnaire” column in the Parisian magazine Documents:

According to the Grande Encyclopédie, the first museum in the modern sense of the word (that is to say the first public collection) would seem to have been founded on 27 July 1793, in France, by the Convention. The origin of the modern museum would thus be linked to the development of the guillotine.9

On that same day in July, Robespierre joined the Committee of Public Safety. The opening of the Louvre (Muséum Français), which had been a royal project until the Revolution, took place on August 10, 1793, as part of the celebration for the first anniversary of the Republic organized by Jacques-Louis David. Several weeks earlier, the Muséum d’Histoire naturelle had also been created. Peale corresponded with the classification specialists Lamarck and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire who were employed there. Information and naturalia were exchanged. Bataille also mentions that the Ashmolean Museum, already founded in the late seventeenth century and associated with the University of Oxford, was open to the public. “Public” is relative, and that applies to the corporative state as well as to a post-democratic society. The Fridericianum in Kassel, completed in 1779, is the first building to be designated from the outset as a museum.

But Bataille’s hint can be followed further in another direction. After the library and the museum, another institution surfaced: the archive. The first of its kind was the French National Archive, again through decree by the National Assembly. The museum, whose development outdid “even the most optimistic hopes of the founders,” presents us with the “most grandiose spectacle of a humanity freed from material cares and dedicated to contemplation.”10 In retrospect, Bataille’s slightly ironic description of the visitors streaming from the Louvre on a Sunday afternoon, visibly inspired by the longing “to be in all things at one with the celestial apparitions with which their eyes are still ravished,” seems like a complementary counter image to the cinematographically preserved workers filmed by their boss as they left the Lumière factory.11 But that still does not turn a museum into a factory.

Johann Zoffany, The Tribuna of the Uffizi, 1772–78. Oil on canvas. Courtesy Royal Collection, Windsor Castle.

In the brief description of Peale’s optimistic dream museum we encounter a series of motifs that appear familiar even today. Those who look at his self-portrait realize immediately that it is about a museum—about a somewhat old-fashioned museum, not a delirious one. Marcel Broodthaers sends a far-flung greeting. It appears as though certain constants are written into the museum’s concepts, which even the camouflage of contemporary architecture and design cannot really harm. Supporting evidence for that is easy to find. In Johann Zoffany’s painting The Tribuna of the Uffizi (1772–78), one sees how the Medici art treasures are presented in the Wunderkammer of the Uffizi Gallery. A century earlier, David Teniers the Younger had also painted, in a similar way, the private gallery of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, in Brussels. Quite a few of the meticulously represented images were among the possessions of the English nobility driven out or executed under Cromwell. The new organization and cataloging of the imperial painting gallery at Belvedere in Vienna, for which the Basel engraver and art dealer Christian von Mechel was responsible from 1778, was one of the first to be carried out along the principle of national masters and schools. In the Parisian Musée des Monuments Français, Alexandre Lenoir arranged his collection following a strict chronology of a nationalistically tinged evolutionary saga. The historicizing poetics of the modern museum can mainly be traced back to the galleria progressiva and the period rooms.12 What else is New York’s Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue if not an architectural parody of the galleria progressiva?13 The same can be said of Le Corbusier’s museum of unlimited growth. And, incidentally, just as old as the institution is criticism of it. While the new museums in Paris were filled with revolutionary war booty, the art critic and archeologist Antoine Quatremère de Quincey formulated in his anonymous Lettres à Miranda sur le déplacement des monuments de l’art de l’Italie (1796), the first fundamental critique of the de-contextualization of artworks. He lamented the loss of legibility they experienced from being aestheticized by the museum.

Le Corbusier, Museum of Unlimited Growth, 1939.

Peale’s portrait is painted in the third person, as it were. The possessive pronoun in the title—the artist in his museum—expresses self-confidence and tactical modesty. It is a rhetorical figure bearing vast possibilities. Also in the newspaper ads, which he signed as “thankful and humble servant,” he spoke as “Mr. Peale,” in the third person. But Peale’s impossible museum was not a fake. That is the slight difference between it and Broodthaers’s Departement des Aigles fictions or Khalil Rabah’s Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind.

Left: Khalil Rabah, Palestine before Palestine, from the Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind installation at the 9th Istanbul Biennale, 2005. Courtesy The Virtual Gallery, Birzeit University. Right: Marcel Broodthaers, Musée d’art moderne, département des aigles, section XIXe siècle (bis), 1970, Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf.

What does a museum speak of, if it speaks at all? The museum lies, said Le Corbusier, before he had built one. The nine muses, whose shrine it was originally, are the daughters of Mnemosyne, the personification of memory (Aby Warburg’s favorite goddess). In his unswervingly anachronistic Dialoghi con Leucò (1945–47), Cesare Pavese brings together Mnemosyne and Hesiod, the poet of Theogony, for a talk. The subtext is what the new political order should look like after the Flood. In the introduction, the author admits that he takes no small risk, when he sees “a single deity behind the nine Muses of tradition—or Muses and Graces together, three by three, or only three, or even two,” or the daughters in the mother “and vice versa.”14 The short dialogue ends with Mnemosyne’s unforgettable advice about what is left to do in place of worship: “Try telling mortals the things you know.”15

According to the “Code of Ethics for Museums” of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), a museum “is a non-profit-making permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education, and enjoyment, the tangible and intangible evidence of people and their environment.”16 Charles Willson Peale would be astonished that nature has disappeared, but otherwise, he would probably agree with this definition. Collecting, conserving, researching, exhibiting, and communicating: the ideology of saving has been part of the museum policy for time eternal. The fact that this initially peaceful-seeming activity can often be traced back to original crimes, such as colonialism, plundering, looted and trophy art, is common knowledge. Everything necessary for the restitution of so-called cultural goods can be found in the ICOM codex: “Museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues for the return of cultural property to a country or people of origin.”17 Not returning is not a neutral act. There are UN and UNESCO resolutions on the matter, as well as ICOM red lists. Recent ideological revival of the universal museum shows how the most powerful of these institutions are capable of immunizing themselves when the protection of their treasures and corporative interests are at stake. The debates about Berlin’s Humboldt Forum are another good example.

Collecting and conserving have led to a situation in which the depots are full and often eighty percent of the total collection inventory is withheld from audiences. There are collections without their own exhibition spaces, for example, the scientific collections of the Frobenius Institute in Frankfurt, and others, which are their own memorials, such as Tawfiq Canaan’s collection of Palestinian amulets at Birzeit University, or the Museo Ettore Guatelli in Ozzano Taro.18 Collecting and exhibiting mean that objects gain a different context. For the birds in Peale’s museum and anti-vanitas painting, it meant death. Collecting has a dark side, where violence, control, and (self-)deception lurk. “For at the intersection of psychic and capitalist fetishism,” it transforms into “a tale of social struggle.”19

Item from the Tawfiq Canaan Collection of Palestinian Amulets. Courtesy Birzeit University.

A few numbers games from the present: in Germany, where the museum’s tasks and functions are not regulated by law, 35 percent of the population never enters a museum, and a further 46 percent do so at most once a year. Whether attendance at events such as the “long museum night” is included is not evident from the data. The multitude of museum visitors proves to be, statistically, of above-average education: 80 percent have graduated from secondary school, and 45 percent are academics (in contrast to 10 percent in the total population). Art museums have the greatest share of regular visitors. Although art museums comprise only 10 percent of all museums, they offer 34 percent of all special exhibitions, which attract great numbers of guests. This type of museum, which also includes contemporary art, attracts roughly 20 percent of all beholders. According to the promotional material of the Goethe Institute, whose activities are funded by the foreign affairs office, no other country in the world has as many public museums for modern art as Germany. But no other country has such a great density of museums—in comparison to the number of inhabitants—as Switzerland. The Swiss go to a museum, on average, once a month—three times more than the French. In a city like Berlin, approximately 75 percent of the museum visitors are tourists; of those, 42 percent come from Germany and 30 percent from abroad. Among museum visitors, whose average age is rising steadily, there are meanwhile more women than men: for example, 60 percent in Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie, 56 percent in the Tate Modern.20

In comparison, public libraries, with roughly 200 million users per year—a figure nearly double that of museum visits—are among the most frequented institutions in Germany. Yet in the rather sparse, and in international comparison under-financed, library network, which is increasingly thinning in the federal states and local councils due to budget cuts, only 41 percent fulfill the minimum standard, namely, having available two “media” (book, CD, DVD, MC, games, and videos) per inhabitant.21

In an attempt to grasp the institution “museum” in numbers, it seems obvious to recall Pierre Bourdieu’s and Alain Darbel’s now-classical study The Love of Art about “European art museums and their visitors.” One finds therein: “Statistics show that access to cultural works is the privilege of the cultivated class; however, this privilege has all the outward appearances of legitimacy.”22 Many things have changed since then (that is, since the mid-1960s) but not everything. At approximately the same time that the Parisian sociologists distributed and evaluated their questionnaires, Sotheby’s New York began auctioning off “contemporary art” on a larger scale.

A generation later, the new and rapidly changing front run of “global art” was added to the national competition of institutions, which is found mainly in the Western world. The erosion of the middle classes, and their inability to formulate workable answers to globalization, has also meanwhile infected their cultural potential. This insecurity goes much deeper than is assumed by announcements of spectacular new museum buildings and auction records. A new class of investors brings new money, but also another taste. That same new elite that advertises Saadiyat Island, the island of happiness, as the only place in the world where five different Pritzker Prize winners are building at the same time, has redefined the former periphery. How Western museums want to present art history in the future is entirely unclear and perhaps also unimportant. Today, like in Bourdieu’s day a museum’s success can be interpreted through the public’s approval of the system of values represented and proclaimed within.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum (model) by Frank O. Gehry, Saadiyat Island, United Arab Emirates. © EPA.

Do museums owe us any explanations? There is obviously a quixotic aspect to the battle against museums. But nowadays, no one fights them; the museum is omnipresent. Context is always a matter of negotiation: between what is visible and what is invisible. When it is not simply text, then it functions as aura after the aura. The museum is normally the site for staging this exchange under the sign of a neutralization of culture. That which is visible there acquires its meaning through the fact that it guides our view to an invisible order. Here begins the game with multiple levels, where the issue is whether and how a view into the parallel world is returned. It is a play for emancipated visitors who want to find out exactly who history belongs to.


Quoted from Charles Coleman Sellers, Mr. Peale’s Museum. Charles Willson Peale and the First Popular Museum of Natural Science and Art (New York: Norton, 1980), 46. See also Charles Willson Peale, “To the Citizens of the United States of America,” in Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts, ed. Bettina Messias Carbonell (1792; Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 130. On biographical details, see also David C. Ward, Charles Willson Peale: Art and Selfhood in the Early Republic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).


Sellers, 159.


In Peale’s narrative painting The Exhumation of the Mastodon (1806–08), an artistic reenactment of his 1801 scientific excavation, numerous family members and friends appear, although with all certainty, they were not present. The painting hung for a long time in Peale’s Baltimore Museum (founded by Rembrandt Peale in 1814) and is currently part of the collections of the Maryland Historical Society.


Mieke Bal, “Telling Objects: A Narrative Perspective on Collecting,” in A Mieke Bal Reader (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 170.


Joseph-Marie Degérando, The Observation of Savage Peoples, trans. F.C.T. Moore (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969), 63. See also Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), 194.


Alexander von Humboldt, Amerikanische Reise: 1799–1804, ed. Hanno Beck (Wiesbaden: Erdmann, 2009), 289–92.


Ward, Charles Willson Peale, 179–80.


Mieke Bal, “Telling, Showing, Showing Off,” in A Mieke Bal Reader (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2006), 204.


Georges Bataille, “Museum,” in Encyclopedia Acephalica: Comprising the Critical Dictionary and Related Texts, eds. Georges Bataille, Isabelle Waldberg, and Robert Lebel, trans. Iain White (London: Atlas Press, 1995), 64.






See Bennett, The Birth of the Museum, 76.


Tiffany Sutton, The Classification of Visual Art: A Philosophical Myth and Its History (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 18–19.


Cesare Pavese, Dialogues with Leucò, trans. William Arrowsmith and D.S. Carne-Ross (Boston: Eridanos Press, 1989), 190.


Ibid., 196. In Quei loro incontri (2005), Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub filmed the dialogue.


ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums (Paris: International Council of Museums, 2006), 15.


Ibid., 9.


The Palestinian physician Tawfiq Canaan (1882–1964) collected and catalogued nearly 1,500 amulets and talismans until 1948. This collection has been at the Birzeit University in Ramallah since 1995; see href="">→. Canaan also put together a separate selection of 230 objects for Sir Henry Wellcome, who bequeathed them to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Ettore Guatelli (1921–2000) was a collector of used objects from daily life. The Fondazione Museo Guatelli in Ozzano Taro near Parma has existed since 2003; see .


A Mieke Bal Reader, 285.


The figures quoted are from various sources: Statistische Gesamterhebung an den Museen der Bundesrepublik Deutschland für das Jahr 2009 (Berlin: Institute for Museum Research, 2009), href="">→; Nora Wegner, “Besucherforschung und Evaluation in Museen,” in Das Kulturpublikum: Fragestellungen und Befunde der empirischen Forschung, eds. Patrick Glogner and Patrick S. Föhl (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2010); Julia Voss, “Mensch, was suchst du bei der Kunst?” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 20, 2007, 37.


Bericht zur Lage der Bibliotheken 2010 (Berlin: Deutscher Bibliotheksverband, 2010), 4.


Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbel, The Love of Art: European Art Museums and their Public, trans. Caroline Beattie and Nick Merriman (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002), 37.

Museums, Painting
USA, Museology, Libraries & Archives, Art Collecting
Return to Issue #23

Translated from the German by Lisa Rosenblatt.

Peter Friedl is an artist based in Berlin. He has participated in documenta X (1997) and documenta 12 (2007). Solo exhibitions include “luttesdesclasses,” Institut d’art contemporain, Villeurbanne (2002), “OUT OF THE SHADOWS: what is written cannot be unwritten,” Witte de With, Rotterdam (2004), the retrospective survey “Work 1964–2006,” Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Miami Art Central, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Marseille (2006–07), “Working,” Kunsthalle Basel (2008), “Blow Job,” Extra City – Kunsthal Antwerpen, and “Peter Friedl,” Sala Rekalde, Bilbao (2010). Since the 1980s he has published numerous essays and book projects such as Four or Five Roses (2004), Working at Copan (2007), and Playgrounds (2008). Secret Modernity: Selected Writings and Interviews 1981–2009 (Sternberg Press) was published in 2010.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for subscribing to e-flux

Feel free to subscribe to additional content from the e-flux platform.