After Institutions: Care and Change in Times of Crisis
Karen Archey

After decades of budget cuts, a rise in populism, and the challenges to public assembly posed by the coronavirus, the continued existence of museums has never been more threatened. Yet museums have also rightfully been called upon to change, and have struggled to more equitably represent in their collections and workforces the societies that they serve. How and why should we fight to save institutions if they’re inherently so flawed?

This twofold crisis in the museum field has arisen alongside a general crisis of the social welfare state. In particular, the healthcare sector has become financialized to the point of dysfunction, with access to care oftentimes being dependent upon one’s personal circumstances. The ability to live a productive life—and within the cultural field, to live and make work as an artist—has thus become dependent upon our individual ability to overcome adversity.

The group exhibition After Institutions, slated to open last October at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam but indefinitely postponed due to the coronavirus, examines the state of public institutions and their relation to economic contexts and social movements. Curated by Stedelijk Curator of Contemporary Art Karen Archey, the exhibition focuses on renewing the discourse around and expanding the canon of Institutional Critique.

Karen Archey is Curator of Contemporary Art at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. She is an American curator and art critic formerly based in Berlin and New York. At the Stedelijk, Archey is responsible for the contemporary art and time-based media collections. Since joining the museum in 2017, Archey has organized solo exhibitions by artists Rineke Dijkstra, Stefan Tcherepnin, Catherine Christer Hennix, Steffani Jemison, Jeff Preiss, and Metahaven, as well as the group exhibition Freedom of Movement: the 2018 Municipal Art Acquisitions. She is currently working toward solo exhibitions by artists Charlotte Prodger and Hito Steyerl. Within the Stedelijk’s performance program Archey has recently commissioned new works by Jennifer Tee, Ann Hirsch, Alicia Frankovich, and artist collective CFGNY. She heads the Stedelijk’s research initiative on the acquisition and documentation of time-based media.

Archey previously worked as an independent curator and editor for the New York-based organization e-flux. In 2014, she organized with Robin Peckham the exhibition “Art Post-Internet” at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. In 2015, Archey was awarded a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for short-form writing. She frequently lectures on contemporary art and time-based media.