Installation Art in a Museum: A Brief History, and Where to See It

Installation Art in a Museum

The first art installation in the contemporary sense of the word is thought to have been created around 1957 by Allan Kaprow, an artist who was the first theorist of this art tendency. There were also some pre-war precursors of the installation as a genre, such as Kurt Schwitters and Marcel Duchamp, but only in the 1960s, the creation of installations became one of the most important strands of art. Until the 1990s, however, it was impossible to see installation art in a museum because, from the very beginning, this artistic genre was consciously opposed to the museum as an institution. 

Installation Art in a Museum: Top Places to Visit

It was not until the 1990s that large-scale art constructions began to be purchased by major museums to be displayed in their galleries. Mixed media, light, and sound remained as key features of installation art, but such works could no longer resist the museums with their ideas of repeated display, reproduction, and storage. So, nowadays, everyone can go to the museum to enjoy art installation works that have already become classics. For example, if you live in one of the art capitals of the world, such as New York or London, it will not be difficult for you to see installation art in a museum. The Fine Art Shippers team recommends that you pay special attention to the following museums.

1. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

MoMA is world-renowned for its extensive collection of modern and contemporary art, including installations. Here, you can see the highlight of the permanent collection, the brilliant Government Approved Home Fallout Shelter Snack Bar by Michael Smith, along with the works that are temporarily on display.

2. Tate Modern, London

Tate Modern focuses on 20th and 21st-century world art and often features contemporary artists and installations. The most renowned installation was shown there in 2003 when Olafur Eliasson created The Weather Project for the Turbine Hall of Tate. This installation has not been repeated since then, but there are new installations by famous artists in the Turbine Hall that appear every year. In 2023, it is Brain Forest Quipu by Cecilia Vicuña.

3. The Stedelijk, Amsterdam

Perhaps, the best place to see installation art in a museum in Europe is the Stedelijk. This museum has a rich program, which constantly presents new objects from its extensive collections, including installation pieces. Today, for example, you can see Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show by Yayoi Kusama.

4. The Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

The international constellation of Guggenheim museums includes museums in New York, Venice, and Bilbao, but the most interesting for installation lovers is probably the one in Bilbao. Until the end of this year, there are two major works on display: the first is Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama, and the second is Rising Sea by El Anatsui.

If you want to see installation art in a museum, don’t forget to keep an eye on the exhibition schedule of the above-mentioned museums for temporary installations and special exhibitions.