Fred Wilson

Contemporary Museum Exhibiting Artist in 1992

Fred Wilson at the Contemporary Museum:

Mining the Museum: An Installation by Fred Wilson
April 03, 1992 – February 28, 1993

Fred Wilson was an important part of the Contemporary Museum’s early years. For his 1992 exhibition, Mining the Museum, Wilson went through the collection of the Maryland Historical Society and designed an installation within their galleries that illustrated the complicity of museum practices in inadvertently upholding racism. The exhibition included over one hundred objects from the Society’s collection, displayed in unexpected arrangements that raised questions about the museum’s representation of African-American and Native-American experiences. Mining the Museum remains an influential show in the field and was a seminal show for Wilson.

Fred Wilson’s Bio: Fred Wilson was born in the Bronx, New York in 1954, and lives and works in New York. He received a BFA from SUNY/Purchase. Commenting on his unorthodox artistic practice, Wilson has said that, although he studied art, he no longer has a strong desire to make things with his hands. “I get everything that satisfies my soul,” he says, “from bringing together objects that are in the world, manipulating them, working with spatial arrangements, and having things presented in the way I want to see them.” With this approach, Wilson’s projects create new exhibition contexts for the display of art and artifacts found in museum collections. His installations lead viewers to recognize that changes in context create changes in meaning. While appropriating curatorial methods and strategies, Wilson maintains his subjective view of the museum environment and the works he presents. He questions—and forces the viewer to question—how curators shape interpretations of historical truth, artistic value, and the language of display, and what kinds of biases our cultural institutions express.

Wilson’s work has also been featured in over 100 group exhibitions, including the 50th Venice Biennale (2003) as the American representative, the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial Exhibition (1993), and the 4th International Cairo Bienniale (1992). Wilson has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards.  He received an Honorary Doctorate from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL in 2007. Wilson was awarded the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine in 2006.  He was elected President of the Board of Trustees, The Sculpture Center, New York in 2002, and the same year was the recipient of the 10th Larry Aldrich Foundation Award.  Wilson was also awarded the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, Chicago (1999), the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts awards (1990), and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture (1987 and 1991).

Fred Wilson’s artist selection for Project 20: Fred Holland