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Andrea Fraser

May I Help You?


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Andrea Fraser is a performance and video artist well-versed in institutional critique. Her subjects include the docent, the curator, the collector, and the artist, as well as the museum brochure, the exhibition catalog, and the audio guide. In May I Help You? an actor in the guise of a staff member at the now-defunct New York gallery American Fine Arts, Co. greets visitors to an exhibition of the artist Allan McCollum’s Plaster Surrogates. Fraser, who wrote and directed the video, instructed the performer to act out a range of reactions to the art on view in a fifteen-minute monologue delivered to everyone who comes in to see the show. During the course of the monologue, the gallery attendant shifts personas, projecting a range of class positions, cultural critiques, and anxieties onto McCollum’s essentially blank artworks. Fraser developed the script from found texts, compiling quotes from auction catalogues, museum guides, and published interviews with dealers, collectors, and artists, including McCollum himself. She exploits the generic, prop-like character of the Plaster Surrogates and how they blur the distinction between reality and artifice. Combining rigorous research and comic caricatures, Fraser’s work implicates the circuitry of economic motives and socioeconomic tastes underlying the gallery and museum systems. Examples of Allan McCollum’s Plaster Surrogates can be seen in the Museum’s James M. Kemper Gallery. [Permanent Collection Label, 2022]

  • Artist Andrea Fraser (American, b. 1965)
  • Title May I Help You?
  • Date 1991
  • Medium Single-channel color video with sound
  • Edition description ed. unlimited edition
  • Dimensions duration | 24min.
  • Credit line University purchase, Bixby Fund, 2021
  • Object number WU 2021.0002

Ambivalent Pleasures: Advertiser Content in American Art
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 08/29/2022 - 01/02/2023

Andrea Fraser
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 08/21/2021 - 11/28/2021 Video Gallery

Received at University mailroom 2/15/2021; payment in process 2/23/2021
Andrea Fraser (Sherman Oaks, CA)

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