Disordering the Establishment

Participatory Art and Institutional Critique in France, 1958–1981

Disordering the Establishment

Art History Publication Initiative

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Book Pages: 368 Illustrations: 98 Illustrations, incl. 17 in color Published: June 2020

Author: Lily Woodruff

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Cultural Studies, History > European History

In the decades following World War II, France experienced both a period of affluence and a wave of political, artistic, and philosophical discontent that culminated in the country-wide protests of 1968. In Disordering the Establishment Lily Woodruff examines the development of artistic strategies of political resistance in France in this era. Drawing on interviews with artists, curators, and cultural figures of the time, Woodruff analyzes the formal and rhetorical methods that artists used to counter establishment ideology, appeal to direct political engagement, and grapple with French intellectuals' modeling of society. Artists and collectives such as Daniel Buren, André Cadere, the Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel, and the Collectif d’Art Sociologique shared an opposition to institutional hegemony by adapting their works to unconventional spaces and audiences, asserting artistic autonomy from art institutions, and embracing interdisciplinarity. In showing how these artists used art to question what art should be and where it should be seen, Woodruff demonstrates how artists challenged and redefined the art establishment and their historical moment.


“Lily Woodruff's examination of conceptual painting in France is at once timely and long overdue. She offers a satisfying total narrative of the art works situated in relation to the changing dynamics of both the state and the market as they came to determine culture without losing focus of the specificity of the aesthetic dimension of these interventions. She situates artwork as a vehicle for an intellectual and sensual proposition charged with capacity. I learned a tremendous amount from this book.” — Jaleh Mansoor, author of Marshall Plan Modernism: Italian Postwar Abstraction and the Beginnings of Autonomia


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Lily Woodruff is Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Michigan State University.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0844-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0792-0