Since the start of her career in the early 1980s, Silvia Kolbowski (b. 1952) has taken a particular interest in the strategies associated with Conceptual art, a movement that peaked in popularity in the 1970s. She explored topics that were largely overlooked at the time, including sexuality and difference. And, like other feminist artists of her time, she honed her own critical approach to representation—of women in the media, in particular—through photography and appropriation.
In the 1990s, the artist turned her attention to the role of art institutions themselves, including the mechanisms through which they assert their authority and produce either research or market value. In a nod to Michael Asher and Marcel Broodthaers’ institutional critique, two of Kolbowski’s series, Enlarged from the Catalogue and Once More, with Feeling, deconstruct various external characteristics of art as an institution, such as barriers, catalogues, the white cube, and derivative products. Her more recent work continues to explore the psychological mechanisms of communication—including the ways in which politicians and the media exploit emotional vulnerabilities like threat and fear—through a compelling dialogue between past and present.
After an initial acquisition of Kolbowski’s work in 2017 (the iconic Model Pleasure), MAMCO recently added the artist’s studio collection to its own holdings—over a dozen photographs, installations, and videos produced between 1987 and 2019. This move came in response to the artist’s desire to entrust her work to a museum before leaving New York; it also reflects her links to a number of Geneva-based figures and museums since the 1990s. The acquisition was made possible thanks to the support of the Coromandel Foundation, which has been backing the expansion of MAMCO’s collection for many years.