How might we use art and the practice of critique to address inequities in art institutions?

Critique is a hallmark of the art field but yet the vast majority of cultural critics, curators, museum leadership and museum visitors are affluent and white. What is critique without diversity? What possibilities and truths are we missing? As pressure builds to shift the legacy of art museums, it remains a challenge to make these debates accessible to individuals who aren’t already visiting museums. The wider community is gestured to, but rarely in the room. Free days? They’re mostly attended by existing visitors.

Look at Art. Get Paid. (LAAGP) is a socially engaged art project that pays people who don’t visit art museums to visit one as guest critics of the art and its institution, thereby reversing the relationship between the educator and the educated, the paying and the paid.

Cash payment recognizes the emotional labor and risk of entering a historically white elite space, and the intellectual labor of voicing one’s honest opinion—even when it contradicts the singular authority of the institution.

After realizing a pilot at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design in 2016, we are preparing to launch LAAGP across a cohort of art institutions. An unlikely cross-institutional spectacle and exercise in public imagining, LAAGP posits a world in which typical assumptions of relation and value are momentarily suspended, sparking critical dialogue about knowledge politics, institutional accountability, and equity in the arts.  

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“It made me feel important—like we're here to see what can be changed about the museum. Our words count. We're going to be heard. I feel like—especially since I was being paid—that helped a lot.

—Critic from Pilot at RISD Museum, 2016