Fred Wilson (American, born 1954) is a conceptual artist whose work investigates museological, cultural, and historical issues, which are largely overlooked or neglected by museums and cultural institutions. He is renowned for his interdisciplinary practice that challenges assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display. Wilson’s body of work encompasses sculpture, painting, photography, collage, printmaking, and installation. By reframing objects and cultural symbols, he alters traditional interpretations, encouraging viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives. Wilson’s early work was directed at marginalized histories, exploring how models of categorization, collecting, and display exemplify fraught ideologies and power relations inscribed into the fabric of institutions. His groundbreaking and historically significant exhibition Mining the Museum (1992) at the Maryland Historical Society radically altered the landscape of museum exhibition narratives. As interventions, or “mining,” of the museum’s archive, Wilson re-presented its materials to make visible hidden structures built into the museum system and American society as a whole. Wilson is internationally lauded for his conceptual practice that subverts perception, revealing the undercurrents of historical discourse, ownership, and privilege normalized by institutional practices.
Wilson has been the subject of more than 40 solo exhibitions around the globe, including the retrospective Objects and Installations 1979–2000, organized by the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. His work has been exhibited extensively in museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, Ohio; Cleveland Museum of Art; Institute of Jamaica, West Indies; Museum of World Culture, Sweden; Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College; British Museum, London; and the Ian Potter Museum of Art at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He represented the United States at the Cairo Biennale (1992) and Venice Biennale (2003). Most recently, he presented his new exhibition Afro Kismet at the 2017 Istanbul Biennial, Turkey, which traveled to London, New York, and Los Angeles. His many accolades include the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellowship (1999); Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2006); Ford Foundation’s Art of Change fellowship (2018); and Brandeis University’s Creative Arts Award (2019).
Presented with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Visiting Artists Program