Photo By Gail
Fred Wilson’s Guarded View (1991) aggressively confronts viewers with four black, headless mannequins dressed as museum guards. Each figure wears a uniform, dating to the early 1990s, from one of four New York cultural institutions: the Jewish Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Despite this specificity, the faceless mannequins underscore the anonymity expected of security personnel, who are tasked with protecting art and the public while remaining inconspicuous. It also addresses the racial dynamics of the museum space, in which the guards may be the only people of color present.
This work originally appeared in the Whitney’s then-controversial 1994 exhibition, Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, which would prove to be a defining moment for the burgeoning movement of identity politics.