Connoisseurs & Academies by Karen Knorr

Despair Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France, 1998 © Karen Knorr

Photographed with an analog camera over 19 years, Karen Knorr’s Connoisseurs & Academies series immerses us in the elaborate world of museums and stately homes, showcasing objects, paintings, connoisseurship, and academic structures. The use of animals as allegorical motifs, first introduced with a chimpanzee as the Genius of the Place, has become a hallmark of Knorr’s artistic practice. Connoisseurs (1986–1990) explores grand eighteenth- century British mansions, capturing the cultural tourism and ethically dubious acquisition of antiquities that influenced the era’s artistic tastes. These artworks, initially private collections, shaped public galleries and defined aesthetic canons. Extending this exploration, Academies (1994–2004) investigates European art institutions like Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts and Musée d’Orsay, emphasizing how these academies reinforced white Eurocentric patriarchal views through education and public exhibitions. Both series critically and with humour assess the construction of the art market by powerful, wealthy elites, whose influences persist in contemporary culture.

Connoisseurs & Academies is published by Kehrer Verlag with texts by Sabina Jaskot-Gill, Jean Wainwright.