PRINT March 1991


The Museum and the Photograph: Containers of Whatever
“What have we seen? . . . But what haven’t we seen? . . . A dream on ground level. A real five-franc bill, under glass, and the most current small change, just what you’d have in your pocket, but framed, mounted, empedestaled, laid on padded velvet, and labeled in an eccentric script. . . . Two porcelain chamber pots, white on blue, with flower and leaf motifs and a romantic thatched hut. The god Mars, very lifelike, in faux bronze, ‘the perfect gift item,’ with a label around its neck as if it were a parcel: ‘To our dear godmother, from her three grateful godchildren.’ A stuffed rabbit, extremely instructive. A wooden shoe, prewar tin soldiers, a modern bust of Themistocles. . . . All kinds of ducks from the next pond. A stuffed turkey-head mounted as a coat hook, a little pretentious, with a grainy neck as repulsive as a disease. Some martens. A peacock. A portrait of Vercingetorix (Gallic period), and one of Amédée (quite Napoleon III). . . . Finally, in a more intimate sanctuary, off to one side, some wild-bird eggs, a few chasubles, and the works of Henri Pourrat. Nothing could make your head spin more than the unexpectedness of this spectacle, or its marvelous gratuitousness.”

Such was the museum of the demoiselles Comte, two sisters who “created it by bequeathing to it their furniture, set under glass in a room on the second story of their home” in Marsac. At least this is how the museum was described by the writer Alexandre Vialatte in 1952.1

What have we seen? What haven’t we seen? Nothing. Everything. Either. In short, whatever. That is to say, as Vialatte lucidly explains, “A museum museum. The museum of the museum per se. The museum of the idea of the museum.” A demonstration of the object’s transfiguration by the vitrine: “Take a Gauloise, lay on padded velvet, cover with glass. Voilà, a mysterious and wonderful cigarette. You have created an enigma. With a halo. Your visitors will immediately find in your Gauloise a natural history, a legend, a folklore. They will discover it—better, they will invent it. Learned couplets will be born of it, and the vapors of incense. You have created poetry; you will inspire an epic.”2

Whether the museum of the sisters Comte actually graces the town of Marsac, or exists only in Vialatte’s imagination, matters little. Real or not, it effectively defines the idea “museum.” Even better, it emphasizes that idea’s kinship with another process of fracture, and of the distancing of the real: d speak, of course, of photography. Five-franc bills, coins, porcelain, a stuffed rabbit. All this could have been extracted from its time and stored in another way, not under glass but on paper: in short, photographed.

It is probably easier to see Vialatte’s list of objects as the captions to an assortment of found photographs than as the catalogue to some Museum of Whatever. As Jean-Marie Schaeffer writes, any museum’s photography collection is “always in part a collection of found objects,” since “next to images by photographers who consider themselves creators of esthetic values, we find journalistic shots, scientific photographs, family portraits, documentary images, etc.”3 Before becoming itself a collectible, the photograph, like the museum, conserves. In a way, in fact, it provides a foundation for the very idea of conservation—that is, for the idea of the museum.

Despite Marcel Duchamp, despite the sisters Comte, it is really only recently that “whatever” has made a strong showing in the museum, under the mantle of Pop art, Nouveau Réalisme, arte povera, and other movements. Until the early ’60s—with rare exceptions in, for example, certain Surrealist works—art museums usually collected objects that were generally recognizable as belonging to the traditional categories of painting and sculpture (if sometimes rather forced examples of them). But the “whatever” has appeared in photography right since the days of Niepce, Daguerre, and Fox Talbot. Since 1839 at the latest, the medium has absorbed, perhaps unawares but in any case with utter serenity, the same whatever so randomly curated by Vialatte’s Comte sisters. It has recorded this subject since the earliest attempts at the process: the first permanent photograph in history, from 1826, shows what Niepce saw from his window, neither more nor less. Another image attributed to Niepce preserved for posterity a laid table (or would have, had it not been lost). By 1839, when the process was revealed to the public in Arago’s famous communiqué to the Paris Académie des Sciences, one of Daguerre’s plates had immortalized a simple collection of shells.

It has been argued that the photographic vision can be seen in embryo in a more or less minor genre of painting dating from the late 18th century, and thus that photography forced no break in the flow of Western representation since the Renaissance invention of perspective.4 The weakness of this opinion is that it emphasizes photography’s relationship with the camera obscura— that is, it emphasizes the optical, or geometric and perspectival, part of the process —at the expense of the no less crucial dimension of photochemical printing. More seriously still, it ignores an even more fundamental truth: anything and everything is likely to become the subject of a photograph. It is this random inclusiveness that radically distinguishes photography from its pictorial antecedents.

It is wiser to approach photography through Walter Benjamin’s touchstone essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” which has led countless writers to contrast the potentially infinite multiplicity of any single camera image to the uniqueness of a painting. The kinship of photography with the serially produced merchandise of modern industry has become one of the topoi of any consideration of these issues. It is more unusual to observe, however, that just as remarkable as the photograph’s endless reproducibility is the endlessness of its subjects. Not only can anyone at all take a photograph, but anything at all can be photographed, within certain technical limits, which, incidentally, are constantly being rolled back. Stars, a drop of milk falling through space — whatever emits or reflects light toward a photosensitive surface can leave a trace there. Not everything has been photographed yet, of course, and some things may never be. But millions of objects are already preserved in photographic images. And every such image produces the same fracture in the fabric of the real, the same distancing, literally the same development: once photographed, a subject is ipso facto transformed into an object, and “even,” as Roland Barthes writes, “if one may say so, into a museum object.”5 What Vialatte remarks of the museum vitrine—“Take a Gauloise. . . . cover with glass. Voilà, a mysterious and wonderful cigarette. . . . With a halo” is equally true of the humble snapshot. His words, in fact, could serve as the caption to more than one existing photograph. A Duchamp book cover of 1936 is just one example: a cigarette stripped of its own paper sheath, the more comfortably to lie on a bed of photosensitive paper.

Icons, Indices, and Indexes
André Malraux famously imagined a “museum without walls,” in which the physical body of the museum would dissolve, to be replaced by photographs. And the conjunction of the museological and the photographic has been signaled more or less clearly in a number of other places as well. Douglas Crimp, in his essay “On the Museum’s Ruins,” rests a post-Modernist analysis of the idea of the museum on a discussion of various photo- and silk-screen-based works by Robert Rauschenberg. Having linked the museum with such institutions of confinement as the asylum, the clinic, and the prison (after the example of Michel Foucault), Crimp further associates it with photography, or, “perhaps more precisely,” with “the repressive and selective use of photography,” taking museum and photography together as “the preconditions for the discourse that we know as modern art.”6 By combining photographs seemingly at random in various works from the early ’60s, Rauschenberg is said to have effected a typically post-Modernist deconstruction of this network of preconditions, to reveal—whatever. The “absolute heterogeneity,” writes Crimp, “that is the purview of photography, and through photography the museum, is spread across the surface of every Rauschenberg work. More importantly, it spreads from work to work.” Thus “Malraux’s dream has become Rauschenberg’s joke.”7

Crimp’s analysis makes plain a point essential to our understanding of modernity. Yet even if “absolute heterogeneity” is a predicate shared by the respective universes of the museum and of photography, the fact remains that in the end this predicate is a symptom, not a cause. To identify the symptom is a considerable step forward, but the problem of its interpretation remains. The question to be asked, in other words, as much theoretical as historical, is that of the exact relationship between photography and the museum. What can explain the heterogeneity common to what each of them displays?

Let us begin with the terms “icon,” “indices,” and “index.” According to the classic definition by Charles Sanders Peirce, an icon refers to an object simply by resembling it.8 The properties of the icon are such that certain elements of it correspond homologically to elements of its object. Representational images are iconic, and so are diagrams, logical or algebraic formulas, and metaphors, for various reasons and to varying degrees. The perfect icon of an object, of course, is the object itself, but here iconicity in the strict sense dissolves. The icon must differ from its object, at least in some respects, or risk disappearing as an icon.

Photographs, like figurative paintings, are icons, but that is not their primary quality. As many authors have argued, the iconicity of the photograph—which is not necessarily obvious, since many photographs do not permit an automatic or immediate identification of what they show—is an effect of the perspectival and photochemical process that engenders the image.9 More fundamentally, however, as an imprint of the light an object emits or reflects onto a photosensitive surface, a photograph belongs to a class of signs that Peirce distinguishes from both icons and symbols: the class of the index.

According to Peirce, an index is “a sign, or representation, which refers to its object not so much because of any similarity or analogy with it, nor because it is associated with general characters which that object happens to possess, as because it is in dynamical (including spatial) connection both with the individual object, on the one hand, and with the senses or memory of the person for whom it serves as the sign, on the other hand.”10 Peirce gives the examples of a weather vane as a sign of wind direction and of the falling barometer as a sign of rain. In both these cases the relationship between what he calls the object of the sign and the sign itself is strictly causal: the barometer does not represent the rain, as an icon would, but it does fall as a direct consequence of the rain. There is, however, another, quite literal kind of index: the index finger pointing to indicate an object or a direction. The relationship here is simply spatial. Umberto Eco has discussed the ambiguity of Peirce’s formulation, and has proposed calling the spatial type of index an “attention vector,” its role consisting of “signaling that the attention of the receiver should focus on a particular object or situation.”11 My own practice is to continue to use the word “index” for this type of sign. For signs or representations having a causal relationship with their object, however, I prefer the word “indices.”

The distinction between index and indices is important here, since both terms can be applied, for different reasons, to the photograph, while only one is appropriate to the museum. Insofar as it is an imprint, the photograph is obviously indicial: it is an effect of the object it shows. Simultaneously, of course, it is an icon of that object, and as an icon it is also an index, pointing out the object. Of course the object is probably absent as we look at the photograph—if the real thing is within view, what purpose does the photograph serve? In this sense the photograph is more indicial than indexical, since generally speaking an index must point at something present, while an indices can easily be caused by something far away. And yet the object is present in the photograph, or quasi present—or, better, presented, offered to view, as something at least of sufficient interest to have given rise to a photograph. Thus photography is iconic, indicial, and indexical, all at the same time. This combination should not lead us, however, to confuse or fail to distinguish among these separate functions.

A Close Relative of the Photograph
(The Readymade)
Now turning to the museum, we find we must categorize it in the class of the index. A museum can certainly be considered a symbol of power, authority, and wealth, even as an indices (though never as an icon) of those things. But where a photograph serves as both indices and index for what it shows, the power indicated by the museum lies beyond, in the hands of the museum-supporting classes of the society at large. To its own contents, the museum is purely an index, an attention vector, a finger pointed at whatever is on display. An obvious proof is the museum’s need for the actual presence of the objects it calls to notice. Emptied of things to exhibit, the museum could not function. Its status is established by what it contains, rather than by its architectural shell—as is demonstrated by the ability of all sorts of buildings to act as museums, from princely palaces like the Louvre to churches and convents to, more recently, former warehouses, garages, and factories.12

A well-known interpretation of an emblematic artwork—the Duchampian readymade—should allow us to test our thinking thus far. In a famous article, “Notes on the Index,” Rosalind Krauss uncovers a photographic element in various of Duchamp’s procedures, beginning with the Large Glass, 1919–23, and Tu m’, 1918. Then, departing from a text by the artist that identifies the readymade with a snapshot, Krauss remarks, “The readymade’s parallel with the photograph is established by its process of production. It is about the physical transposition of an object from the continuum of reality into the fixed condition of the art-image by a moment of isolation, or selection.”13 For Krauss, the consequence is that the readymade, like the photograph, is an index. More exactly, it is a “shifter,” a sign like the pronouns “I” and “you,” or the adjective “this,” that takes its meaning only from its reference to an object or being or place actually present. (In other words, a word like “I” points out a completely different person with everyone who uses it; it refers to no fixed identity.)

There is no doubt that shifters are indexes, or that the readymade has something to do with indexes and indices. What is questionable, though, is whether it is really the same thing as an index. The readymade—the urinal signed “R. Mutt,” for example—may share with the object in a photograph a process of extraction that has cut it from the slice of the real to which it belonged before the artist found it, but unlike the object in the photograph, it remains physically itself. The bipolarity common to both indices and indexes—between the barometer and the rain, say, or between the finger and the object it points out—is not a necessary part of the extraction process that every readymade demands. If the readymade is not itself an index, where does its indexical function come from? That arrives when the readymade is not only removed from its original place but is set in another context where it finds itself indexed in its turn. That context, obviously, is the gallery or the museum. The role of the exhibition space in the complex transformation that results in the readymade is quite marginal in Krauss’ essay. Yet if the readymade is blood kin to the photograph, if the readymade would probably have been inconceivable without photography, it is appropriate to observe that this kinship is passed by way of the museum. Without the indexical function of the museum, the production of a readymade would be impossible.

The Indexical Function of the Museum, or The Museum, Index par Excellence
Like any index, and more generally like any sign, the museum points not only to its contents but also to itself.14 As long as it shows things, the museum must show itself showing. And this reflexivity is the source of the museum’s symbolism. A display of riches, a sign of political power, a more or less sumptuous manifestation of the breadth of history and culture, the museum asserts its own quality as a monument.

The fact that the museum-as-index indexes itself in this way has more or less regularly brought it into conflict with defenders of art (and, naturally, with artists). Some believe in the autonomy of the artwork and therefore in the need to deemphasize the mere device that exhibits it. Others, going back as far as Quatremère de Quincy in 1815, fear that the museum mutilates art by extracting it from its original context.15 But all who defend the work against the museum blame the institution’s knack for showing itself as much as what it shows, a classic conflict summed up in the Chinese saying that to look at the finger of a man pointing at the moon is to be an idiot.

The same tension is even more pronounced in photography, with the difference that where the museum suggests itself as symbolic, the photograph has an indicial, cause-and-effect relationship with what it shows, and is therefore symbolic only in quite qualified terms. Everyone who has looked at a photograph knows the division of attention it imposes between the object shown and the image doing the showing, an image that is itself a visual object. “How does one separate what properly belongs to the image from what belongs to the real,” Schaeffer asks, “when faced with an image that is such only insofar as it is grasped as registering the real?”16 To look at a photograph as a photograph — that is, to use the vocabulary of Modernism, as an artwork exhibiting the characteristics of its medium17— is to try to forget its subject matter. immediately and inevitably, however, one finds oneself returned to that subject, since the characteristics of the photograph include the fact that it is an indices of its subject. The photograph cannot help but insist that its subject once existed somewhere: as Barthes so strikingly says, “It-has-been.”18 And nothing symbolic can be drawn from this assertion of the real alone. Without a caption—a necessary supplement to the photograph, according to Benjamin19—this existential certitude has no symbolic scope, at least not as long as it remains restricted to the limits of the photograph’s frame. The museum, on the other hand, as an index, is itself a monumental caption. Like a caption but unlike a photograph, it is separate from the objects it frames. Therefore it emphasizes itself as much as them, and with considerable symbolic weight.

A self-reflexive index, the museum is also a complex one. From the work outward, the museum forms a multidimensional syntagm that begins at the frame of the painting or the base of the sculpture and continues with the wall and all its labels and decorations, the floor, the room, and so on up to and including the entire building. This complexity may be organized in various ways, even, sometimes, more or less by chance. More and more often, however, as we gradually leave behind the formative period of the museum as institution, the organization is conscious, deliberate, and directly mandated by the esthetic and philosophical theory of the curators’ time and place. Not all museums are as random-looking as the Comte sisters’ collection of bric-a-brac. Quite the contrary. And each organizational system introduces a bias to the museum’s indexical articulations. It is through this bias that the linkage, and sometimes the submission, of the institution to other functions arises.

The most important of these functions is historical, that is, the role of the museum as an illustration of a version of art history. History here is conceived as a linear chronology, cross-bred in certain cases with a Hegelian dialectic of progress. Studying the formation of the archetype established by the Berlin Altes Museum, which opened in 1830, Douglas Crimp has shown how Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s monumental neoclassical architecture corresponds stone by stone to the aesthetic theories of Hegel, who prophesied the end of art and its replacement by philosophy. As Crimp shows, using the example of the central rotunda around which revolve both Schinkel’s architecture and the visit it is intended to program, the Altes Museum was even designed to synthesize art and the museum, terms irreducibly antagonistic to such adversaries of his project as Alois Hirt, who argued not only that “the art objects are not there for the museum” but that “the museum is built for the objects.”20

Other organizations of the museum-as-index are also possible. In the 1920s, at the Landesmuseum in Hanover, Alexander Dorner articulated not a simple linear history but various temporal “miniseries” inspired by a specific Kunstwollen or artistic will.21 This divergent method of indexing artworks was opposed to Schinkel’s universalism; for each historical family it sought to recreate conditions of viewing as close as possible to those of their original situation. The extreme of this approach is of course the period room, in which the museum tries to conceal a portion of its indexing power so as to restore the work—in a completely illusory way, of course —to its own context. The bare exhibition space of the contemporary museum, the “white cube” theorized by Brian O’Doherty, marks an equally clear extreme at the other end of the spectrum.22

I hope it has been well enough established by now that as a complex index, the museum cannot help but raise the question of how it articulates the objects it indexes, most of which, with the exception, perhaps, of Modernist painting and sculpture, were not originally destined for this fate. (Some objects, to be sure, are made expressly to be put in museums, though to be designed for that purpose is no guarantee of achieving it.) And this is the crux of the issue. What should the museum allow in? What should it abandon to its time and place? These decisions are not determined by any criterion inherent in the museum’s constitution or in its organization, however theoretically grounded. Take away the museum’s function as index, and along with it inevitably goes the museum’s theoretical foundation, supposing it had one. What is left, then? The same bric-a-brac we began with—that of the sisters Comte.

And here the museum is led back to photography. For both involve a fracturing of space and time, via indices and indexes in one case and indexes alone in the other. Museifying this or that, photographing this or that: it’s all the same thing, except that the gear of photography is lighter than that of museology. Which doesn’t mean that photography itself is any less weighty, but that its immense weight lies elsewhere.

A Desperate Attempt at Canceling Photography
Another approach to the indices and the index is offered by the genre of photorealism, which came into existence in the late ’60s, mostly in the United States. Generally speaking, the properties of the genre are, first, that a photorealist painting appears as a painting, in a kind of “This is not a photograph” mode; and second, that the photograph on which it is “deposited,” so to speak, simultaneously keeps its integrity-that the “This is a photograph” quality of the image is retained. In one sense, photorealist painting is part of the tradition of trompe l’oeil, with the reservation that classic trompe l’oeil arranges a direct confrontation between painting and the object it shows. The more skillful the painting, paradoxically, the more the object effaces it. The photo-realist painting, on the other hand, would have us believe not in the real presence of the object, but in that of a photograph of it.

If we think for a moment about the procedure used by most photorealist painters, we discover what seems like a huge mix-up, a replay of a 19th-century controversy about photography combined with a simultaneous foreshadowing of an entire dimension of art today. Back in the 19th century, the question of retouching was a sore point in the argument over photography’s pretensions as art: was the retouch a breach of the laws of photography; a violation of the medium’s nature as a record of the world’s specificity, or was it a permissible improvement in a fundamentally esthetic image? The photorealist painter has an opinion to bring to this debate. To make most of these works, the artist projects a slide onto the canvas as a kind of template. The painting is deposited, if you will, practically dot by dot over this image, usually with an airbrush. The photo-realist painter, then, touches the photograph with paint. Photorealism as a whole, in fact, may be seen as a gigantic retouch, a monstrous repainting, an impossible attempt to cover over the photograph with a layer or film—which is what it is—of mimetic paint while allowing the photograph to permeate the final image. Something more than a simple regression, or a simple denial of Modernist painting, is at stake in this pictorial hybrid. For this work finally is nothing but an attempt—a desperate one, naturally—to cancel the effect on painting, and on art in general, of the functions we call indices and indexes.

In depositing a coat of paint on the photograph, the photorealist artist is trying to erase the image’s character as an indices: the photorealist painting is not an effect of what it shows, as the photograph is, but is in some sense a creation of the painter’s, if only as “a machine harnessed to a machine.” (The expression is not Andy Warhol’s but Delacroix’s.23) Yet the artist must surrender to survive: the photorealist painter lets photography guide his or her hand, as though painting could no longer last except as an indices of photography, and as though painting’s support, the canvas, had itself become a photograph. Thus photorealism broadcasts the effect of photography on painting.24 Unlike, for example, Modernist abstract painters, who tried to save painting from photography by defining the medium of painting ever more narrowly, the photorealists propose a strategy of seeming to give up their weapons to the enemy.

But this is only a ruse. For if the photorealist artist, even before starting to paint, projects a photograph on the painting’s support, the famous blank canvas that Clement Greenberg once said had to be considered a painting in itself, then his or her work consists of touching the image whose specificity implies precisely that one must not (re)touch it. In other words, photo-realism can only deprive photography of its indicial status by depositing paint indicially upon it. The image remains an indices and the ruse fails. Reduced to replaying an episode from the history of photography, it lapses into farce (or, rather, into simulacrum), as a famous text of Marx’s suggests repetitions of history are likely to do.

Photorealism also tries to disrupt the logic of the index, which, through the photograph and through the museum, opens art up to the bric-a-brac of the real. We all know the themes that the photorealist painters staked out: motorcycles, cars, trailers, neon signs, vitrines, shop windows, horses, girls, and so on. Once painted, this bric-a-brac is detached from the photograph and no longer requires it as an index. To the extent that the object endures while the photograph of it is made absent by a layer of paint, it is returned to the real of its origins, a simple referent of the image and no longer its cause. By the same token, it is also cut off from the museum: the photorealist painting takes over the museum’s role as index. For far from defeating the activity of the index, this is an art that indexes itself as art, at the expense of both the photograph and of the object that the photograph pointed out. In other words, the word “realism” in “photorealism” is an impostor. At the same time, however, in its scattershot reflections of the real, photorealist art ends up as the American version of the museum of the sisters Comte. In the end, it makes itself into the predictable catalogue from which it has failed to protect the museum.

Between the indices and the index—that is, in the fringe of interference that both troubles photography and explains the trouble it started, and in the step from the photograph to the museum—most of the questions that have agitated, constructed, and deconstructed the production of art for the past century and a half still shuttle back and forth. The photographic and the museological apparatus reflect each other as though in a mirror. Already present in the museum’s agenda, photography cannot enter there a second time. By the same token, as painting goes through the door of the museum, it gets lost, as Quatremère de Quincy warned at the very beginning of the process. Like everything else, painting dooms itself, as hyperfetishized exchange value, to be no more than a photograph of itself. There begins its “decrepitude,” in Baudelaire’s word, at the same time that it opens the doors of the monument that should have been its paradise to that multiform real whose herald was Duchamp’s urinal-cum-fountain. Trying to protect the museum from bric-a-brac with the help of a thin film of paint, all photorealism has done is index the huge weightiness of photography.

Daniel Soutif lives in Paris and is the editor of Cahiers du Musée National d’Art Moderne.

Translated from the French by W. G. J. Niesluchowski.



1. Alexandre Vialatte, Chroniques, 1952, in François Dagognet, ed., Le Musée sans fin, Seysell: Le Champ Vallon, 1984, p. 143 ff.

2. Ibid., p. 147.

3. Jean-Marie Schaeffer, L’Image précaire, du dispositif photographique, Paris: Le Seuil, 1987, p. 158.

4. See Peter Galassi, Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography, exhibition catalogue, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1981.

5. Roland Barthes, La Chambre claire: Note sur la photographie, Paris: Cahiers du Cinema/Gallimard/Le Seuil, 1980, p. 29.

6. Douglas Crimp, “On the Museum’s Ruins,” October no. 13, Summer 1980, reprinted in Hal Foster, ed., The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, Seattle: Bay Press, 1983, p. 45.

7. Ibid., p. 53.

8. See Charles Sanders Peirce, Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, 4 vols., ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932, 2: 156-73.

9. A number of studies have addressed the basic qualities of photography. See particularly Barthes; Henri Vanlier, Philosophie de la photographie, Bras: Les Cahiers de la Photographie, n.s., 1983; Philippe Dubois, “L’Acte photographique,” 1983, in L’Acte photographique et autres essais, Paris: Fernand Nathan, 1990; Schaeffer; and Rosalind Krauss, Le Photographique: Pour une théorie des écarts, Paris: Macula, 1990.

10. Peirce, p. 170.

11. Umberto Eco, Le Signe: Histoire et analyse d’un concept, Brussels: Labor, 1988, p. 63.

12. On the constitution of French museums and the nature of the buildings used for art collections at the beginning of the 19th century, see Daniel J. Sherman, Worthy Monuments: Art Museums and the Politics of Culture in Nineteenth-Century France, Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 1989. On the concept of an architecture specifically designed for the museum, see Crimp, “The Postmodern Museum,” Parachute no. 46, Montreal, Spring 1987, pp. 61–69.

13. Rosalind E. Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America,” October nos. 3 and 4, Spring and Fall 1977. Reprinted in Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, Cambridge, Mass., and London: M.I.T. Press, 1985, p. 209. Following Krauss, Dubois formulates the same thesis: the readymade not only no longer resembles but is no longer even the physical trace of an object to be “represented: it is that object itself, become an artwork as such, by an act of artistic decision, by a simple operation of selection, of drawing upon the continuum of the real and inscribing in the universe of art” (Dubois, p. 229). All well and good, but for the missing analysis of the particular function of this universe. See also Krauss, “Marcel Duchamp, ou le champ de l’imaginaire,” Degrés no. 26–27, Brussels, Spring-Summer 1981, reprinted in Krauss, Le Photographique, p. 85, for a more developed study of these issues.

14. See Francois Recanati, La Transparence et l’énonciation: Pour introduire à la pragmatique, Paris: Le Seuil, 1979.

15. Quatremère de Quincy, Considérations morales sur la destination des ouvrages de l’art, Paris: Crapelet, 1815, reprint ed. Paris: Fayard, Corpus des oeuvres de philosophie en langue française, 1989.

16. Schaeffer, p. 158.

17. See John Szarkowski’s tentative analysis of this kind of specificity in his book The Photographer’s Eye, 1966, reprint ed. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1980.

18. Barthes, p. 85.

19. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Illuminations, New York: Schocken Books, 1969, p. 226. Quoted in Krauss, “Notes on the Index,” p. 205.

20. Alois Hirt, quoted in Crimp, “The Postmodern Museum,” p. 65.

21. See Yve-Alain Bois, “Exposition: esthétique de la distraction, espace de démonstration,” Cahiers du Musée National & Art Moderne no. 29, Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Autumn 1989.

22. Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, Santa Monica: The Lapis Press, 1986.

23. Eugène Delacroix, quoted in Jean Sagne, Delacroix et la photographie, Paris: Herscher, 1982, p. 11.

24. See Aaron Scharf, Art and Photography, Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1974; Van Deren Coke, The Painter and the Photograph: From Delacroix to Warhol, 1964, reprint ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1986; and Erika Billeter, Malerei und photographie im Dialog von 1840 bis Heute, exhibition catalogue, Zurich: Kunsthaus, 1977.