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New Left Review I/205, May-June 1994


Elizabeth Wilson

Scavenging by Night

How art confronts industrial capitalism and its directors, the bourgeoisie, has troubled the modern Western world ever since Théophile Gautier acted as cheerleader on the first night of Victor Hugo’s Ernani in 1830, causing a riot. Then, the fight was between the Romantics and the classicists, but from that day to this the progress of art has been characterized by a constant struggle between novelty and the established, outrage and affirmation, the elite and the popular. Art stands in an ambiguous relationship to capitalism, especially to democratic capitalism—prey, it seems, to a series of impossible contradictions.

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