While galleries and museums maximize footfall with an eye on the bottom line, the artwork is often claimed as a haven from the giddy pace of experience. What are the temporalities of the contemporary art world, and how might they be affected by the coronavirus crisis?
Art and the New Space Age
From Buckminster Fuller to Robert Rauschenberg, visual culture was enthralled by space travel in the age of Gagarin and the Apollo moon landings. As tech billionaires lease Cape Canaveral launch pads for private-enterprise extra-terrestrial ventures, more critical takes from a range of new artists.
Art and Revolution
Commissioned by Eric Hobsbawm for Einaudi’s Storia del marxismo, a synoptic survey of avant-garde movements in the era of 20th-century revolutions. Disputing the received view of a series of chaotic, short-lived experiments, John Willett traces the emergence of an internally coherent cultural renaissance, stretching from Moscow and Vitebsk to Mexico City.
Fashion Seduces Art
After the debate on value-setting between Luc Boltanski, Arnaud Esquerre and Nancy Fraser in NLR 106, Chin-tao Wu examines relations between the luxury industry and high art. Why are James Turrell, Daniel Buren and Olafur Eliasson producing works for Louis Vuitton and Chanel?
The Juridical Economy
Art as the uncanny double of law in the work of Kant, Schiller and Hegel, and its confrontations today with the law in avant-garde practice, as the juridical category of the person either expands beyond even the corporation, dismissed as ‘artificial’ by Hegel, to new fictive forms, or contracts to captive sub-human shapes.
The Coming Exception
The artwork has long been understood as a political-economic anomaly, while art practice is sometimes seen as a stand-in for liberated human activity. With value itself seemingly in a state of crisis, might the artwork prefigure a world beyond it? From Ruskin and Whistler to Harun Farocki, Sven Lütticken charts the trajectory of an exception.
The World As Gallery
First global art movement or mere identity of a New York set? Potpourri of avant-garde practices or formalist tautology? A survey of Conceptual Art’s crystallization, among international neo-avant-gardes and the artistic networks of global centres, between an abstract global imaginary and its concrete contestations.
The Decline of Decadence
From Nietzsche to Lukács, decadence was a matter of cultural disintegration and social atomization under pressure of capitalist modernity, but such talk has dwindled. Malcolm Bull asks whether the private languages of conceptual art are decadent or undecadent. And is the market a substitute communicator of shared values?
Performance Art After TV
Relations between TV and performance art since the 1960s as a tangled skein of complicity and contestation. Sven Lütticken traces shifts in modes of acting, working and self-presentation, within a televisual world itself now being absorbed by cybernetic and digital systems.
Art of the Industrial Trace
Looking down at man-made landscapes from an airplane window: entry-point to an allegorical materialism, mapping art onto its double in production? The role of the indexical in earthworks, crop art and aerial photography, and the limits it places on allegory.
Idolatry and its Discontents
Amid rhetorical dust-storms over purported Islamist threats to Western values, Sven Lütticken finds antecedents for contemporary struggles over the image in Judaic and Protestant bans on idolatry. Multiple meanings of the veil and varying forms of iconoclasm, under the aegis of the spectacle.
The Feathers of the Eagle
Lifting, swiping, zapping: popular expressions that have been aesthetic tactics since Dada. Sven Lütticken recasts the history of such practices of appropriation—not excluding those of Warhol or Debord, sometimes misplaced—as so many exercises in mythology. Anticipated by Flaubert, theorized by Barthes, staged by Broodthaers, is time running out for such creative misuses of past or present, as ‘intellectual property rights’ tighten?
Managing the Avant-Garde
In the age of franchise museums and mega-shows, what role for the artist? Borrowings from the revolutionary avant-garde in the practices of present-day creator-impresarios, seamlessly fusing the realms of commerce and culture—and the refusenik stance of Kabakov’s conceptual counter-projects.
After the Gods
Mythology as the ‘condition and subject of all art’ in the varying conceptions of the early German Romantics and neoclassicism: from Schelling and Schlegel to Winckelmann and Goethe, meditations on Laocoon and anticipations of the Gesamtkunstwerk—issuing into the uncanny mythopoeias of modernity in Melville’s Confidence Man and the White Whale.
Formal rigour, social interrogation, poetic intensity: Jean-Luc Godard stands in the premier rank of contemporary artists. In this striking reconceptualization of his work, the movies take their place among sound compositions, TV, texts, videotape and graphic art, as elements of an ongoing multimedia installation.
Threads from the history of Mexican surrealism: the Blue House in Coyoacán and Breton’s protegée as avant-garde antidotes or postmodern devotional objects. The components of the Kahlo cult and its basis in the artist’s own practice of self-fabulation and masquerade, concealment and display.
Secrecy and Publicity
Can the legacies of the classical avant-gardes be renewed as effective strategies in postmodern conditions, or are they condemned to mere pastiche? After Bataille, Warhol and Smithson, the possibilities of counter-media, and uncertainties of counter-publics.
The Art of Theft
From Dürer to Barbie Doll, icons and images have been illicitly copied, quoted, parodied and purloined. As corporations wage war on such misappropriations in the name of copyright today, how far do the arts of détournement and culture jamming offer radical applications of a classical tradition?
Between the Cultures of Capital
T. J. Clark’s landmark study, Farewell to an Idea, takes the art of modernism to be a convulsive attempt to imagine modernity in forms other than the triumph of capitalism. Malcolm Bull suggests it might be better conceived as a fold in the overlap between two contrasting cultures of capitalism, classical and commodity, of which only one is left today.