Culture or Trash?: A Provocative View of Contemporary Painting, Sculpture, and Other Costly Commodities

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9781559722087: Culture or Trash?: A Provocative View of Contemporary Painting, Sculpture, and Other Costly Commodities

Culture or Trash? is the first book-length critical account of the multibillion dollar industry that calls itself contemporary art.
Starting where Tom Wolfe's Painted Word left off, with the birth of postmodernism, Culture or Trash? takes the reader through the follies of Soho, Los Angeles, and Cologne and provides an irreverent account of the Graffiti Art of New York's East Village scene, the terminal coolness of Neo-Geo, the rowdy chaos of Body Art. It also discusses how Chris Burden has become an admired and sought-after artist by getting himself shot at and electrocuted in two different performance pieces. And it describes the fascinating new market for "Outsider Art," where works by murderers and the mentally ill sell for more than those of the Old Masters.
Culture or Trash? explains how the art market works, what the reigning critical doctrines of the moment are, and how contemporary art differs from all previous artistic practice.
In a highly original description of the National Endowment for the Arts controversy, this book explains how both artists and the right wing have profited and were delighted to keep the issue alive as long as possible. The author also provides bold predictions about the art of the future, which may be just around the corner.
The first truly probing analysis devoted to contemporary art, Culture or Trash? acknowledges and celebrates the good work that is now being produced. At the same time, it makes clear that, all too often, people who write about contemporary art stand to profit by it. Criticism has been reduced to ad copy for galleries. Indeed, in no other field could you find such a rosy unanimity of acclaim - until now.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

The art critic for The National Review bashes the contemporary art world and rails about the ``general paltriness of most art in our time.'' Gardner complains that the art world is riddled with money and glamour, and blames the ``artistic recession'' on ``art's obsession with art'' and ``nothing other than the pervasive and unchecked reverence in which art is held by critics and public alike.'' He covers the art front from the East Village Scene (``[East Village artists] have been out of fashion for several years, and the pyramids of Egypt seem not as old as they'') to Body Art and German Neo-Expressionism, as well as numerous artists: David Hockney, David Salle, Gerhard Richter (``one of the finest painters alive''), Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, et al. ``Speaking as an enthusiast rather than as a critic,'' Gardner says, ``I find that what appeals most in the art of my contemporaries is, strangely, its smell...the freshness of acrylic on canvas....'' In addition to going after easy targets like the Whitney Biennial (``a country club from which only straight white males are excluded'') and Jeff Koons, the author dismisses the works of Anselm Kiefer--who ``plays the Sturm und Drang role to perfection''--as ``frail in conception, listless in execution, impressive only because of their size.'' But Gardner delivers a body blow here to his own argument as well by quoting a few phrases of the evocative prose and penetrating analysis of Robert Hughes, who described Kiefer as trying ``to shoulder the content of historical tragedy.'' In general, shallow kvetching. For serious, balanced, and truly provocative studies of contemporary art, see Hughes's Nothing if Not Critical (1990), or Arthur Danto's Encounters and Reflections (1990) and Beyond the Brillo Box (1992). -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

If the image of the starving artist has been replaced by the glamorized celebrity, what does contemporary art represent? The art critic for the National Review , Gardner examines the artists who have been "sanctified" by the acclaim of critics, curators, and dealers and thus become part of a multibillion-dollar industry. Gardner sees the role of the critic in creating the artist--by producing more ad copy than criticism--as the pivotal force behind much of the current art market and in no small way a symbol of the terminal quality of contemporary art. From Soho to Cologne, Body Art to Outsider Art, contemporary art has become "an older order increasingly reduced to self-parody," according to the author, and what is hailed as new and innovative is too often meaningless, because the search for impact has replaced the desire for insight. Cynical about the present, Gardner is still optimistic about the future. This provocative critique is recommended for informed readers.
- Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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