5. THE EXHIBITION PRICE WOULD BE TOO HIGH (6)
Modern Art: Arthur C. Danto And Nelson A. Goodman
Schuster´s educational text demonstrates that notions,
developed by Arthur C. Danto and Nelson A. Goodman, by now have become
Arthur C. Danto,
After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History
Over a decade ago, Arthur Danto announced that art ended in the sixties.
Ever since this declaration, he has been at the forefront of a radical
critique of the nature of art in our time. After the End of Art presents
Danto's first full-scale reformulation of his original insight, showing
how, with the eclipse of abstract expressionism, art has deviated
irrevocably from the narrative course that Vasari helped define for it in
the Renaissance. Moreover, he leads the way to a new type of criticism
that can help us understand art in a posthistorical age where, for
example, an artist can produce a work in the style of Rembrandt to create
a visual pun, and where traditional theories cannot explain the difference
between Andy Warhol's Brillo Box and the product found in the grocery
store. Here we are engaged in a series of insightful and entertaining
conversations on the most relevant aesthetic and philosophical issues of
art, conducted by an especially acute observer of the art scene today.
Originally delivered as the prestigious Mellon Lectures on the Fine Arts,
these writings cover art history, pop art, "people's art," the
future role of museums, and the critical contributions of Clement
Greenberg--who helped make sense of modernism for viewers over two
generations ago through an aesthetics-based criticism. Tracing art history
from a mimetic tradition (the idea that art was a progressively more
adequate representation of reality) through the modern era of manifestos
(when art was defined by the artist's philosophy), Danto shows that it
wasn't until the invention of Pop art that the historical understanding of
the means and ends of art was nullified. Even modernist art, which tried
to break with the past by questioning the ways of producing art, hinged on
Traditional notions of aesthetics can no longer apply to contemporary art,
argues Danto. Instead he focuses on a philosophy of art criticism that can
deal with perhaps the most perplexing feature of contemporary art: that
everything is possible.
[From: Princeton University Press Website, Book release
The banality of the copy
The new American painters, the generation that today's critics so
associate with rigidity and power, had to live as never before with art
become institution and commodity. Critics therefore had to question again
the copy and the art world.
An essay by Arthur C. Danto, in fact called "The Artworld," saw
the questions as linked. Danto wrote about "Fountain," Duchamp's
appropriation of a urinal, but he was really responding to the shock of
Warhol's Brillo boxes. In his essay, and more carefully in The
Transfiguration of the Commonplace , Danto puzzled over how we ever manage
to recognize Minimalism, geometric abstraction, and Pop Art as art. (...)
If Modernism had from the first been about making art
into life (rather than the other way around), Abstract Expressionism had
encouraged blowing the banal up to poster size. Now the results became
hard to tell apart from what Danto called "ordinary things."
Another analytic philosopher less well known to today's critics, Nelson A.
Goodman, independently pursued the same question in Languages of Art and
Both writers in effect asked whether two objects could be as indiscernible
as original and perfect copy, yet only one be taken up by art
institutions. The work of art might be just another colored mark on the
wall, or it might look all too much like a commercial product. Formalism
and Pop Art, both at the time anything but banal, seemed equally at risk.
Art as foster child
Danto concluded that neither resemblance to the world nor, conversely,
uniqueness can stand as a criterion for a successful work of art. Rather,
an object is or is not art by virtue of being adopted as art. Its
adoption, he argued further, depends on our willingness to see it as
meaningful —as referring to something. If Keats described art as a
foster child of silence, now it could be adopted only once it (and its
parents) learn to talk. Art, Danto is saying then, permits of
interpretation as ordinary things do not.
The meaningfulness of art is not a trivial inference. It convinced other
writers, among them George Dickie, to develop Danto's idea into an
"institutional theory of art." If art works must be adopted,
somebody must get to run the orphanage and to be the foster parents. For
each such privilege, there have to be social criteria.
Goodman, meanwhile, focused instead on the critical eye. He too worried
about close resemblances, but he noted that identity hinges on what
differences we allow ourselves to grasp. As a number of philosophers had
already written, there is no such thing as "pure observation."
Seeing depends on an active, shaping consciousness: we understand and
interpret what we see in terms of what we know. Convention may keep seeing
and knowing apart, but only tentatively. They are still constantly tested
against one another. Once again, interpretation is inevitable.
Once we see a work as a painting, Goodman pointed out, it turns out not to
be nearly the same as that other mark on canvas. We do need to read and
study, as Danto noted, but not just to get the latest word on who counts
as an artist. Our aim, rather, is to notice new things about the art.
[From: John Haber, The Reusable Past, under www.haberarts.com/krauss.htm]