The Shock Of The New

‘In a very insidious way, the idea of cultural confrontation had been replaced by the idea of styling … we were heading into a stage of meaningless tolerance, where nothing an artist could do would be thought really offensive anymore, because there was always the chance that it might convert into capital.’

‘…the price of a work of art now became part of its function. It redefined the art, whose new job was to sit on the wall and get more expensive. And the result was, that whereas before works of art had been like strangers, with whom one could converse and whom one could gradually get to know, they now assume more and more the characteristic of film stars. I doubt if anybody nowadays can look at a cubist Braque or a Rothko or a Russian constructivist sculpture without being deeply affected by the fact that the prices of these things has become absurdly high – and in some crucial sense, this has removed them from the run of ordinary experience. I think high price strikes people blind. I think it displaces the content of the work. Criticism and scholarship, whether they want to or not, end up serving that system whereby a bunch of brokers with faces like silver teapots make fortunes flogging modern masterpieces to another bunch of chromide investors.’


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