Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction
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Contemporary art has never been so popular, but what is its role today and who is controlling its future? Contemporary art is supposed to be a realm of freedom where artists shock, break taboos, flout generally received ideas, and switch between confronting viewers with works of great emotional profundity and jaw-dropping triviality. But away from shock tactics in the gallery, there are many unanswered questions. Who is really running the art world? What effect has America's growing political and cultural dominance had on art?
Here Julian Stallabrass takes us inside the international art world to answer these and other controversial questions, and to argue that behind contemporary art's variety and apparent unpredictability lies a grim uniformity. Its mysteries are all too easily explained, its depths much shallower than they seem. Contemporary art seeks to bamboozle its viewers while being the willing slave of business and government. This book is your antidote and will change the way you see contemporary art.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
much of the academic art world, at least, it was less replaced than lost sight of by its acceptance as the unargued background out of which statements about art were made. Much postmodern theory insisted that simulation had so thoroughly saturated world and thought that there was no telling where representation ended and reality began. Yet the ghostly, apparently immaterial character of the contemporary commodity goes hand-in-hand with the rise of neoliberalism. This militant form of capitalism
of beautiful youth. Finally, artists can perform in their work as if they were youths: Georgina Starr, Elizabeth Peyton, and many others act out obsessive adolescent fan culture, while in overt opposition to the mastery of consummately mature and accomplished artists like Bill Viola, who continue to carry the torch for genius and aesthetic quality, is the light relief of the self-consciously pathetic and underperforming, as in the antics of Sean Landers. 58 Consuming culture 13. Vanessa
mostly white youth, and aside from people in fashionable clothing, he depicts clubbers and Berlin’s Love Parade. These are set alongside various youthful political concerns – gay pride festivals, homelessness, and opposition to war. All this is gilded with the spirit of youth itself, with its directness, sexiness, idealism, and melancholy awareness of its own transience (indicated in Tillmans’ photographs, entirely conventionally, with wilting ﬂowers and over-ripe fruit). Tillmans’ work is useful
has commented that art becomes a problem when people assume that it carries more inherent signiﬁcance than other complex structures in the world. Yet these moves, salutary in themselves, heighten the ﬁrst danger. His work deals with it in a number of ways. The most salient is a play with near-past and near-future, using a device that draws upon the thinking of Walter Benjamin, who similarly looked to recently outmoded and unfashionable commercial structures – the shopping arcades of Paris – for
further stage, that dominance is sublated, so that it no longer requires that art be American, only that it be made according to the US model of global neoliberalism. It may be concluded that the most celebrated contemporary art is that which serves to further the interests of the neoliberal economy, in breaking down barriers to trade, local solidarities, and cultural attachments in a continual process of hybridization. This should 125 Contradictions 27. Eduardo Kac, Alba, the Fluorescent