January 18, 2005

Art in the Trashbin

Capping off a weekend in New York, my girlfriend and I stopped at the newly-renovated Museum of Modern Art yesterday. Unsurprisingly, the galleries showcasing late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century works were crowded, while those showcasing later work were nearly deserted. In the course of mocking what passes for contemporary art, I recounted the story of the installation-- a wastebasket surrounded by carefully arranged trash-- that was cleaned up and disposed of by a janitor in London a few years ago. By a strange coincidences, the same story is recounted today by Christopher Orlet; there's been a similar problem, evidently, with Frankfurt sanitation workers cleaning up the "art" on display in the streets.

Camille Paglia incisively diagnosed the state of contemporary art years ago:

When will artists climb out of the postmodernist ditch and accept their high mission to address a general audience? An art of chic coteries, whether in rococo aristocratic France or in drearily ironic, nervously posturing New York, ends up in a mental mousehole.
(The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica-- the web version of which, obviously, needs copy-editing-- was amusingly blunt in its entry on the rococo period to which Paglia compares the contemporary scene.)

Posted by John Tabin at January 18, 2005 12:47 AM