In an obituary for the New York Times, Ken Johnson declared Arthur Danto (1924–2013) as “one of the best broadly apprehend art critics of the Postmodern era.” Danto, who was both a analyzer and a assistant of philosophy, is acclaimed for his attainable and amiable prose. Despite this, Danto’s best-known essay, “The End of Art,” continues to be cited added than it is understood. What was Danto’s argument? Is art absolutely over? And if so, what are the implications for art history and art-making?
Danto’s accompanying passions were art and philosophy. He initially boarded on a career as an artisan (much of his assignment is now allotment of the Wayne Accompaniment University art collection) afore advancing an bookish career in philosophy. In 1951, Danto began teaching at Columbia University, earning his doctorate the aing year. He was an art analyzer for The Nation amid 1984–2009 and was a approved contributor to publications such as Artforum.
In 1964, Danto visited an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes at the Abiding Gallery, New York. The appearance afflicted his life.
It wasn’t Warhol’s accountable amount that abashed the philosopher, but its form. Whereas Warhol’s paintings of coke bottles and soup cans were beheld representations, the artist’s Brillo box sculptures — silkscreened plywood facsimiles of absolute Brillo boxes — were around duplicate from the absolute thing. If one placed one of Warhol’s sculptures beside a absolute Brillo box, who could acquaint the difference? What fabricated one of the boxes an artwork and the added an accustomed object? Danto categorical his abstracts in an article advantaged “The Artworld” (1964):
What in the end makes the aberration amid a Brillo box and a assignment of art consisting of a Brillo box is a assertive access of art. It is access that takes it up into the apple of art, and keeps it from annoyed into the absolute article which it is. [Warhol’s Brillo boxes] could not accept been art fifty years ago. The apple has to be accessible for assertive things, the artworld no beneath than the absolute one. It is the role of artful theories, these canicule as always, to accomplish the artworld, and art, possible.
Essentially, Warhol’s Brillo boxes are art because the assignment has an admirers which understands it via a assertive access (to use Danto’s term) of what art can be. The artworld (comprised of critics, curators, collectors, dealers, etc.) plays a allotment in which theories are accepted or snubbed. As Danto surmises, “To see article as art requires article the eye cannot catch — an atmosphere of artful theory, a ability of the history of art: an artworld.” This idea, afterwards broadcast aloft by the philosopher George Dickie, is additionally bargain accepted as the institutional access of art. The catechism abiding in the accomplishments is how and why these alleged theories change and advance over time.
Danto was absorbed by actual change. What fabricated Warhol’s Brillo boxes adequate as art in 1964? What would Neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David accept anticipation of Warhol’s work? How would Leonardo da Vinci, Phidias, or a caveman react? Do the Brillo boxes represent some array of art actual progress? Was art history branch in a apparent direction? Danto’s investigations into history, progress, and art theory, coalesced into his best-known essay, “The End of Art.”
Before arrest “The End of Art,” we allegation to briefly accede how the history of art is commonly understood.
Art history is about anticipation of as a beeline progression of one movement or appearance afterwards addition (Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, etc.), alternate by the access of alone geniuses (Delacroix, Courbet, Monet, Cézanne … ).
This axiological access is the beheld base of Sara Fanelli’s 40-meter-long timeline of 20th-century art (which was aforetime displayed on the Tate Modern’s additional floor). The timeline pinpoints the actual birth of accurate movements, while additionally allotment key celebrated artists (note how Fanelli’s timeline trails off afterwards the year 2000. We’ll arise aback to this later).
Fanelli’s timeline is allotment of a continued attitude of attempting to visually map celebrated progression, a ambiguous and catchy concept. The aboriginal administrator of the Museum of Modern Art, Alfred Barr, abundantly advised his own timeline of 20th-century art, as did George Maciunas, the architect of Fluxus (Maciunas was absolutely into diagrams; he reportedly spent bristles years on his abridged 6 x 12–foot art actual timeline). These timelines generally around abutment assertive account about what art is, what it was, and area it’s headed. One such absorption that appears consistently throughout the history of art (albeit, in capricious forms), is mimesis: the apery and representation of reality.
Art historians accept continued argued that the age-old Greeks approved to imitate the animal anatomy with anytime greater degrees of verisimilitude, a archetypal that was adored during the Renaissance. This absorption holds that artists should seek to adept the apery of absoluteness (the adventure of the painting claiming amid Zeuxis and Parrhasius typifies this ideal). A cardinal of aboriginal art historians approved to authenticate how assorted artists had progressed (and in some cases, stunted) this ultimate goal, and in accomplishing so, engineered one of the ascendant narratives of art history. The aftereffect is a basal (and actual reductive) estimation of art history. Summed up crudely, it resembles article like this: The craftsman of the alleged Dark Ages ‘forgot’ the artful abilities and ethics of the ancients. Classical ethics were afresh adored during the Renaissance and were consistently reevaluated up to the backward nineteenth century. By the aboriginal 20th century, art had burst into a aggregation of circumstantial movements.
The adventure Danto tells in “The End of Art” follows on from this model. According to Danto, the allegation to mimesis began to falter during the nineteenth aeon due to the acceleration of photography and film. These new perceptual technologies led artists to carelessness the apery of nature, and as a result, 20th-century artists began to analyze the catechism of art’s own identity. What was art? What should it do? How should art be defined? In allurement such questions, art had become self-conscious. Movements such as Cubism questioned the action of beheld representation, and Marcel Duchamp apparent a urinal as an artwork. The twentieth aeon oversaw a accelerated assumption of altered movements and ‘isms,’ all with their own notions of what art could be. “All there is at the end,” Danto wrote, “is theory, art accepting assuredly become vaporized in a amaze of authentic anticipation about itself, and remaining, as it were, alone as the article of its own abstract consciousness.”
Warhol’s Brillo boxes and Duchamp’s readymades approved to Danto that art had no apparent administration in which to progress. The admirable anecdotal of progression — of one movement reacting to addition — had ended. Art had accomplished a post-historical state. All that charcoal is authentic theory:
Of course, there will go on actuality art-making. But art-makers, active in what I like to alarm the post-historical aeon of art, will accompany into actuality works which abridgement the actual accent or acceptation we accept for a continued time arise to apprehend […] The adventure comes to an end, but not the characters, who alive on, appropriately anytime afterwards accomplishing whatever they do in their post-narrational debility […] The age of pluralism is aloft us…when one administration is as acceptable as another.
In hindsight, it’s accessible to see how Danto began to access this cessation during the 1960s. Movements such as Pop art and Fluxus were actively breaking bottomward the barriers amid art and the everyday. Relativist philosophies such as poststructuralism and existentialism were in abounding swing, critiquing the narratives and certainties which Western academia had ahead captivated dear. Accepting absolute accessible the analogue of what it could be, art had debilitated its own acceptance in beeline progression. Afterwards all, what movement or ‘ism’ could logically chase the dematerialization of the art article (conceptualism) or the common skepticism of admirable theories and ideologies (postmodernism)?
Danto believed that any consecutive movements were nonessential in that they would no best accord to the following of art’s self-definition. “We are entering a added stable, added blessed aeon of artful endeavor area the basal needs to which art has consistently been acknowledging may afresh be met,” he wrote. Although Danto claimed the end of art wasn’t in itself a bad thing, he nonetheless appeared to afterwards complaining its demise. In his analysis of the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Danto lambasted the themeless accompaniment of the artworld. “It is branch in no administration to allege of,” the philosopher wrote.
Whilst devising “The End of Art,” Danto was “astonished” to about-face to one of the unlikeliest of sources, the aesthetics of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831).
Hegel’s aesthetics was not in faddy during the ’60s, but his bent compassionate of history served as a advantageous arrangement for Danto’s conclusions. Hegel accepted advance as an overarching dialectic — a action of self-realization and compassionate that culminates in authentic knowledge. This accompaniment is ultimately accomplished through philosophy, admitting it is initially preceded by an claiming into the qualities of adoration and art. As Danto abbreviated in a afterwards article advantaged “The Disenfranchisement of Art” (1984):
When art internalizes its own history, back it becomes affected of its history as it has arise to be in our time, so that its alertness of its history forms allotment of its nature, it is conceivably certain that it should about-face into aesthetics at last. And back it does so, well, in an important sense, art comes to an end.
Danto is not the alone philosopher to accept adopted an Hegelian dialectic. Both Francis Fukuyama and Karl Marx activated Hegelianism to ability their own actual conclusions. Fukuyama argued that avant-garde commercialism and chargeless bazaar commercialism represented the acme of Western civilization, whilst Marx argued that communism would alter commercialism (neither of these developments accept absolutely panned out).
Sara Fanelli’s timeline appears to validate Danto’s conclusions. Afterwards the year 2000, there are no movements or -isms, alone alone artists. The movements that are listed arise the end of the aeon aren’t absolutely movements at all. The appellation “YBA” (Young British Artists) is a advantageous across-the-board for a assorted accumulation of artists, some of whom happened to go to the aforementioned academy (Goldsmiths). Likewise, “installation” is not a movement but a agency of presenting art. Recent agreement such as “zombie formalism” (aka crank abstraction) arise to affirm that we are active in an age of post-historical malaise.
Though broadly read, Danto’s theories are not wholly admired by the art industry. Artists don’t necessarily appetite to apprehend that their assignment has no adorning potential. Danto’s work additionally presents a claiming for the art bazaar which relies on perceived celebrated accent as a altered affairs point. He predicted that the appeal on the bazaar would crave the “illusion of amaranthine novelty,” afterwards citation 1980s Neo-Expressionism as an archetype of the industry’s allegation to always recycle and repackage above-mentioned artful forms and ideas, a allegation that parallels the a agitation apropos crank formalism.
Danto’s critics about claiming the philosopher’s assurance on acceptable art actual models. In Danto and His Critics (first appear in 1993) Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins altercate the “fallacy of beeline history,” namely that our pre-dominant art actual narratives are abundantly a artefact of their retelling:
As a being (or a culture) gets older, the adventure gets caked and bizarre in the retelling; and of course, it gets longer. Aboriginal incidents and contest are adapt with avant-garde acceptation they could not accept possibly accept had at the time.
If one rejects the developmental, Western art anecdotal that Danto describes in “The End of Art,” afresh the anatomy appropriate for Danto’s Hegelian compassionate of art collapses.
It’s important to admit that art history is abundantly congenital aloft the biases and abstract opinions of others. Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574), the alleged ancestor of art history and columnist of The Lives of the Best Excellent painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550), abundantly advantaged Florentine artists over those alive in Northern Europe. Over the advance of the twentieth-century, the art actual perspectives of academics such as Ernst Gombrich, Heinrich Wölfflin, and Erwin Panofsky were anxiously reassessed. Classical advisers accept back problematized the artful estimation of age-old Greek art. Best a medieval advisers adios the appellation “Dark Ages” for example, back it is around judgmental and ignores the actuality that aboriginal Christian art had a absolutely altered set of artful priorities. The history of art becomes far added nuanced and circuitous back advised in microcosm. Back one considers the abundance of methodologies accessible to art historians (iconography, semiotics, psychoanalysis, and so forth), Danto’s abstracts attending all the added attenuated and reductive.
Danto additionally calmly excludes assignment which challenges his art actual thesis, namely non-Western art. How do Japanese printmakers — whose perspectival and artful priorities differed radically from Western standards — fit into Danto’s art actual narrative? Danto does acknowledgment Japanese prints in “The End of Art,” although the catechism of how they appulse his adorning estimation of art history is absolutely sidestepped. “We accept to adjudge whether [Japanese book makers] had a altered pictographic ability or artlessly were backward by abstruse slowness in accomplishing solidities,” Danto wrote.
Despite these criticisms, Danto’s supporters altercate that his theories are vindicated by a apparent abridgement of administration in the art world. It could be argued that Danto’s abstracts authority up, alike afterwards one dispenses with his Hegelian framework. Has art alone bedridden itself by overanalyzing the advance of history? How can we anytime abundantly adumbrate the approaching from the angle of the present? Danto anon addresses this bind at the alpha of “The End of Art”:
In 1952, the best avant-garde galleries were assuming Pollock, De Kooning, Gottlieb, and Klein, which would accept been temporally doubtful in 1882. Nothing so abundant belongs to its own time as an age’s glimpses into the future: Buck Rogers carries the adorning idioms of the 1930s into the twenty-first aeon … the science fiction novels of the 1950s activity the animal chastity of the Eisenhower era […] The approaching is a affectionate of mirror in which we can appearance alone ourselves, admitting it seems to us a window through which we may see things to come.
Or as Danto quotes Leonardo da Vinci, ogni dipintore dipinge se (“every painter paints himself”).
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