Enemy of Art by Dick Henderson
Criticism From Plato to the Present

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This book revolves around the history of professional art criticism, invented by one man, Leon Alberti who in 1435 AD to make himself important. By writing a book on painting he dictated to all artist the correct subjects of their works and the way they should paint them. Before he came along art was always a transaction between the artist and his patron. Now as the art critic, he tried inserting himself into the transaction as the judge of what was acceptable art. Naturally as an outsider Florentine Artists laughed him out of town. However, he came back and sold his ideas to the Medici, who were always impressed by book writers. The best scholars and writers of the day were invited to enjoy Medici hospitality. It wouldn’t be until years after his death that his ideas became influential, only because the painter Geogio Vasari wanted to criticize the Venetian Painters. He did so in his book the first biography of Italian Artists. Other intellectuals then took up art criticism following Alberti’s ideas. Once this happened intellectuals gained more and more control over the patrons and artists. The book goes on to show the increasing interference in art by these intellectuals over time. Though artists resisted, as did some patrons. The basis of criticism was the idea that there was art history and intellectuals had the right to direct its course. The book explains that there was no art history, only an endless succession of artists stretching back to the appearance of mankind. From time to time there were no artists because there were no patrons. A history has a beginning and an end, but art has no true beginning, Art was always valued for itself by mankind, although theorist – critics had some measure of control, it wasn’t until the 19th century that they came up with a truly disastrous idea. By that time artists had broken away from the style that the critics demanded, (neo- classicism) but of course, making form as they always had done. The critics saw themselves losing influence and their new idea was that art had to change radically. They called for a totally new art, based upon rethinking art. Modern design of home furnishing and the new technology appearing were taken as meaning that art had to reinvent itself as well. Cubism resulted when George Braque said that painting should be flat design. Cubism, promoted by writers and critics became dominant and until the principle artists began dying off. What to do? An American intellectual decided to go beyond Cubism by stripping any representational subject matter from painting, which resulted in “Post Painterly Painting”: Figure painting done with paint brushes or free pouring of paint on a canvas. This critic thought there would be no changes thereafter to painting. No way. Artist came up with Pop Art, Minimal Art and Conceptual Art, which often had no need for an artifact. By pushing all these absurd forms of “art” the art critics marginalized themselves, because they were no longer needed. Museum curators, important dealers, important collectors and auction houses worked together to maintain the market for new “ geniuses”. This was made possible by tax laws that made gifts of art to museums tax deductable, together with clever schemes to avoid capital gains when they chose to sell rather than donate appreciated art objects. The situation now seems dire for art, but the book gives a simple solution to this absurd situation by showing patrons or anyone else a simple way to free him or herself from the intellectuals grasp. It shows them not only how to distinguish for themselves 1. If an artifact is or is not a piece of art and 2. where it fits in between the continuum between great masterpieces and ordinary art. Just doing this will rapidly bring sanity back to the art world. There will be hoards of new patrons and lots of really good artists will be able to live from their sales of art.

About Dick Henderson

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Published January 31, 2011 by OutSkrits Press Inc. 202 pages
Genres: Arts & Photography.

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Ever since cavemen first carved reindeer antlers, according to this muddled j’accuse, art has been a happily inchoate project of self-expression by painters and sculptors with no other agenda than “making their own personal magic.” Then came the critics—egotistical writers who usually cannot make...

Mar 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Enemy of Art: Criticism From ...

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