High Art Lite by Julian Stallabrass

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The recent controversy surrounding the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s Sensation! Show has further inflated the already burgeoning media profiles of British artists like Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Sarah Lucas, Jake and Dino Chapman, Rachel Whiteread and Tracey Emin. British art has reinvented itself and successfully courted wider attention than it has ever received before. On the face of it, much of their art has looked like simple bad behaviour—using chopped-up animals, pornography and sexually explicit mannequins as its material, or building up the features of a child murderer using tiny hand-prints. Yet their art has been both accessible and sophisticated, appealing to the mass media and to the elite art world alike.

But has it done so at the price of dumbing art down, reducing it to the level of any other consumer enterprise, and losing what is distinctive about art? Other than as publicity-fodder how seriously does it take the new audience that is so effectively courted? In this accessible book, Julian Stallabrass has written a sustained analysis of the British art scene, exploring the reasons for its popularity, the altered structure of the art world, and examining in detail the work of the leading figures. He also explores the reasons for art criticism’s so far limited purchase on this art.

Previous books about this subject have been either collections of essays or fan books, which try to aid acolytes hoping to navigate the art world. High Art Lite is the first sustained analysis of British art in the 1990s, and Stallabrass shows that, whatever we might think of the art itself, it raises fascinating questions about the relation of art to mass culture, the role of art in consumer society, the character of a national art, and the end of postmodernism.

About Julian Stallabrass

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Julian Stallabrass is Reader in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. His other books include Art Incorporated: The Story of Contemporary Art, Gargantua: Manufactured Mass Culture, and Internet Art: The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce.
Published January 17, 2000 by Verso. 352 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The ’scene’s— media-savvy harnessing of promotion, positive or otherwise, becomes an artistic component incorporating even the movement’s disparagers, from conservative art commentator Brian Sewell to New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, the former prosecutor whose shameless grandstanding against t...

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Publishers Weekly

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Oxford art historian Stallabrass attempts an unmasking of their work as ""high art lite,"" incisively arguing that most of it is neither formally innovative nor conceptually rich, and that many pieces owe their popularity and indeed their very existence to the ministrations of the art's major col...

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London Review of Books

the true depth of its cynicism, though, is not be found in its representation of suicides, or torture victims, or abused children, or in its multitude of corpses, but instead in all that it turns its back on, all that it leaves out when it comes to what art can be.’ As it pans the miasmic waters ...

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