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The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World Hardcover – July, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his 15 years as art critic for the Nation, Danto has managed to negotiate that fine line between theorist and educator, an awkward but necessary combination putting sometimes conflicting demands upon a critic. This latest collection of his musings (whose title pulls a neat double entendre out of a Henry James short story) covers many of the major shows of the last several years: Vermeer, Picasso, John Heartfield, Robert Ryman, Lucien Freud, Willem de Kooning, Nan Goldin, Bruce Nauman, Jasper Johns, and Mark Rothko, among others. (The noteworthy lack of women artists on this list is symptomatic of the major venues in the art world of today.) Danto frames the collection of reviews with two essays: "The Work of Art in the Historical Future" and "Art and Meaning," which recaps Danto's thesis that art "ended" with WarholAmeaning that a certain kind of representational content has been exhaustedAwhich in turn leads to an interesting discussion of "aboutness" as the primary characteristic of contemporary art. The tone lightens for many of the reviews, including one of the recent "Sensation" show using a child's-eye perspective to shake prejudiced adults out of art snobbery. Among the reviews, Danto includes moving tributes to Meyer Schapiro and Clement Greenberg, though one can't help wishing he would also engage the critical work of contemporaries like Dave Hickey, Lucy Lippard or John Yau, among others. Yet whether he is questioning the idea of "purely plastic motivation" relative to Picasso's portraiture, explaining Wittgenstein with reference to Bruce Nauman, musing over Delacroix's placement of tigers in a French landscape or pondering the achievements of a deteriorating de Kooning, Danto increases our awareness of the value of art in our lives. He might even make you wish you had his job, though few of us could do it as well.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Always one of the most remarkable critics writing, Danto (philosophy, Columbia Univ.) compiles articles that appeared in the Nation over the past decade in this fourth essay collection. Written for a large audience and composed primarily of reviews of exhibitions in various New York galleries and museums, the essays have an immediacy and a focus often missing from most exhibition reviews. The topics covered range from contemporary artists (Bruce Nauman, Lucien Freud) to 20th-century masters (Fernand LEger, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning) to Old Masters (Vermeer, Tiepolo). It is particularly interesting to read in hindsight and in proximity his reviews of the 1995 and 1997 Whitney Biennials. Lacking the benefit of illustrations, Danto is called upon to describe the works (some of which will be quite familiar to most readers, others less so), a task he performs in a manner that is pleasurable to read. With his clean style and always insightful observations, Danto!s work is an important contribution to contemporary art criticism. Recommended for collections with a focus on contemporary art."Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; 1st edition (July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374106134
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374106133
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,149,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Arthur Danto is best known for articulating a philosophy of art that takes its origin from his response to pop art in the 1960's but which he reads back, so to speak, to the non-representational experimentalism of the impressionists, modernists, and Dadaists. He has articulated it in books like "The Transfiguration of the Commonplace" and "The End of Art," and he recapitulates it in outline in his introductory chapter to this book, which is a collection of his art criticism from "The Nation" from the 1990s mainly. His broad point is that modern art has become philosophical -- it's not enough to talk about what the eye can take in anymore; it requires thought and contextualization. Otherwise, we would have no reason to consider an ordinary Brillo box less of an art object than Warhol's Brillo boxes. Putting it like that grossly oversimplifies his argument, but you see the point about the eye's insufficiency. When "The Nation" invited Danto to become its art critic, he had an opportunity to let us see examples of the kind of engagement that his theory requires, and we see that here in this volume. The magazine gave Danto space to be both descriptive of the art exhibitions that he reviewed and then to talk about their meaning in interesting ways that both accounted for their associations (if any) with earlier art and their place as objects with meaning in the world of the people who saw them exhibited . Danto's descriptive powers are remarkable -- he gives us a sense of what it must have been like to be in the exhibition space -- and the specificity of the descriptive writing makes us willing to trust the interpretive commentary.Read more ›
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By steggalc on November 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Really good book for any artist Arthur C. Danto is one of my favorite writers on art
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3 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jacques COULARDEAU on January 19, 2004
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This book is a collection of articles and essays, most of which must have been published in The Nation, for which Danto is an art critic. They cannot and will not reveal any structured and clearly defined approach of art. They are an impressionistic progress through Danto's own writings. But Danto ignores anything that does not go his way. He ignores Bosch who is the negation of his « beauty » definition of Renaissance art. He ignores all those who deal with « ugly » subjects, even Goya and his drawings about the horror of war and many other subjects. He ignores television and video art, directly on these media (there is one instance in this book of the use of video art in a museum presentation : that is not television and video art, that is the use of video and television technology within the museum). He even relegates video and television art in the « demotic » field, that is to say art for the people, and this approach, borrowed from Hegel, is absolutely condescendent towards the people : people can only suck on the television pacifier because they are not able to understand and enter the sphere of real art. Danto is an aristocrat, like all art critics. He thus ignores the audience of art, the people who are bombarded with artistic forms everyday in the supermarkets, in films, on TV, and in all kinds of mediatic channels. Danto is a typical university professor turned into an art critic and who advocates and illustrates the dominant vision that art is IN the artist, IN the official art circulating system, IN the critic's analysis of it. I dream of a real republic of arts, arts FOR the people, WITH the people and BY the people.Read more ›
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