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After the End of Art Paperback – November 9, 1998

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Art is still dead, according to Arthur Danto, professor at Columbia University and art critic for The Nation. After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History is a collection of Danto's 1995 Mellon Lectures on the Fine Arts. Famous for his radical critiques of the nature of art--he dates the death of art to around 1964 and declares the art museum has replaced the church for the masses--Danto continues to question traditional notions of aesthetics and philosophy in regard to contemporary art. While touching on a variety of art-related topics, the focus of tehse lectures remains the deviation of contemporary art from the great narrative that has defined art throughout history. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Columbia philosophy professor and Nation art critic Danto has always claimed that there have been three great events in the history of art. First, in the 15th century, art was born when Vasari redescribed what had been the craft of relic- and icon-making as a quest for more and more perfect representations of beauty. Then, in the 1880s, art was reborn: purity, "truth to materials," replaced illusionistic beauty as the progressive artist's Holy Grail. Finally, in 1964, the quest ended with Warhol's Brillo Box, a work that challenged?and existed to challenge?the distinction between art and nonart. Without any single ideal to drive it, art (as it had been known since the Renaissance) died. In these lively essays, written on the occasion of the 1995 A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, Danto expands on his customary thesis with chapters on (among other subjects) the criticism of Clement Greenberg, the history of monochrome painting and the future of the museum. Although, in all these inquiries, Danto takes Hegel for his master, the book's most repeated sentence belongs to Dostoevsky: "Everything is permitted." In context, the tag (like the book's title) sounds a little overblown. Danto makes a convincing case in each essay that not everything is permitted: even without any myth of historical inevitability, the "pressures on artists constantly to come up with something new" keep producing art that is smarter or sillier, more or less relevant than other art. As a consequence, the need for critical works such as this one?learned, discerning and refreshingly open-minded?is perhaps greater than ever.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts
  • Paperback: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 9, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691002991
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691002996
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What does Arthur Danto mean by his title "After the End of Art"? He starts off his stimulating, if rather repetitive book, by discussing the German art historian Hans Belting's book The Image Before the End of Art. That book discusses the history of devotional images and icons before 1400 AD, and how they were produced primarily as icons, and not as art per se. It was only with the beginning of the renaissance that images became part of what could be described as an aesthetic ideology. In the opinion of Vasari and others art, in particular painting, can be seen as a progressive narrative which progresses towards mimesis, or imitation. After the invention of the photograph, accurate imitation became less of a value, and the progressive virtue of this narrative became one of "shape, surface, pigment, and the like as defining painting in its purity." The climax of this ideology came in the great, flawed, critic Clement Greenberg's championing of the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock. But as abstract expressionism exhausted itself in the early sixties, one could no longer define art as a progressive narrative. To use Danto's example, one could no longer produce a theory of art which would disqualify Andy Warhol's Brillo Box as a work of art. Therefore, everything could be a work of art. "Art" or the old "artistic ideology" was dead. There is such a thing as art, says Danto, and there is an inherent essence in it, but it is vastly wider than the progressive development ideology that had previously existed.
At the same time, says Danto, one must take a historicist approach.
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Format: Paperback
In this valuable book, Danto is not speaking of the death of art as one might speak of the death of God. When he speaks of 'the end of art', he is speaking about the end of art history as we know it and have thought of it; the way of viewing art history that we were taught in 'The History of Western Art 101'.
"To say that history is over is to say that there is no longer a pale of history for works of art to fall outside of. Everything is possible. Anything can be art. And, because the present situation is essentially unstructured, one can no longer fit a master narrative to it....It inaugurates the greatest era of freedom art has ever known. (p.112)"
The history of art up to this point has been a history of exclusion, legitimizing and highlighting only certain works which fall within the pale of this narrative. Danto's point is that there is no longer a pale of history.
But it is possible, I believe, to see something even larger in Danto's analysis, something that would be interesting to pursue by someone with a good grasp of history and culture. One might see further into his thesis and find that the history of art has been one of an evolution of individuation. Starting from the Egyptians, where art was an umbrella covering the entire culture, a culture in which the individual was of little value, to our present age in which art has moved to the opposite extreme, no longer controled by anything or anybody (except perhaps the art industry itself), heralding a new stage ( about 1964 by Danto's reakoning) in the idividuation of the planet.
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Format: Paperback
As with many philo-critical texts written about art in the last 35 years, this text has been misread by reviewers. Arthur Danto does not say that art is dead. He says that reduction, narrow-mindedness, and the quest for singular RIGHT meaning is a pursuit of the past. He postulates a world where intellectual inquiry and object-making have more options for rigorous investigation because they are not limited by the strict parameters of historical precedents. This is not a call for a free-for all, but a formulation of the kind of flux-oriented, context-based practice that is particularly relevant in a techocratic, post-modern culture. This type of practice necessarily requires considerably more responsibility, as the practictioner must engage in defining the parameters of his or her practice and constantly pay attention to the way in which decisions affect decisions and so on and so on and so on.
I'm surprised at thoughtful reviewers hearing Danto say Art Is Dead. Did they read the introduction? This text is particularly clear and articulate (a hard-to-find phenomenon in contemporary theoretical texts on art). I found it difficult to MISunderstand.
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Format: Paperback
This is not intended as a general review because it's something more individualized. I am the artist who wrote the letter addressed in pp. 207-209, about which Professor Danto wrote, ". . . I have thought about enough to have wanted to build the last chapter of my text around it."

Imagine my surprise when, seeing a new book by Danto on the library shelf, I started sensing something that caused a sort of tremor inside, just in the wording here and there. Then I found it in Chapter 11, sure enough. What I'd like to do here is quote from the letter I sent him in response, which is too long to post here entirely.

<Dear Professor Danto,

"Painting Like Rembrandt" After the End of Art

With much appreciation I have read your recent philosophical discourse on the nature of art at the end of the 20th century, After the End of Art. It was delightful to find quotations from my June 1995 letter to you and that you thought it "a powerful communication, . . . about which [you] have thought enough to . . . build [the] last chapter of [your] text around it." (p. 209) Reading to the end, however, I realized that a misconstruing of my dilemma eventually led you to create the "the artist who learned to paint like Rembrandt [who] discovered that the world had no room for his gifts, which belonged to another period altogether," the tragic twin of Van Meegeren, the master of fake Vermeers (p. 217), and I am not entirely sure how this should be taken. Caricatures are usually reserved for public figures and not dissident artists whose work has rarely been seen so I probably should not call it that, though there is some confusion because of the close association between the ideas you seek to address and the man you describe.
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