Thursday, November 22, 2012

In Madrid the great Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has just published a nonfiction work, "La Civilización del Espectáculo, in which he indicts the current deterioration of culture and the arts. "Culture, in the traditional sense of the world, is today on the verge of disappearing," he writes. "Or perhaps it has already disappeared, discreetly emptied of its content and replaced by another, denatured version of itself." 
Nowhere is this deterioration more glaringly evident than in the contemporary visual arts. Most of the work is intellectually undemanding, offering no access to the rich historical resources of art,  yet offering "fun" instead. If, paradoxically, it can be claimed that the work offers an incisive critique of capitalism and consumerism, that is fine--provided one need only reflect for 30 seconds or so on the lessons ostensibly conveyed. 
The Pied Piper of Hamlin in this realm is Andy Warhol. A current exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art documents the influence of this malign magus on sixty other artists in the last half century. Influence to be sure, but to what end? Actually, the reductio ad absurdum of the tendency excoriated by Vargas Llosa is occurring at another NYC institution, the Museum of Modern Art.


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