The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art

The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art

The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art

The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art

Synopsis

"A century ago, beauty was almost unanimously considered the supreme purpose of art and even synonymous with artistic excellence. Yet today beauty has come to be viewed as an aesthetic crime. Artists are now chastised by critics if their works seem to aim at beauty. In the last few years, however, some artists, critics, and curators have begun to give beauty another look. The resulting discussion is often confused, with arts pundits sometimes seeing beauty as a betrayal of the artist's authentic role, other times working hard to find beauty in the apparently grotesque or disgusting. Leading art critic and philosopher Arthur Danto here explains how the anti-beauty revolution was hatched, and how the modernist avantgarde dislodged beauty from its throne. Danto argues that the modernists were right to deny that beauty is vital to art, but also that beauty is essential to human life and need not always be excluded from art." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

It is a curious fact that while my philosophy of art aspires to the kind of timelessness at which philosophy in general aims, it is so much the product of its historical moment that it can easily be considered to have relevance chiefly to the art that occasioned it. The art itself was the product of various avant-garde art movements of the early 1960s, mainly in and around New York City. Most of the art, moreover, could hardly have been made at a much earlier date. Consider the celebrated Brillo Box of Andy Warhol, which has figured so prominently in my thought and writing. It was made and exhibited in 1964, and appropriated the format of a commercial shipping carton, which pre-existed it for little more than a year. The designer of that carton, himself an artist, drew upon stylistic paradigms from contemporary abstract painting. “Brillo” itself was the name of a recently invented soap-pad, held to be particularly effective in brightening aluminum ware. It had only a few years earlier been introduced to the American market. Brillo Box could hardly have pre-dated what gave it its meaning. It is possible to imagine that an object could have made a century earlier, which resembled it exactly, though it could not have drawn upon the associated meanings that gave life to Brillo Box as a work of art. Not merely could the same object not have been the same work of art it was in 1964, it is difficult to see how, in 1864, it could have been a work of art at all. It was difficult enough even in 1964 for many to accept it as art, but by then space had opened up for at least a certain segment of the art world to accept it as art without hesitation. And the question that initially concerned me as a philosopher was what made it possible for something to be a work of art at a given historical moment when it could not have had that status at a much earlier one. At the very least this raised the issue, at the most general philosophical level, of what its historical situation contributes to an object's status as art.

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