perl on unto-itself-ness


Art, so it seems to me, represents the triumph of private feeling over public pressures, or at least the ability of private feeling to assert itself in the face of public pressures and public values. I would argue that true art is always characterized by its unto-itself-ness, its freestanding-ness, its independence. This is not to say that the arts are untouched by the rest of life, only that they are affected by it in their own fashion. I cannot insist too much on this point. It is certainly a marginal view at present, when most discussions about contemporary art tend to focus on the artist’s social and economic success. Artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons are famous for being famous, and what generally interests people about their work is not what they do but why the particular sort of thing that they do has found favor in the marketplace. Such questions, which keep journalists working overtime, are by no means regarded as merely journalistic. Contextualism has a great deal of intellectual cachet: in the past generation, the work of artists from Rembrandt to Picasso has been interpreted by some of the most widely respected art historians as fueled not by imaginative necessity but by market forces, and the argument goes far beyond the perfectly reasonable supposition that some artists have been savvy salesmen.

more from TNR here.