Arthur C. Danto

  • Arthur C. Danto

    I HAVE BEEN STRUCK by how often those who have written about Cy Twombly expressed regret that they had never met him. Since I had the singular good fortune to have been Cy’s guest in Italy in 1996, two years after the tremendous retrospective organized by Kirk Varnedoe at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it occurred to me that there must be a general interest in knowing how he lived and what he was like. Cy was not an easy man to get to know, but once I made it past the barriers of his somewhat princely personality, he got to be a friend. I have never kept a diary and am at an age to forget

  • Arakawa

    THE ARTIST AND VISIONARY ARCHITECT Shusaku Arakawa, known by his surname alone, was in his mid-twenties when he left Japan, under some kind of cloud, in 1961. Legend has it that he arrived in New York with fourteen dollars and Marcel Duchamp’s phone number in his pocket. The following year he met Madeline Gins, a Barnard College graduate, in the art classes both were taking in Brooklyn, he to satisfy some visa condition, though he was already exhibiting his work. They became a couple almost immediately, and collaborators as well, soon embarking together upon their best-known artwork, The Mechanism

  • Thomas Hoving

    THOMAS HOVING’S DOUBLE LIFE, as art historian and arts administrator, was in both its dimensions driven by much the same set of obsessions—a passion for beauty in its most flamboyant artistic embodiments, and an insatiable lust for the publicity that went with celebrity. These qualities prompted a number of decisions that laid the groundwork of the museum as we know it today. And this was perhaps the true crowning achievement of his famous tenure as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, from March 1967 until June 1977.

    The history of Hoving’s acquisitions for the institution,

  • film February 23, 2009

    Walk the Talk

    THE PRESS RELEASE for Astra Taylor’s documentary Examined Life (2009) describes it as a film that “pulls philosophy out of academic journals and classrooms, and puts it back on the streets.” Most of the philosophers it features are beyond question among the brightest stars of the discipline, but the philosophy each professes belongs as much to the streets as to the classroom, which would not be true of what their colleagues for the most part teach—the technical canon of epistemology and logical analysis or the disciplines of metaphysics and philosophical psychology. The basis of their fame lies




    The financial crisis of fall 2008 is one symptom of a transition in the nature and form of global order. The most important question this transition raises is what new possibilities it is opening up; but before asking that, one has to understand also what the transition is closing down. Two of the best books I have read in the past year, Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century (Verso) and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Picador),

  • the student revolt at Columbia University

    I OFTEN THOUGHT, in the years that followed the great student uprising at Columbia in late April 1968, of the singular political inventiveness that shaped the event. It defined the form student uprisings were to take on campuses all across the country, almost as if a script had been pasted together in the heat of social action that was reenacted, year after year, as a kind of political drama, adaptable to local circumstance but essentially the same. The occupation of university buildings, the list of nonnegotiable demands, the Ad Hoc Faculty Group, the Radical Caucus, the armbands and

  • Steven Holl

    UNTIL LAST MARCH, the main offices of New York University’s philosophy department looked out over Washington Square Park from the fifth floor of a building on the park’s east side. It is at once a tribute to the popularity of the discipline and to the excellence of NYU’s philosophers that the department had over the years outgrown this ideal location; philosophers were housed in three separate locations around the campus. This state of affairs was felt to be unsatisfactory, in part, surely, for administrative reasons, but mainly for reasons connected with the spirit of philosophical communities




    I turned to Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume I (edited by Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg; Stanford University Press) in connection with my attempts to look differently at what is made of thinking (and writing) in the art of Hanne Darboven, whose work has often been regarded (to my mind erroneously, or mostly erroneously) as an instance of “Conceptual art.” Psyche—which comprises translations of the first sixteen essays from a volume of Jacques Derrida’s writing that originally appeared

  • T. J. Clark

    IN HIS PREFACE to Painting as an Art (1987), the philosopher Richard Wollheim described a somewhat unusual way of looking at paintings which he found both “massively time consuming and deeply rewarding”:

    I came to recognize that it often took the first hour or so in front of a painting for stray associations or motivated misperceptions to settle down, and it was only then, with the same amount of time or more to spend looking at it, that the picture could be relied upon to disclose itself as it was. I spent long hours in the church of San Salvatore in Venice, in the Louvre, in the Guggenheim

  • the best books of the year

    Twelve scholars, critics, and artists choose the year's outstanding titles.


    A book like Alastair Wright’s Matisse and the Subject of Modernism (Princeton University Press) is enough to rekindle my faith in the future of art history as a discipline. (Here I could also mention two other such rare pearls from 2005: Maria Gough’s The Artist as Producer: Russian Constructivism in Revolution [University of California Press] and Christina Kiaer’s Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism [MIT Press]). The first amazing trait of Wright’s book is that it manages

  • “Uncertain States of America”

    The aim of this exceedingly ambitious exhibition is to furnish some sense of what is the best American art currently produced by its youngest emerging artists. The director of the Astrup Fearnley Museum, Gunnar B. Kvaran, in collaboration with two widely esteemed European curators (and Artforum contributing editors)—Daniel Birnbaum and Hans-Ulrich Obrist—made several trips to visit studios in the United States, choosing pieces by artists who are little known abroad, though many are represented by enterprising galleries in New York and elsewhere. It would reveal, I imagine, more about

  • Jörg Immendorff

    Jörg Immendorff, long considered Germany’s foremost political artist, has designed a playful architectural complex—a freestanding wall and six pavilions, connected by walkways, all painted stoplight red—for the upper gallery of Mies’s glass museum. The installation conceptually references Immendorff’s Lidl village of the late ’60s, a kind of Fluxus commune conceived when he was an anti-art art student of Joseph Beuys. But this new “red city,” with its emblematic detached wall, doubtless refers to the failed dream of an all-red unified Germany. Each

  • Arthur C. Danto

    Susan Sontag was, like Oscar Wilde, an aesthetician hero. They both lived by the code of Puccini’s Tosca: “Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore” (I lived for art, I lived for love). In one of her earlier pieces for the then-new New York Review of Books, she classified writers as husbands or lovers—steady as opposed to dangerous, providers of emotional stability in contrast to engines of unpredictable ecstasy. The piece, as I remember it, was about Camus. By her criteria she was herself a lover rather than a wife, addressing dangerous topics like pornography in edgy ways rather than building a systematic


    Critic, activist, novelist, filmmaker, Susan Sontag exceeded even that elastic and amorphous category of “public intellectual” so often linked to her name. To mark Sontag’s passing last December at the age of seventy-one, Artforum asked ARTHUR C. DANTO, HAL FOSTER, ABIGAIL SOLOMON-GODEAU, and WAYNE KOESTENBAUM to reflect on her achievements and legacy, which challenge us to reconsider the role of the critic today.

  • the best books of the year


    Arthur C. Danto

    The title of Joseph Leo Koerner’s extraordinary study The Reformation of the Image (University of Chicago Press) refers to the way Martin Luther “reformed” religious pictures to make them consistent with the Second Commandment, thus protecting them against the wave of iconoclasm that swept Protestant churches in the early sixteenth century. Luther’s remedy consisted in treating images

  • American Self-Consciousness in Politics and Art

    WITH THE GLOBALIZATION OF THE ART world, national differences among artists have grown increasingly marginal. There is little to distinguish American art from the rest in the growing list of intercontinental art fairs and biennials. At the same time, “American art,” however defined, is widely assumed to reveal something of the inner life of America as it changes over time. So there is a value in an exhibition such as the Whitney Biennial, which is largely restricted to American artists, since it may, at two-year intervals, tell us something worth knowing about where we are as a culture. During

  • Francisco de Goya

    IT IS AN ART HISTORY 101 TRUISM that Francisco de Goya is the Father of Modern Painting, and a truth of art history that later painters, in fact associated with modernism as a style, acknowledge him as an influence. But one may stand in a paternal relationship to modernists without being modern oneself—after all, Velázquez inspired Manet without anyone caring to push the origins of modernism back to the time of Philip IV. And Goya’s philosophy of painting stands far closer to Velázquez and Rembrandt than to Manet. Dark and light, for example, carry a moral, if not metaphysical, meaning in his

  • the best books of 2003


    Though photography was first believed to entail the death of painting, early photographs presented viewers with a dead world: Objects could be rendered with clarity only under the conditions of nature morte. Unlike paintings, which were able to depict the fact that, say, horses were in motion, the camera could capture animals only when immobile. Eadweard Muybridge’s achievement in 1872—thirty-three years after photography’s invention—was to bring the new medium abreast of painting by depicting the fact that a live horse was in motion. Muybridge had taken an important

  • 1989: The Removal of Tilted Arc

    BY THE TIME RICHARD SERRA’S Tilted Arc was lifted from Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan in March 1989, the controversy over its existence had spanned a decade. Discussions sparked by the 120-foot-long curved steel wall started even before its installation in 1981 and caused a detectable shift in attitude among artists, curators, and their audiences about the responsibility of public art to the public for whose benefit it is ostensibly intended.

    Though the debate continues to this day, at the time the nature of that benefit had certainly been inadequately canvassed. The placement of art in the


    Few funerals have been as indecorous as the one held for painting in the early ’80s. Was the deceased truly dead, and, if so, in whose name could the death certificate be signed? Or was this a burial without a corpse, another instance of the ritual interments that seemed to recur throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as Arthur C. Danto suggests in his keynote statement? Artforum convened the roundtable that follows to offer our own reexamination of the Death of Painting debate and its legacy throughout the decade. In the April issue, a second group led by Robert Storr considers the afterlife of painting in the ’80s and beyond.

    In recalling a period of severe depression he underwent in the “melancholy winter of 1826–27,” John Stuart Mill wrote, in a famous passage of his autobiography, that he had been “seriously tormented by the thought of the exhaustibility of musical combinations.” Sooner or later, all the possibilities would have been used up, and music would be over with. There was no sense in Mill that this had already taken place, but the thought that it could or would deepened his distress. No composer of Mill’s time had, for instance, presented monotone works—a single note sustained for a substantial interval—nor