PRINT November 1965

How to Murder an Avant-Garde

Artists, in a frontier society like ours, are like cockroaches in kitchens—not wanted, not encouraged, but nevertheless they remain.

—John Sloan, The Gist of Art, 1939

You have been asked to come not because you are the greatest artists of the land, although in the judgment of those who made up this guest list, you may have been.

—Lyndon B. Johnson, White House Festival of the Arts, 1965

THIS SUMMER IN NEW YORK, several museum exhibitions raised crucial questions about the way in which American art is currently interpreted. How they dealt with it is a painful reminder of what the American artist has had to endure, not from hostile critics or official academies, but from the friendly museums created to enshrine and celebrate his art. And, as the old joke goes, with friends like that, you don’t need any enemies.

The most ambitious of these exhibitions was the Metropolitan Museum’s survey “300

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