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MAX BECKMANN IS STILL IN EXILE

WHY WAS THE GREAT Max Beckmann retrospective not seen in any New York museum.1 A simple, unsupported conjecture became irresistible to me as I studied the exhibition in its no-nonsense installation at the Saint Louis Art Museum: that Beckmann’s art is just too violently sincere and too fully realized not to have embarrassed those New York curators, dealers, and critics who have indiscriminately presented and oversold so much neo-Expressionist “Bad” painting recently. Beckmann’s best pictures, which shame pastiche and easy irony, blow the quotation marks right off the “Bad” in “‘Bad’ painting.” Anyone who saw the late Picassos at the Guggenheim Museum in New York last spring will have sensed the same type of threat as the one that Beckmann’s art poses to the fashion in current paintings for false, self-serving mystery. Beckmann’s mature pictures, like Picasso’s, are astonishing reminders

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