PRINT April 1992


Whether artists produce or rich people die, whatever happens is good for the museums. Like casinos, they cannot lose, and that is their curse. For people become hopelessly lost in the galleries, isolated in the midst of so much art. The only other possible reaction to this situation is the one which Valéry sees as the general, ominous result of any and all progress in the domination of material—increasing superficiality. Art becomes a matter of education and information; Venus becomes a document. Education defeats art.
—Theodor W. Adorno, “Valéry Proust Museum,” 1967

When Billy Graham once strolled with him through the Eden of the Magic Kingdom, the evangelist congratulated Walt on having built such a marvelous garden of fantasy. “This is the real world here,” Walt sternly replied. “The fantasy world is outside.”
Disney World: 20 Years of Magic, 1991

TO SAY THAT AN ARTWORK has been shown or bought by a museum still affords it enormous cachet, despite the fact that the museum has been discredited as a mausoleum.1 “Museum quality” still seems the correct model of value, for even the most ideologically correct art wants to cash in at the casino. The point of the recent “Dislocations” show, for example, is its location in the prestigious Museum of Modern Art in New York, not the ostensibly subversive effect of the art on display there. For art’s quasi-revolutionary power to disturb and disrupt consciousness is, in fact, neutralized and reified by being given the imprimatur of the museum’s authority. The irony and pathos of art’s museum destiny were recognized long ago by Paul Gauguin, who in 1895 wrote that “in art there are only two types of people: revolutionaries and plagiarists. And, in the end, doesn’t the revolutionary’s work become official, once the State takes it over?”2 To become official is a kind of living death: “Courier’s words are still true: ‘What the State encourages languishes, what it protects dies.’”3 Gauguin was alluding to the state museum, the Louvre. But every museum, whether carrying the authority of the state or not (and what museum today is not state supported, however indirectly?), seems to function like a little principality—a sort of Monaco.

What Gauguin missed was the fact that even the most would-be-revolutionary art, as eager to reeducate us as any commissar, longs for a safe haven in a museum. When it has lost favor in the eyes of the world it was made for, it looks for favor in the eyes of posterity, which is represented by the museum. Art identifies with the museum as the site of immortality, for it is the institution that is immortal, not the art. Art knows that its “afterlife” depends upon its institutionalization, which is why, for all the artist’s protestations to the contrary, he or she is hardly loathe to be institutionalized. Even Gauguin, for all his independence, tried to manipulate his way to official success. Indeed, today’s museums are veritable “salons of independents.”

Every artwork, then, is produced with an eye to the imaginary, ideal audience of posterity. This fantasy audience is necessarily the museum audience, for it is here that art will live after the artist’s death. Here it will be taken at face value, loved for itself and unchallenged, as if by an eternally good, caring, uncritical parent, shown off to the future, which, in the artist’s museum fantasy, is a kindly mirror saying his or her art is the fairest of them all. Thus the museum is not only the madonna of the pietà, the madonna in whose all caring arms art dies the way Leonardo da Vinci apocryphally died in the arms of Francis I (the state), but also the madonna of the Nativity—or, more precisely, the madonna of the second birth. The museum is a much more magical, dialectical place than Adorno thought. It cannot automatically be damned as a cemetery wherein art is necessarily reified and neutralized. Art may, in fact, be reprocessed by the institution, be born again as a spiritual phenomenon superior to its mere material existence in its premuseum life.

The museum is thus not so much a tomb as a perverse fountain of youth. Accepted for membership in the exclusive club of the museum, an artwork can lead a glamorous life that makes the life it had before it joined the club pale in comparison. Or else it finds that it doesn’t fit in, and dies in mortification at not living up to expectations. Seen in the museum, an artwork seems either more significant than it ever seemed before or completely insignificant. It is either a devotional object of communion—a sacred relic able to perform emotional miracles if prayed to with the proper respect—or a bone in the desert.

The museum audience, however intellectually sophisticated, unconsciously makes snap emotional judgments about art, deciding its fate in what might seem like a peculiarly gratuitous, peremptory way. For the audience has waited a long time to be, at last, alone with the art in the museum, far from the rough and tumble of the everyday world. Indeed, the goal is to enter into a peculiarly unreflective, yet intense and consummate, relationship with the art object. The theory supporting art demands delayed gratification from it; now, self-conscious in its supposedly rightful place in the museum, that art had better put up emotionally or shut up.

The expected rewards are great. If the museum audience can internalize art as an ideal phenomenon—a perfect thing in an imperfect world—that mirrors its unconscious belief in its own inner ideality or perfection, it will have all the archaic emotional satisfaction it ever wanted. (Interestingly enough, the artist also uses art as a narcissistic vehicle—as an objectification and symbolization of his or her own imagined perfection.) It is art’s function as narcissistic fuel for the audience, and as narcissistic projection for the artist, that gives it archaic vitality, making it seem a fountain of emotional youth. To use Adorno’s phrase, rejuvenation is the real “promesse du bonheur” of art.4 Narcissism expresses itself most profoundly in the unconscious—and not so unconscious—wish for eternal life, and the museum, as the place where the immortality of art is trumpeted, is presumably the place one can expect this wish to be satisfied, at least in fantasy.

The museum, then, is the place socially set apart for the profoundly intimate relationship—transaction—between artist and audience. The art is the medium between them, as Marcel Duchamp emphasized. The museum is really as private a place as any bedroom, and the stakes in it are higher: the audience’s gamble on the immortality of the artist, which it wants to share—even identify with. The rendezvous between audience and artist may or may not work out, depending on the depth of the narcissistic expectations each has of the other. Does the artist make universal claims—does he or she need to be mirrored and idealized by everyone? Or is the artist for the happy few who truly understand his or her sense of entitlement and inward perfection—who are as narcissistically extravagant and self-privileging as the artist? If the reciprocity between audience and artist is good, they appear to merge seamlessly—appear made for each other. if it isn’t, they go their separate emotional ways.

But what Duchamp called “the pole of the viewer” has the last word. Indeed, he thought the audience was ultimately more to the point of art than the so-called art object.5 For him, if the audience thought an object was “art” then its producer was an artist: one is only nominally an artist until the audience thinks one is. Extending Duchamp’s argument, one can say that unless the object satisfies the audience’s unconscious narcissistic needs it will not be experienced as immortal. Indeed, it will become a kind of grasshopper, mirroring the fate of the unfortunate woman of Greek mythology who, granted her wish for immortality, forgot to ask for the vitality to go with it. She dwindled away, never quite dying, and, as such, truly experienced a living death. Museums are plagued with many such objects, or “object-locusts,” to use a more apt term.

Of course, the audience’s fickleness is notorious. People are not lost and isolated in museums, as Adorno thought, but wander around in dissatisfaction, looking for the next art fix—a new art they can fixate on. They look lost and isolated because they are between infatuations. Museum priests assume that some art is inherently more important—magical—than other art, but just in case the audience doesn’t appreciate it, they keep other art around. Legions of artists, generation after generation, relentlessly work to satisfy their own and the audience’s narcissism. They may never quite get it right, yet they are condemned to make every creative effort, or the museum would have to close its doors and artists would go out of business.

While art’s narcissistic importance has been recognized,6 the fact that the wish for immortality includes the wish to be vital forever has not. Satisfaction of the wish for everlasting vitality is necessarily hallucinatory—no society or individual lasts forever, and both lose vitality before they die—and the museum is the hallucinatory scene of its satisfaction. Art remains attractive as long as the illusion of immortality lasts. Since the unconscious has no idea of death, this may be a long time. But sooner or later one becomes wide awake in conscious recognition of the reality of death. The bubble of the illusion bursts, and the futility of both art and the museum becomes transparent. Of course, some people—esthetes?—never wake up. They die unconsciously believing that they and the art they identify with are immortal, especially because the art is of museum quality. The pleasure principle has won out over the reality principle in their inner life. Most people, however, cannot afford not to awaken. Their survival in the world and individuation depend on it.

THE MUSEUM MAY OR MAY NOT work magic in the relationship between the artist and audience, but it always works magic on the art object. As Adorno says, the museum turns it into an educational document. The question is whether this trivializes it, as he thought, or whether it can make it more profound, as I think. The object is never what it seems to be, but is always more superficial or more profound—under- or overestimated—for it has no necessary, fixed identity in the audience’s eyes. It is only as a public document that the object has a fixed, necessary identity, indeed, becomes “art,” transcending its seemingly inescapable narcissistic function. (Some snobbish audiences prefer their narcissistic pleasure the hard, masochistic way, so they let themselves be emotionally victimized by profound “avant-garde” objects. Others prefer easy, fast pleasure, enjoying superficial “kitsch” objects. But, of course, what is profound to one person will be superficial to another, and vice versa. It is rare to find an individual equally satisfied by profound and superficial objects—the optimal state of emotional grace, that is, narcissistic balance. And it is equally rare to find an object that remains profound or superficial—strictly avant-garde or strictly kitsch—forever.)

No doubt, once in the museum, the art object becomes superior capitalist material or property—this is what, in ironical parlance, it means to be of “museum quality”—and is thus allowed the privilege of dominance (with imagined immortality the ultimate category). Material dominance means to be elevated into an idol for posterity, or to become an object of supposedly everlasting interest. Material dominance means that the media gatekeepers open their pearly gates to admit the art into their informational and opinionated heaven—that other magic kingdom. But, in both cases, the artwork is turned into an educational document. And it is the immortality of the art document that is at stake in the museum, not the immortality of the art object. In fact, it is only as document that art can be immortal. Indeed, the “documentation” of the object is an attempt to stabilize its identity in time so that it can be self-identical for all time. Lifted out of process by documentation, it seems eternally real, and as such true and immortal—museum-quality art. But the question is: What is the eternal truth of immortal art? And more particularly: What is the right way of documenting the art object? What kind of document is it anyway? The answers depend on what the art document is supposed to educate us to. The very definition and dominance of the museum depends on its interpretation of the educational mission of art.

The museum world is not of one mind about this matter. In fact, there are at least two schools of thought about the nature of the education art gives us. One is exemplified by Harald Szeemann, free-lance exhibition curator at the Kunsthaus Zurich. Art, he writes, must be assessed “by its mastery and/or freedom of expression. . . . It may be a constantly renewed encounter between inner nature—always active, saturated with images and destinies—and outer surrounding nature which synchronously becomes a sediment.”7 Thus “art is at its best when it is a concentrated essence of life, imagination and dream and of the audacities, weaknesses, the fears and the desires of human beings and their goals. . . . Art’s creations are a synthesis of body, soul, heart and eros.”8 The other way of thinking is exemplified by Robert Storr, curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He describes himself as “representing the underdog,” because the underdog is “where the action is.”9 There is clearly an enormous distance between Szeemann’s dense, enigmatic language—as much an “enigmatic display of being” as art10—and Storr’s journalistically thin, sloganeering language. But more crucial is the unbridgeable difference between Szeemann’s conception of art as a dialectically rich matrix of internal and external worlds and Storr’s one-dimensional conception of art as a site of the oppositional—the social space where the difference between the action of the rebellious underdog and the comfortable passivity of the establishment top dog is disclosed.

Storr’s advocacy of the underdog against the top dog shows the prejudicial character of his hierarchical division of the art world, which is intended to be emblematic of the basic class division of Western society. But is it? There is, in fact, a simplistic Solomonic wisdom in Storr’s separation of artists into top dogs and underdogs (also insiders/outsiders).11 It is implicitly modeled on the Cartesian mind/body distinction, or, more pointedly, the distinction between the mind’s higher effete intellectual functions and the body’s lower “instinctive” ones. But is the “action” really more in one place than in the other? Is the one really more necessary and authentic than and thus preferable to the other? Who determines which “action” is more legitimate? Both sides suffer from Storr’s facile, obsolete, nondialectical distinction.

In fact, the locus of Storr’s distinction is the museum. Art already institutionalized is top dog, art uninstitutionalized is underdog. Narcissistically—almost solipsistically—Storr thinks the institution he works for is the arbiter of artistic significance. In practice this means that art is de facto significant if it is shown in and/or owned by the museum. But Storr wants it both ways: he wants to straddle the establishment and non-establishment worlds, playing off each against the other. He is in incomplete revolt against both. In practice, his only sense of an artwork’s significance is its standing vis-à-vis the museum, the presumed essence and center of the art world, the very lever that moves it. Storr wants to bring the underdogs into the museum, in rebellion against the top dogs. But brought into the museum, the underdogs become top dogs, by the museum’s self-definition as the pinnacle of the art world—of more sublime importance than any art gallery or art magazine or art school. Storr is compelled to scramble for new underdogs to sustain his revolt. But what is it a revolt against? In fact, it is not a true revolt, because it never questions the museum’s claim to be the sacred space of true significance. Storr is trapped in the vicious circle of the museum’s conceit. In a sense, all he is doing is feeding the museum lion fresh artistic fodder, so that it will never die of boredom. Since there are always more underdogs than top dogs, by reason of the museum’s exclusivity, Storr can play turnstile forever. Access is always limited, and many artists just never have the right change to get in.

It is worth noting that however inadequate, even hollow, the top dog/underdog distinction might be, it persists as a criterion of significance in the American museum, suggesting that the American curator cannot understand art outside the museum context. There might seem to be evidence to the contrary: for example, David Ross’ advocacy of video as quintessentially of the zeitgeist, Kirk Varnedoe’s conception of avant-garde art as a “fine disregard” for the existing rules of the art game, and Storr’s own interest in the “encounter between the subjectivity of the creator and the objectivity of material reality.”12 But the fact of the matter is that video becomes emblematic of the “real time” of the zeitgeist because it stands in opposition to the unreal time—timeless spirit—of the museum; the existing codes of art are maintained and enforced by the museum; and it is the museum that “objectively” and “subjectively” defines what material will be considered art. Ross, Varnedoe, and Storr, as museum curators, want no doubt to indicate that the museum will catch up with actual “art” practice—open its doors to the different new objects proposing themselves as art—but the closed system of the museum is implicitly their point of departure and their touchstone. The museum may not be hermetically sealed, but it is closed in that it thinks that the art in it is objectively significant.

It is precisely when an art object does not seem to measure up to the standards of objective significance, and thus seems opposed to the very idea of the museum, that it becomes of interest to it. For the museum, as understood by Storr, this threatening opposition is the real reason the art is “different.” The other likely reason, what Szeemann describes as the artwork’s life-world significance (which is different in kind from that of the art already preserved in the museum), is understood as less important. The threat represented by the opposition must be dealt with—and the best way of doing so, after a decorous interval symbolizing the museum’s support of the art already in it, is to accept the “revolutionarily” different art into the museum, later rationalizing it as far from different, that is, as an evolutionary step in the history of art.13 The fact that “the art of our contemporaries has no precise history,” as Rudi Fuchs says, and that the museum’s attempt to give it one denies the dialectical journey in which it really participates,14 suggests that the museum offers a false consciousness of contemporary art. It tends to view an alien art defensively through an idealized vision of art’s overall history, that is, one that forces it into a linear procrustean bed, when it is, in fact, as Robert Smithson said, “a sprawling development,” like nature.15 Forced into historical place, the new art loses its threatening alienness; it seems, after all, to be playing by the rules, including the avant-garde rule of breaking the rules. That authentically different art couldn’t care less about the museum and the rules of past art—that its struggle is to effect the expressive synthesis of inner and outer worlds, as Szeemann remarks, and that it will survive as art if it becomes their concentrated essence, independently of the museum and the art in it—never occurs to the museum.

The distinction between Szeemann’s sense of art, which carries it beyond the museum, and Storr’s sense of art, which trivializes it into a museum phenomenon, is implicitly a distinction between European and American attitudes to art. It is a distinction embedded in Adorno’s account of the difference between Valéry’s and Proust’s attitudes to art, and how these reflect what the experience of art in a museum can be. Valéry’s “own attitude, the elevation of art to idolatry, did in fact contribute to the process of reification and dilapidation which, according to Valéry’s accusation, art undergoes in museums. For it is only in the museum, where paintings are offered for contemplation as ends in themselves, that they become as absolute as Valéry desired, and he shrinks back in terror from the realization of his dream. Proust knows the cure for this. In a sense works return home when they become elements of the observer’s subjective stream of consciousness. Thus they renounce [the] cultic prerogative” they have in the museum.16 The American curator—a kind of vulgarized Valéryan—tends to invest art with the objective necessity the museum is supposed to occupy as the place of art’s manifest destiny. Through the idolatry of art—presenting works of art as cult objects—the museum contemplates its own absolute authority. Testifying to that authority, art obtains its own and becomes as tautologically indispensable as the museum believes itself to be. At the same time, it is flattened into one-dimensionality.

The European curator—a sophisticated Proustian—tends to give art the subjective necessity that the individual has. This provides it with a kind of “roundedness,” to allude to E. M. Forster’s distinction between flat and round characters. Szeemann’s work of art is in fact a microcosm of the tensions—audacity/weakness, desire/fear, body/soul—that constitute human freedom, cryptically encoded in artifactual form. The curator decodes them through their effect on his or her own subjectivity. Of course, as Adorno says of Proust, this “overestimates the act of freedom in art, as would an amateur,”17 as well as the curator’s own subjective freedom in responding to it. The subjective stream of consciousness takes objective historical form, just as the museum’s objective historical form represses subjectivity, diluting and reducing it to a trace mineral in art.18

Nonetheless, the European curator attempts to prevent the facile reconciliation of objective museum and subjective art, maintaining that impossibility by emphasizing the museum as the viewer’s rather than the object’s space. As Jean-Christophe Ammann, director of the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt-am-Main, writes, “A work of art, though traditionally an artifact placed in an environment. . . must seek the opposite of this and address the spectator’s perception.”19 Amman and Szeemann, two of the organizers of Documenta 5, in 1972, conceived of the exhibition as a forum for discourse, as its subtitle, “Questioning Reality—Image–worlds today,” suggested. Indeed, the critic Jürgen Harten thought that the show would become “some kind of theory-crazed rampage against the established artist-collector-public set-up.”20 The point was to bring canonical conceptualizations of art into question as well as to challenge the idea that any of the art exhibited was itself canonical. This spirit of discourse, implicating the viewer in a marathon of ideas, is maintained by Jan Hoet, the organizer of Documenta 9, which will open in June 1992. As Hoet says of the relationship between museum and audience, “We must come into a discussion, into a dialogue. A verbal dialogue regarding the things placed there just to look at.” 21

There is an attempt by the European curator to use the museum space to emphasize the irreconcilability of art with itself—that is, to present contradictory kinds of art. There is no endeavor, as in the American museum, to resolve artistic differences in a grand panoramic spectacle. Fuchs, for example, describes his philosophy of presentation as one of “combination and encounter,” in which works are hung in such a way “that they are continually influenced by others nearby.” The individual work is no more than a fragment, “in that in a different environment it receives new significance.”22 For Szeemann, the curatorial “act of choice” is, of necessity, self-contradictory.23 Thus he tends to run concurrent exhibitions, in 1967, for example, simultaneously showing Pierre Bonnard’s paintings with imagery related to science fiction, and Alfred Jarry’s “Pataphysics” with work from the contemporary Zurich art scene. Hoet has perhaps the most radical conception of the museum, as his 1986 “Chambres d’Amis” show suggests. The exhibition, in which 58 Ghent families opened their homes to 50 artists, in effect disseminated the museum, and the museum itself became a work of art—a genuine installation.

The European curator’s principle of irreconcilability in exhibition—the creation of a space that becomes a play of conflicting artistic forces, making both sides seem equally dissident, and implying that they are equally valid parallel lines that can meet only in the viewer’s imagination—reaffirms the museum as a place where discontinuity and difference rather than continuity and sameness are disclosed. Thus, the European museum denies a common immortality for art, and in so doing frustrates the audience’s wish for immortality. By demonstrating the unresolved tensions within art, it forces the audience back upon the real contradictions in its own life.

Donald Kuspit is Professor of Art History and Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Andrew Dixon White Professor at Large at Cornell University. His forthcoming book is entitled The Dialectic of Decadence.

I am grateful to Amy Schichtel and Carol Schwartz for their research and ideas. They are not responsible for my use of them.



1. Theodor W. Adorno, in “Valéry Proust Museum.” Prisms, trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber. Cambridge. Mass.: MIT Press. 1983. p. 175, notes that “museum and mausoleum are connected by more than phonetic association. Museums are like the family sepulchres of works of art. They testify to the neutralization of culture. Art treasures are hoarded in them, and their market value leaves no room for the pleasure of looking at them.”
2. Paul Gauguin, The Writings of a Savage, ed. Daniel Guérin, New York: Viking Press, 1977. p. 107.
3. Ibid., p. 32.
4. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1970. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1984. p. 17. writes: “Art’s promesse du bonheur, then, has an even more emphatically critical meaning: it not only expresses the idea that current praxis denies happiness, but also carries the connotation that happiness is something beyond praxis.”
5. Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, trans. Ron Padgett. New York: Viking Press. 1971, p. 70.
6. Otto Rank, Art and Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 1989. pp. 43–47, for example, understands art as “the will-to-self-immortalization. which rises from the fear of life” and serves the wish for “collective immortality.”
7. Harald Szeemann, “Cy Twombly: An Appreciation.” Cy Twombly: Paintings, Works on Paper, Sculpture, Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1967. p. 9.
8. Ibid.
9. Quoted in Nicholas Jenkins, “Robert Storr: Switch-Hitter,” Artnews 90 no. 2. February 1991, p. 63.
10. Leo Bersani, The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art, New York: Columbia University Press. 1986. pp. 26–27.
11. Robert Storr, Philip Guston. New York: Abbeville Press. 1986, p. 95, argues that the reason artists such as Guston become “consummate insiders” is because they were true to themselves, but he does not define what that means. What it seems to mean is that, like Elizabeth Murray, they refuse “to walk the walk or talk the talk of ‘high style’ vanguardism,” which “cost [Murray] full recognition.” Storr, “Shape Shifter,” Art in America 77 no. 4, April 1989, p. 212. For Storr. “‘high style’ vanguardism” seems to be identified with esthetic pleasure, which he believes artists as diverse as Francesco Clemente, Jim Dine, R.J. Kitaj, and Pablo Picasso dead-end in. See Storr, “Realm of the Senses.” Art in America 75 no. November 1987, pp. 132–44. 194. I suggest that Storr is unable to appreciate esthetic pleasure not only because he sees no “action” in it, but because he cannot comprehend that art, whatever else it may be, is, as Friedrich Nietzsche writes, “essentially affirmation, blessing, deification of existence.” felt as esthetic pleasure. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, New York: Vintage, 1968, p. 434.
12. David Ross, currently the director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, was the first curator of video art (at the Everson Museum, in Syracuse, New York). Esthetics are less an issue for him than the presumed “radicality” of the alternative medium. See Rene Becker. “Mr. Lucky.” Boston Magazine 80 no. 6. June 1988, p. 209.
Kirk Varnedoe, in A Fine Disregard: What Makes Modern Art Modern. New York: Harry N. Abrams. 1990, p. 9. describes the avant-garde artist in terms of the metaphor of the creator of the spirit of rugby. “who with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it.” The key point is that the “fine disregard”—a term that suggests disdain—became objectified as the rule of a new game. The whole notion of avant-garde innovation as a “fine disregard” falsifies the anxiety and uncertainty—the desperate search for a new ground of art and self—implicit in it.
Storr, quoted in Jenkins, p. 64.
13. Varnedoe’s use, in A Fine Disregard, of Roland Barthes’ notion of play—rather poorly developed by Barthes in view of D. W. Winnicott’s conceptualization of it—supposedly represents a departure from the traditional formalist evolutionary approach of MoMA’s curators. However, his approach tends to remain morphological, as in the 1983 “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art” exhibition. As such, he is subject to the same criticism Meyer Schapiro made of Alfred M. Barr’s account of the emergence of abstract art: “No connection is drawn between the art and the conditions of the moment. He excludes as irrelevant to its history the nature of the society in which it arose, except as an incidental obstructing or accelerating atmospheric factor. The history of modern art is presented as an internal, immanent process among the artists; abstract art arises because, as the author says, representational art has been exhausted.” Or, as Varnedoe puts it, someone arbitrarily decided to break the rules—in, of course, a gentlemanly, formal way—of the existing art game. Varnedoe’s mechanistic old rule/new rule theory can be criticized the same way Schapiro criticizes Barr’s “theory of exhaustion and reaction [which] reduces history to the pattern of popular views on changes in fashion,” the game of new looks. Schapiro. “Nature of Abstract Art.” Marxist Quarterly 1 no. 1. January-March 1937. pp. 79–80.
14. The complete title of Documenta 7, 1982, organized by Fuchs, was “Documenta 7: In which our heroes after a long and strenuous voyage through sinister valleys and dark forests finally arrive in the English Garden, and at the gate of a splendid palace.” One can hardly imagine an American curator conceiving an exhibition in such terms. In general, Fuchs believes that every exhibition must have “the lively, expressive quality of dialect.” Quoted in Paul Groot. “The Spirit of Documenta 7: Rudi Fuchs Talks about the Forthcoming Exhibition,” Flash Art 108. Summer 1982, p. 22.
15. Robert Smithson. “Frederick Law Olmstead and the Dialectical Landscape,” The Writings of Robert Smithson. New York: at the University Press, 1979, p. 124. I believe that for Smithson the dialectical landscape was the alternative to the museum as, in his words, a “null structure,” educating us, as Allan Kaprow says, “to a burlesque of fullness,” an “aristocratic” sense of fullness that goes hand in hand with its “cosmetic” sense of life. Smithson, “What Is a Museum? A Dialogue between Allan Kaprow and Robert Smithson,” The Writings, pp. 60, 64.
16. Adorno, “Valéry Proust Museum,” p. 184.
17. Ibid.
18. In objectifying art as historically determined esthetic form, the museum ignores the subjective meaning of the “aesthetic. . . as the last endeavor to find art’s psychological justification in itself,” as Rank, p. 24. says.
19. Jean-Christophe Ammann. “Richard Artschwager.” Art of Our Time: The Saatchi Collection, vol. 2. London: Lund Humphries, 1984. p. 9.
20. Jürgen Harten. “Documenta 5: At Kassel.” Studio International no. 946, July-August 1972. p. 3.
21. Jan Hoet, speaking at “Discussions in Contemporary Culture: Politics of Images” panel, Dia Art Foundation, New York, 10–11 November 1990. In Michael Gibson and Jill Lloyd. “Opening Minds Is Everything: An Interview with Jan Hotel.” Art International no. 10, Spring 1990, p. 45. Hoet states, “A museum isn’t an isolated institution but a means of bringing art to the public.”
22. Rudi Fuchs, quoted in Groot, pp. 22 and 23.
23. Szeemann, Happenings and Fluxus, Cologne: Kolnischer Kunstverein, 1970, n.p.