TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Broken Mirror and American Art in the 20th Century

It’s a provocative enough title, “Der zerbrochene Spiegel” (The broken mirror), for it acknowledges a break, in theoretical discourse if not in the practice of painting itself, and thus lets the exhibition off the hook for making a promise it cannot keep. That implicit promise (whether we interpret the “mirror” as a metaphor for painting, for our response to it, or for history) is that with 200 works by over 40 artists, the curators, Kasper König and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, cannot simply leave the broken pieces scattered about, but must somehow put them back together again. The means toward the mend, as explained in the catalogue’s forward, is a “decentralized” approach, a kind of open-door, open-mind policy that the curators maintain is the only tenable one for pluralistic times like these when a “non-center” compensates for a true center, and perhaps even creates a new one.

While König and

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