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PRINT May 2000

Vault

“Encounters” at London’s National Gallery

“IT IS ONLY the unimaginative who ever invents,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “The true artist is known by the use he makes of what he annexes, and he annexes everything.” Everywhere we look we see artists borrowing, pastiching, reworking—from the straight rip-off to the ironic theft, to the subtle incorporation of a lifted image, to an under-the-breath whistle from another artist’s signature tune. There is Sigmar Polke making paintings after Goya, and Leon Kossoff hanging on the coattails of Poussin; there are Yasumasa Morimura’s re-creations en travestie, Gavin Turk as the murdered Marat in his bath, and, crossing borders, Steve McQueen as Buster Keaton. Behind them lie Jasper Johns’s appropriations from Grünewald to Munch; behind him the staggering variations woven by Picasso from works by Velázquez, Delacroix, and Manet. Copies and transcriptions of, and confrontations with, earlier works are

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