PRINT September 2000


J.J. Grandville at the Staatliche Kunsthalle

ACROSS THE NOTES, fragments, essays, and outlines of the Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin's panoramic rendering of Paris and modernity, the nineteenth-century French illustrator and caricaturist J.J. Grandville plays a signal role. For Benjamin, Grandville's images, “a veritable cosmogony of fashion,” reveal the interplay between the organized phantasmagoria of the nascent culture industry—epitomized by Paris itself—and the fetishization of mass-produced goods: “The enthronement of the commodity, with its glitter of distractions, is the secret theme of Grandville's art.” In this art, Benjamin saw both index and image of a perceptual world shattered by modernization's asymmetrical logic of innovation, speed, transience, and desire.

This is our world as well, and Grandville's prescient work is the subject of an upcoming exhibition and accompanying catalogue put together by Hannover's

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