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PRINT March 2003

MILESTONES

1982: The Other de Chirico

WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE AESTHETIC sea change of the early ’80s, I keep coming back to MoMA’s 1982 de Chirico retrospective, which, in fact, was not a retrospective at all. Coming to a halt in the 1930s, it censored more than half his career. (He died in 1978.) The show confirmed the received wisdom that, after his youthful glory days, de Chirico became a traitor to the modernist cause. But William Rubin’s essay in the catalogue also contained an unexpectedly subversive illustration, a double-page spread of eighteen (yes, eighteen!) near identical versions of The Disquieting Muses, 1917, all painted between 1945 to 1962. The old-fashioned point was to demonstrate again the bankruptcy of the later de Chirico, who would often stoop to making replicas and variations of his signature masterpieces. But times had changed. The grid-style layout of these eighteen clones suddenly felt at home in the

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