PRINT February 2005

Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

TWO MAXIMS, PRONOUNCED BY TWO PHILOSOPHER critics who understood twentieth-century culture better than most, would seem to foil the work of all art historians but in particular that of the curator. The first one is Theodor Adorno’s claim that “each work of art is the fatal enemy of each other work of art.” And the second one, more complementary to Adorno’s view than opposed to it, is Roland Barthes’s alluring suggestion that each work of art deserves a “proper science all of its own.”

When I visited the “new” Museum of Modern Art on its seventy-fifth anniversary, these maxims immediately sprang to mind. For they speak to any spectator’s (or reviewer’s) simultaneous struggle with the Modern’s three major epiphanies: its collection (in particular its newly presented contemporary holdings), the installation of this collection (executed by a curatorial team working under the guidance of John

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