PRINT March 2014


IN THE FIFTH OF THE SERIES of new essays on the avant-garde for Artforum, historian and philosopher Thierry de Duve investigates the ideas behind one of modernism’s most notorious inventions: non-art, that vexing category of things that reject, trouble, and ultimately expand the definition of art itself. From the nineteenth-century Beaux-Arts system to Marcel Duchamp’s radical readymade Fountain, 1917, to the pluralism of the present day; from the fin-de-siècle ruminations of Stéphane Mallarmé to the aesthetic pronouncements of Clement Greenberg, de Duve reveals the astonishing theoretical implications of non-art—as term, as idea, and as type. In the process, he offers a groundbreaking narrative for the emergence of our contemporary understanding of art.

Unknown artist (formerly attributed to Piero della Francesca), Città Ideale (Ideal City), ca. 1480, oil on panel, 23 1/2 x 79".

You can only make absolute statements negatively.1

—Ad Reinhardt

IN 1966, DONALD JUDD, reflecting on a widespread debate

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