“Gravity and Grace”

Hayward Gallery

Canonization, of a sort, in journalistic art criticism is always in vogue, but one must remain highly suspicious of the kind of pious invocation of history masquerading as critique that is really about beating the present and its possible future(s) over the head with the big stick of the past. Readers are most likely familiar with the phenomenon of chastening young artists in the name of Minimalism, arte povera, and Conceptual art. Simply add the prefix “domesticated” to any curatorial category you care to mention and voilá, Bob’s your uncle!

Imagine if you will a land where even the auratic Modernist original is at risk. Consider the mode of criticism required for the claim that arte povera is “Dada mischief overblown and gone to seed . . . whatever was done in the Swinging Sixties, Bernini did it better.” (Why stop with Bernini? The logical terminus of the search for quality is surely

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