“The 80s: A Topology”

Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art

THE 1980S WERE until recently a byword for everything to be reviled in contemporary art—the corruption of the market, the shallowness of the spectacle, and so on—in contrast to the purported rigor and purity of the conceptual, performance, and anti-form adventures of the preceding decades. A few years into the new millennium, however, it began to be evident that the tide of consensus was in reflux. In 2003, for instance, Artforum published a pair of ’80s-themed special issues, and Francesco Bonami and Daniel Birnbaum’s exhibition “Delays and Revolutions” in the Italian Pavilion at that year’s Venice Biennale included a number of works from the ’80s, which were exhibited alongside more recent art to sometimes impressive effect: Richard Prince’s Marlboro men, for example, suddenly looked better and more relevant than they had ever seemed before.

One can hypothesize endlessly about the reasons

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