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on 12 April 2017
As expected, I've read it before.
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on 5 October 2012
The Painted Word is brief and to the point. That's also its only failing: too short for its hungry audience. I wanted more fun pocked (3-4 thick volumes) at this overly-pompous wankery called Art Theory.

One of the interesting aspects it touches upon is the quandary of the artist when faced with success = immortality. Among other bad ideas, we should blame he Romantic period for equating the artist with the quintessential anarchist. It's amazing how this mentality has stuck with generation after generation of art students since then. But what if the dreaded bourgeoisie were to accept your genius and offer you sex, drugs and rock'n'roll? Who's strong enough to reject luxury? And should anyone? Doesn't everybody really want the sweet lull of success and recognition (let alone drugs and sex) when all is said and done? Wolfe makes it all sound very funny, but when you're an earnest 18 year old just off the bus in the big city it's not. The irony of the situation is quite heavy handed but at the time it's pretty hard to catch. You can very earnestly be serious about "aht" while at the same time not even secretly hope for fabulous success. The joke on the artist is that the critic comes first. Any youngin with a bit of wit might as well skip the tedious artist step and jump to critic.

What Wolfe has to say in the Epilogue about the legacy of theory versus art itself is certainly spot on if you step into any museum these days. The walls adjacent to the artwork are covered in text and "the tourists", as he calls them, dutifully read it before even glancing at the artwork. If you're lucky, you can also - ahem - see "artwork that is only visible in the mind of its creator". Good fun had by all and money well spent...

But we all know these wanky ideas have cut through other arts, case in point Phillip Glass's 4'33". When reviewing "A Work of Music Criticism" by Kyle Gann, Dan Wang explains "audiences are encouraged to listen--for four minutes and thirty-three seconds--not to the musician on stage but to the unplanned and inchoate sounds of their environment: the hum of the air conditioner, the staccato of raindrops, distant traffic, or even the shuffling and coughing of the impatient. All this, Cage seems to say, can be called music--if only one will listen." Some people actually paid money to hear a show of ambient sounds (a version of which) they could hear out of their own window... Social commentary of all kinds, but why should this be called a musical performance instead of a session of life coaching for people too paralyzed by their own fabulousness to remember there is a world outside their own "fundamental aperture", as Wolfe kindly puts it?
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on 6 May 2013
This is a wonderful essay on the fraud of modern art. I really don't know how I've missed out on it for so long. I would say it is essential reading for anyone with an interest in art. Basically, he is saying that theory drives the art, rather than the other way around.

I'd love to see a book on the same kind of theme - the influence of literary theory on literature. Now that literature is criticised using Marxian theory, feminist theory, psychoanalytic theory, how much do these theories influence the writing of novels?
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on 27 August 2015
Wolfe at his best. A friend spoke to me about this book. He had studied it in his History of Art classes. Forty one years years After publication this essay is remarkably apposite. I highly recommend it to anyone who has stood in front of a Contemprary painting and just said Why?
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on 19 February 2013
No antidote this to the malaise of the apparent domination of critical theory over fine art practice, but rather a mild pain-killer. Evidently skilful in the journalist's art of not really saying anything in an entertaining way, Tom Wolfe's fervour promises much and yet somehow left me only a little wiser - and that from the historical details. It seems, at the end of the day that the great theorists still had to follow the great artists, rather than what the book seems to propose ( though no doubt many jumped on the bandwagon). This book is nice and short, and a good, quick read, and makes some cute and acute observations about the nature of the art scene, but I was hoping for some sharp discussion of intellectualisation of art, and this 'snack' of a book left me hungry.
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on 21 November 2003
I picked up this book as I had nothing left to read. I picked it up and with trepidation began absorbing the first few words and when I looked up again realised that I was thoroughly absorbed and was half way through his diatribe. Tom Wolfe is just plain and simple a masterful writer with intelligence. He speaks of his epiphany (if you will) of when he read an article and it basically summed up that art is not art unless you believe in the theory in it's meaning and thus you see through this to the art. All very pompous really - gone are the days of art being just a painting - no, it's all mish mashed and made literary. And so begins his book, on how modern art became thus and on the le monde and the people behind stating the current frame of mind, the people being the artist the critics the le monde set - not you or I or the average joe - we are told, we are not a part of selecting. He manages to show the hypocrisy of some artists of their bohemian flare, their lament in their work but as fame catapults them then so they take to the bourgeious state of being so easily that they were anti - that where their art came from.
It's thoroughly enjoyable, easy to read and basically shockingly gripping.
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on 25 July 2013
A very entertaining and insightful look at the art world. If you find modern art impenetrable this books lays it all bare for the "emperors new clothes" that it is.
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on 6 April 2014
my title tells it all... As my husband is an artist, he read it first, and then me. We both liked it, certainly helps if you have some art history knowledge...
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on 3 September 2013
For anyone interested in selling their work this book is a must have! Its informative easy to digest and doesn't take that long to read.
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on 18 August 2013
An absolute read for anyone engaged in the Boho dance, given its vintage, it as relevant today as it was when written.
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