Alfred H. Barr Jr.’s Diagram from the Museum of Modern Art exhibition Cubism and Modern Art, 1936.
Is knowledge of art history passé? Not if you want to be an artist. Here's why, from my latest Brooklyn Dispatch from the July/August issue of the Brooklyn Rail:
Anyone who knows me, or who might have followed my ramblings over the last several years now, would be aware that I have a great interest in the history of New York’s art community. This fascination started gradually (I’m a slow learner), when it dawned on me that to understand the mystery of art, you had to know the history of art. After 30 years on the scene, it’s obvious that despite what I’d been taught in art school—that it all depends on talent, dedication, and discipline—there are other factors that play important roles in deciding, who succeeds or fails in the art world. Chief among these are the relationships and connections among artists, galleries, critics, curators, collectors, and institutions, things as simple as where you live, who your friends are, where you went to school, or where you hang out. To get the big picture, one must be able to view these associations over a broad timeline. What might appear as chance happenings today may actually be the results of decisions or actions that took place in the 1950s, the 1980s, or last year. A thorough grasp of art history and its ancillary events is required, because you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.