"Paradoxes and Problems of the Reproduction and Commodification of Art in the Age of the Capitalist Spectacle"
Donald Kuspit Colloquium


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  • Host Department: History of Art
  • Date: 03/28/2012
  • Time: 4:00PM - 6:00PM

  • Location: 180 Tappan Hall

  • Donald Kuspit
  • Description: The argument of this paper is familiar, but hopefully developed in an unfamiliar way: that reproduction and commodification eliminate the need for aesthetic experience, even as they are the only way for a work of art to achieve immortality in a technological society of spectacles. They are the means of turning works of art into celebrated spectacles and artists into marketable celebrities. Two points of departure are Max Frisch's remark that "technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it," and Daniel Boorstin's notion of the pseudo-event. I will argue that works of art have become pseudo-events and artists aspire, consciously or unconsciously, to become celebrities, who are pseudo-people. The result is a sort of psychotic artworld in which depersonalization and derealization are rampant. They are the inevitable outcome of what Ortega y Gasset famously called the "dehumanization of art."

    Donald Kuspit is one of America’s most distinguished art critics. Winner of the prestigious Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism (1983), given by the College Art Association, Professor Kuspit is a contributing editor at Artforum, Artnet Magazine, Sculpture, and Tema Celeste magazines, and the editor of Art Criticism. He has doctorates in philosophy (University of Frankfurt) and art history (University of Michigan), as well as degrees from Columbia University, Yale University, and Pennsylvania State University. He has also completed the course of study at the Psychoanalytic Institute of the New York University Medical Center. He received honorary doctorates in fine arts from Davidson College (1993), the San Francisco Art Institute (1996), and the New York Academy of Art (2007). He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Art History and Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and has been the A. D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University (1991-97). He is also senior critic at the New York Academy of Art. He has written numerous articles, exhibition reviews, and catalogue essays, and lectured at many universities and art schools. He is the editorial advisor for European Art 1900-50 and art criticism for the Encyclopedia Britannica (16th edition), and wrote the entry on Art Criticism for it. He has also curated many exhibitions. Kuspit has written more than twenty books, including Redeeming Art: Critical Reveries (2000); Idiosyncratic Identities: Artists at the End of the Avant-Garde (1996); and Daniel Brush: Gold without Boundaries (with Ralph Esmerian and David Bennett, 1998).