Four of the most influential and provocative art historians of our time come together to provide a comprehensive history of art in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Adopting a year-by-year approach, they present more than one hundred (c.3,000 words) essays, each focusing on a crucial event such as the creation of a seminal work, the publication of an artistic manifesto, or the opening of a major exhibition to tell the story of the period from 1900 to the present. All the key turning points and breakthroughs of modernism and postmodernism are explored in depth, as are the frequent and sustained antimodernist reactions that proposed alternative visions of art and the world. Two roundtable discussions one at mid-century, the other at the close of the book consider some of the questions raised by the preceding decades and look ahead to the art of the future.
Here's an exceptional rarity: a large, sweeping art history text book so well-done it almost makes the reader wish she or he were back in school. It's rather amazing that it took so long for a book like Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, and Postmodernism
to exist: a balanced, seven hundred page historical tome written with multiple perspectives in mind. As any undergrad knows, H.W. Janson's ubiquitous History of Art
was written as if art history were some sort of race to colonize ideas and imagery; you'll likely not miss Janson's fetish for pointing out who did what first. Penned by a nimble crew who all teach at Ivy League universities, Art Since 1900
, which mirrors the development of psychoanalysis and the creation of a huge international art scene, is on a smaller scale a history of contemporary theory and the art world almost as much as it is the art itself. Attention is paid throughout to important exhibits and texts, pointing out the rippling effect throughout the art community of these mirrors and portals. The book is arranged so that there are one or two essays per year. In such a novel format, often undervalued movements are given as much respect as Cubism and Minimalism. There are entire chapters here on Fluxus, feminist art, the Assemblage movement, Lettrism, the Independent Group, Gutai, Kineticism, the Harlem Renaissance, Aktionism, earthworks, video art, and the aesthetics of ACT UP. As with any history, there are personalities whose works are emphasized over that of others; the scant attention given to Jean-Michel Basquiat, for instance, is a rather large question mark. Quibbles aside, it's a very important, and nearly immaculate, work. --Mike McGonigal
Images from Art Since 1900