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Quotes and Essays by 19th and 20th Century Artists and Critics
Harold Rosenberg
(From Criticism and its Premises)

        In art, the prime history-makers are painters and sculptors.  As indicated earlier , there are writers
        and cultural commissars who wish to appropriate this privilege of the artist and to use him as an
        instrument for their own art-history-making.  The result is a new kind of conflict - between the artist
        and the professional representatives of his public.

        Art criticism today is beset by art historians turned inside out to function as prophets of so-called
        inevitable trends.  A determinism similar to that projected into the evolution of past styles is clamped
        upon art in the making.  In this parody of art history, value judgments are deduced from a presumed
        logic of development, and an ultimatum is issued to artists either to accommodate themselves to these
        values or be banned from the art of the future. An aesthetician founded on art history wields a club of
        dogma similar to moralistic criticism in the nineteenth century or political criticism in the Soviet Union.

        Dead art movements are the normal life of art; all that can be expected of them is good painting.
        In regard to creation there is nothing to indicate that a new art movement has any advantage over
        an obsolete one; the contrary may well be the case.

        After 1972 anyone could be an artist, except, perhaps, painters and sculptors.

        No degree of dullness can safeguard a work against the determination of critics to find it fascinating.

Rosenberg on Museums and their Acquisition Policies:

        Moreover, its new position of power led the museum to develop its own version of bureaucratic
        corruption: favoritism in buying and showing, falsification of recent art history, using museum
        prestige to enhance investments by trustees, secret deals in the acquisition and sale of  museum

Edwin Varney
(From Preview Magazine, Feb./Mar.,1998)

        Curators and critics of the late 20th century have dominated  the visual arts - intimidating,
        contaminating and corrupting artists who want to play the game and ignoring and deprecating
        those who won't.  Beauty has become an ugly word. In the process the public has become alienated
        by effete, elitist, theoretical, and academic versions of what art should be. Meanwhile the best
        artists starve while the  curators and academics get fat and advance their own careers.

Geoff Olson (Vancouver Courier)

Greg Felton
(from the Courier,Vancouver, October 10, 1999)

        We are told to accept non-art as art because our obsessively democratic culture is too craven
        to acknowledge that artistic standards should exist. Art is whatever an artist says it is, whether
        that be a Renaissance fresco or hasenpfeffer al fresco. Anyone who dares challenge this nihilistic
        dogma is anathematized as élitist, yet art is inherently an élitist enterprise.

        I recognize that artists  must seek new means of expression to remain vibrant and relevant, and that
        censoring bad art will  only make matters worse, but the bar of what is classified as art has been
        lowered so much that anything, no matter how moving or mindless, is treated equally. The fault lies
        less with these "artists" than with the politically motivated ignoramuses who allow such  work to
        be funded.

Vincent Van Gogh

                    The buying and selling of art is nothing more than organized robbery.

William Baziotes
 From The Artist and His Mirror

Edgar Degas

I think literature has only done harm to art.

Matthew Collings
from Art of the Moment (Modern Painters, Autumn, 1995) :
From a review of the Rites of Passage exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London

        The exhibition is all doomy and deathly and obscure.  It's not for normal people. It's for the artworld.
        ...Usually I flit amongst the artists who do the more jokey and ironic type of exhibition... But this one
        doesn't beat around the bush with japes and cleverness and banality, like Jeff Koons, but just goes
        straight for death and the body and sickness and millennial fears.

        Probably to normal people the smirky art and the death art are all the same old onions, and, if so,
        I kind of know what they mean. But anyway King Death is Joseph Beuys and Queen Death is
        Louise Bourgeois.  King Smirky is Jeff Koons and Prince Smirky is Damien Hirst.  So this is
        definitely a Beuys and Bourgois type show.  Long faces all round.

Pablo Picasso
Quoted by Herbert Read

        ...mathematics, trigonometry, chemistry, psychoanalysis, music and whatnot, have been related to
        Cubism to give it an easier interpretation. All this has been pure literature, not to say nonsense,
        which brought bad results, blinding people with theories.

Pierre-August Renoir
(as quoted by Cezanne to Ambroise Vollard)

        Renoir once said to me: They think we are nothing but makers of theories- we whose only object,
        like the old masters, is to paint with clear and joyous colours. These literary people will never
        understand that painting is first of all a craft, that the material side of it comes first.

Robert Motherwell (from a 1944 lecture)

Criticism moves in a false direction, as does art, when it aspires to be a social science.

Alex Gregory, New Yorker Magazine

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Man Ray
From The American Masters Documentary Film

        I am an old man now. In sixty years you can do a lot of work. I  did a lot of things in sixty years,
        my paintings, my photography, my objects. I change all the time.  I have periods where I do one thing,
        then for a few years do something else.

        I am a free man.  I do not work for a padrone, or a boss. I am indifferent to things  that do not interest
        me. But never would I attack them. Especially in the creative arts. Because I say anybody who does
        creative art is a sacred person. I do not care what he does. Whether he paints academic pictures, or
        he is modern, or different from anything else. He cannot do any harm. Whereas a bad politician,
        or a bad doctor, or a bad cook can kill you!"

Donald Judd
(from an essay in  Art in America, 1984)

        The elaboration of the term ‘post-modern’ is not due to real change but is due to naked fashion and
        the need to cover it with words.

Bridget Riley

A woman artist needs feminism like a hole in the head.

Sandro Chia (from Flash Art, Trevi, Italy)

        The transavantgarde means nothing to me, signifies nothing, just as neo-expressionism signifies nothing.

Waldemar Januszczak
London Sunday Times

        Thaw appears to be a typical rich American Europhile, whose collecting taste has an undertow of
        fierce disillusion with the modern world. I know this because the catalogue features a marvellously
        haughty interview in which he frequently interrupts his own display of high connoisseurship to take
        a pop at modern life. "In a period of declining standards, its staff has maintained the old ways of
        scholarship, and I believe in that," says Thaw of the Morgan Library. "In the current age people
        are looking forward to museums with nothing in them except television monitors where you can dial
        the Louvre and get some kind of holograph," he opines, casually, of the electronic revolution.

 Dr. W. Grampp
Prof. of Economics at the U. of Chicago
 from Pricing the Priceless (1989).

        Because museum, arts councils, art service organisations, and even some artists are subsidised,
        their reasons for negotiating/dealing with each other are often difficult to divine.  In his chapter on
        art museums, a fictitious cultural worker admits: I don't know for sure what I'm supposed to be doing
        and if I did I would have no way of being sure I was doing it -- but I would like to go on doing what
I'm doing, whatever that is, and I ask you to give me the money I need to do it.

Jose Pierre
from Surrealism, 1979

        Today it is a fact that the art market has placed itself almost to a man under the flag of a dominant
        ideology….  American Minimal Art, and its paler European imitations, only accord favour to painting
        which is only painting, that is to say that which forbids any modulation, vibration, emotion, form, any
        manifestation of the sensitive and even more of the unconscious and of myth.  This admirable
        conjugation of puritan iconoclasm, of neo-positivist empiricism and of Wall Street is sometimes - like
        the olive in a dry martini- accompanied by a pinch of Maoist ideology.


The Hegemony of Theory
by Graham Good

Art Rage
by Gregg Simpson
First published on-line in:
The International Fine Art Journal for Social Change
and in the book, Rage.

Clement Greenberg
by Terry Fenton

 The Politics of Painting
by Gregg Simpson

Read the complete essay on Wet Canvas.com
"In the world of contemporary art during the past decade or more, one medium has unfortunately been singled out to bear the guilt of Eurocentric western culture. That medium is painting. The seemingly innocent practice of applying pigments to canvas, panel, or wall is, in terms of current critical thinking, almost a criminal act."

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