In defence of an old art

June 25, 2004

I agree with Norman Rosenthal ("Embalm a modern artist and give beauty a chance", June 18). I too want new art to be history in the making.

I even want to believe that culture is incremental, at least some bits of it, such as science and mathematics.

But it seems dangerous to declare art to be a "sum of human culture that... can define itself only by looking, describing where no man or woman has been or looked before." Really "only"? And who is this "no man or woman"?

Of course, the declaration is meaningless because these terms mean whatever Rosenthal wants them to mean. But it is still dangerous if it becomes the mantra of the establishment, because everyman and everywoman may take it to mean "new is exciting; old is boring" and will forget to listen to learned and thoughtful people such as Donald Kuspit.

Then artists will always have to look for the new to satisfy the ready-meal market instead of spending their lives looking at what they come to realise for themselves is important. A lot of modern art is certainly very glib. If it resonates with Rosenthal, that is probably only because he is sophisticated.

Robin Whitty
London South Bank University

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