Monday, March 9, 2009

The Art of the Void at the Pompidou

Opening at The Pompidou Centre in Paris is an extraordinary show that is all about .... nothing! Is this a Cagean (as in John Cage) program, a show fit for family membership with those works that Susan Sontag wrote of in her essay of 1967, "The Aesthetics of Silence" ? Or is this project a curator's inspiration in the face of budgetary collapse? The answers to these questions, or at least a clue to them, may reside in the cost of admission. Will the Pompidou folks charge less because there's nothing to see in nine rooms? Or will they charge the usual rates, arguing that vacuity is artwork? Minimalists have promoted the disappearance of content. Others, and I think that Artaud was in the foreground, argued for the virtual nullification of the work of art. Has Paris thus taken back the lead in modern art that it had apparently surrendered to New York after W.W.II? That was the time when representation gave way to abstraction, and the center of gravity of the art world came to reside in New York's art galleries and the Museum of Modern Art. But we now live in crisis times. Is it now, then, that as goes Wall Street, so goes 53rd Street?

(Of course it can be argued that the real center of painterly activity over the last decades has been in Germany, but that's another story.)

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