Beauty has emerged as one of the most hotly contested subjects in current discussions on art and culture. After more than half a century of suspicion and interrogation, beauty's resurgence in visual practice and discourse since the late 1980s has engaged some of the most influential artists and writers on art.
From the avant-garde to the conceptual era, anti-aesthetic strategies have resisted beauty because of its perceived complicity with dominant systems and ideologies. Thus politicized and opened to critique, beauty, invoked in relation to contemporary art, no longer sustains a singular or universal meaning but is always contentious.
Spanning a range of positions on beauty—both for and against—this anthology assembles the key texts on the controversy and situates the debate over the revival of beauty in the broader context of the history of ideas and artistic practice.
Artists surveyed: Vito Acconci, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Gustave Courbet, Marcel Duchamp, Marlene Dumas, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, Gary Hume, Asger Jorn, Alex Katz, Willem de Kooning, Joseph Kosuth, Paul McCarthy, Édouard Manet, Robert Mapplethorpe, Agnes Martin, Robert Morris, Barnett Newman, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, Robert Smithson, Nancy Spero, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, Andy Warhol
Writers: Theodor Adorno, Alexander Alberro, Rasheed Araeen, Art & Language, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, T. J. Clark, Mark Cousins, Arthur C. Danto, Jacques Derrida, Thierry de Duve, Fredric Jameson, Christoph Grunenberg, Dave Hickey, Suzanne Perling Hudson, Caroline A. Jones, John Roberts, Elaine Scarry, Wendy Steiner, Paul Wood
Documents of Contemporary Art series
Copublished with Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
About the Editor
Dave Beech is a London-based British artist, a regular contributor to Art Monthly, and coauthor of The Philistine Conspiracy.
"In his introduction to this fascinating and timely anthology, Dave Beech tackles the politics of beauty, arguing with characteristic clarity that beauty is neither purely individual and subjective, nor is it entirely socially inscribed; rather it exists at the point of tension between the individual and society. It is thus political in the true sense because we can bring about changes in our perception of beauty. If, back in 1993, Dave Hickey resurrected the idea of beauty in art from the critical 'dead zone' into which it had been consigned, then with this anthology Beech has not only revivified the debate about the politics of beauty but he has brought it up to date."
Patricia Bickers, Editor, Art Monthly, and Principal Lecturer, History and Theory of Art, University of Westminster, London