Synopses & Reviews
For over a hundred years, the idea of the "avant-garde" has been perhaps the most important and influential force in modern culture, ruling the critical assessment of the significance of an artist or a work of art. If they have been judged to be "avant-garde," then they are worthy of consideration. But very little attempt has been made to explore why the idea of the "avant-garde" carries so much authority, or how it came to do so. What is more, the term remains a difficult one to define, and is often used in a variety of ways.
In this Very Short Introduction, art historian David Cottington illuminates the concept of the avant-garde, exploring its wider context through the development of western modernity, capitalist culture, and the global impact of both. Cottington looks at the relation between "the avant-garde"--that is, the social entity (the "club")--and "avant-garde" qualities in a work of art (or design, or architecture, or any other cultural product), and he sheds light on the meaning of "avant-gardism." Perhaps most interesting, he considers whether--now that contemporary art seems to have broken all taboos and is at the center of a billion-dollar art market--is there still an "avant-garde" at all. And if so, what is the point of it and who are the artists concerned?
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'The avant-garde' is perhaps the most important and influential concept in the history of modern culture. For over a hundred years it has governed critical and historical assessment of the quality and significance of an artist or a work of art, in any medium-if these have been judged to be 'avant-garde', then they have been worthy of consideration. If not, then by and large they have not, and neither critics nor historians have paid them much attention. In short, modern art is and has been whatever the 'avant-garde' has made, or has said it is.
But very little attempt has been made to explore why 'the avant-garde' carries so much authority, or how it came to do so. What is more, the term remains a difficult one to define, and is often used in a variety of ways. What is the relation between 'the avant-garde' -- that is, the social entity (the 'club') -- and 'avant-garde' qualities in a work of art (or design, or architecture, or any other cultural product)? What does 'avant-gardism mean? Moreover, now that contemporary art seems to have broken all taboos and is at the centre of a billion-pound art market, is there still an 'avant-garde'? If so, what is the point of it and who are the artists concerned?
In this Very Short Introduction, David Cottington explores the concept of the 'avant-garde' and examines its wider context through the development of western modernity, capitalist culture, and the global impact of both.
About the Author
is Professor of Art History at Kingston University London. He has published widely on the Cubist movement and the artistic avant-gardes of the early twentieth century, including Cubism in the Shadow of War: The Avant-Garde and Politics in Paris 1905-1914
and Cubism and its Histories.
Table of Contents
1. Origins: emergence and consolidation 1820-1914
2. Professionalisms and Politics Between the Wars
3. Consumerism and co-option
4. The Avant Garde and Revolution