The art critic for The National Review bashes the contemporary art world and rails about the ``general paltriness of most art in our time.'' Gardner complains that the art world is riddled with money and glamour, and blames the ``artistic recession'' on ``art's obsession with art'' and ``nothing other than the pervasive and unchecked reverence in which art is held by critics and public alike.'' He covers the art front from the East Village Scene (``[East Village artists] have been out of fashion for several years, and the pyramids of Egypt seem not as old as they'') to Body Art and German Neo-Expressionism, as well as numerous artists: David Hockney, David Salle, Gerhard Richter (``one of the finest painters alive''), Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Robert Mapplethorpe, et al. ``Speaking as an enthusiast rather than as a critic,'' Gardner says, ``I find that what appeals most in the art of my contemporaries is, strangely, its smell...the freshness of acrylic on canvas....'' In addition to going after easy targets like the Whitney Biennial (``a country club from which only straight white males are excluded'') and Jeff Koons, the author dismisses the works of Anselm Kiefer—who ``plays the Sturm und Drang role to perfection''—as ``frail in conception, listless in execution, impressive only because of their size.'' But Gardner delivers a body blow here to his own argument as well by quoting a few phrases of the evocative prose and penetrating analysis of Robert Hughes, who described Kiefer as trying ``to shoulder the content of historical tragedy.'' In general, shallow kvetching. For serious, balanced, and truly provocative studies of contemporary art, see Hughes's Nothing if Not Critical (1990), or Arthur Danto's Encounters and Reflections (1990) and Beyond the Brillo Box (1992).
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