The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (Picturing History)

The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution (Picturing History)

Dario Gamboni

Language: English

Pages: 416

ISBN: 1861893167

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Last winter, a man tried to break Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain sculpture. The sculpted foot of Michelangelo’s David was damaged in 1991 by a purportedly mentally ill artist. With each incident, intellectuals must confront the unsettling dynamic between destruction and art.  Renowned art historian Dario Gamboni is the first to tackle this weighty issue in depth, exploring specters of censorship, iconoclasm, and vandalism that surround such acts.

Gamboni uncovers here a disquieting phenomenon that still thrives today worldwide. As he demonstrates through analyses of incidents occurring in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America and Europe, a complex relationship exists among the evolution of modern art, destruction of artworks, and the long history of iconoclasm. From the controversial removal of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc from New York City’s Federal Plaza to suffragette protests at London’s National Gallery, Gamboni probes the concept of artist’s rights, the power of political protest and how iconoclasm sheds light on society’s relationship to art and material culture.

Compelling and thought-provoking, The Destruction of Art forces us to rethink the ways that we interact with art and react to its power to shock or subdue.

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still attracted appeared to them as magic revivals, and in 1933 the verbal appropriations of their already mentioned inquiry ‘on some possibilities of irrational embellishment of a town’ proposed many forms of metaphorical iconoclasm.70 The wilful destruction of many French monuments and parts of monuments (more than 100 in Paris alone) during the Second World War may be regarded as expressing the regressive character of the regime that ordered it.71 But their aesthetic indignity, which was by

such as city and street names. The attempt by Communist regimes to erase not only politically unpleasant but also local, regional or national memories in favour of a unified and stereotyped model had created as many Lenin streets as Lenin monuments, so that renaming boomed after 1989.66 Sixty-six street names were changed in Warsaw between June 1990 and March 1992, and in Budapest, 428 new names were proposed between 1989 and November 1993.67 In some cases, changes were decided by the authorities

Berlin by Brigitte and Martin Matschinsky-Denninghof) provoked a flood of reactions, mostly negative and often violent. Two works in particular attracted aggression, Olaf Metzel’s 13 April 1981 in joachimstaler Square (illus. 61) and Wolf Vostell’s 2 Concrete Cadillacs in the Form of the Naked Maja in Rathenau Square (illus. 63). Characteristically, both included contemporary ready-made elements. Metzel referred to a demonstration that had taken place six years earlier on the boulevard by

particular to presentations of large Manhattan real estate holdings, among which were slum-located properties, with photographs of the facades and documentary information about ownership collected from the public records of the County Clerk’s office. 103 Haacke accused Messer of infringing ‘the artist’s right to free expression within the walls of the Guggenheim Museum’ and argued that he was wrong in confusing ‘the political stand which an artist’s work may assert with a political stand taken by

destroyers of art could be taken into account by rational evaluations, even if ambivalent links existed between such deeds and ‘blood-shedding militancy’. Due to the raising of the threshold, the respective importance and mutual relationships of overt and covert (not to speak of conscious and inconscious), collective and individual factors and motives tend to be particularly complex and difficult to probe. Defining ‘tactical vandalism’ as ‘a conscious tactic used to advance some other end than

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