Arthur C Danto 1924 - 2013

The critic and Warhol advocate, who popularised the term 'the artworld' has died
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Arthur C Danto
Arthur C Danto

Though we were greatly saddened by Lou Reed's death yesterday, he wasn't the only Warhol advocate to pass away in New York within the past week. The great American art critic, philosopher and Phaidon contributor Arthur C Danto died in Manhattan on Friday 25 October, aged 89 years old.

Danto, who began his professional life as a philosopher and artist, went onto find success as an critic, writing from 1984 until 2009 for The Nation, as well as contributing to ArtForum, and authoring many books.

It was after viewing Warhol's Brillo Boxes at the Stable Gallery in New York in 1964, that he put forward his one of his most popular ideas. Writing soon thereafter, Danto argued, "What in the end makes the difference between a Brillo box and a work of art consisting of a Brillo box is a certain theory of art... without the theory, one is unlikely to see it as art, and in order to see it as part of the artworld, one must have mastered a good deal of artistic theory as well as a considerable amount of the history of recent New York painting."

 

Brillo boxes and other works (1964) by Andy Warhol
Brillo boxes and other works (1964) by Andy Warhol

He went on to suggest that a work of art could be defined not by any intrinsic aesthetic qualities, but by a likeminded community of artists, dealers, collectors and historians - the artworld - who understand a certain work within a commonly understood history and set of theories.

With this in mind, art history would no longer chart the development of different styles, since aesthetic movements were now of a secondary importance. Instead, as Ken Johnson put it in his NY Times obituary, "pluralism was the new world order". This led Danto proclaim the end of art history - not in the sense that humankind would cease to make art, but more that, in the years after the Brillo Box, the history of art could no longer be summed up in simple movements.

His views weren't universally adopted, yet few could disagree that Danto's writing was original, clear and suited to our age. We will miss him. To read more by Danto, take a look at his author page on The Nation's site, or pick up a copy of our Fischli and Weiss book, or our Robert Mangold book. Also, to understand Warhol's lasting influence, please take a look at our wide array of books on the artist. Buy them from the people who made them, here.


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