The failure of “Movements in Art Since 1945”

Bad art history is bad history.

I’ve been reading art history lately, and most of it I’ve been enjoying. I like following the strands of history and the stories of social movements and the nodes of art that are chosen to describe and demonstrate a tapestry too large and too complex to show in whole.

But. One book, Movements in Art Since 1945, by Edward Lucie-Smith, stands out to me as particularly deficient. It’s written by a British guy that wrote a hundred books – quantity wins again apparently.

He beaks off with unearned authority and fails to give actual evidence for his analysis, especially on the topic of women and lesbians. I will leave these quotes by Lucie-Smith here as evidence, as well as comedy.

There is also the fact that lesbian art has been divided by the wish to focus on women’s issues and the desire to conscern itself with purely lesbian ones. Nancy Fried’s (b. 1945) sculptured torsos in clay are about breast cancer and mastectomy — subjects that, in the circumstances, any woman artist may feel the need to tackle. Lesbian identity is often affirmed through appropriation, for example in Sadie Lee’s (b. 1955) witty version of the Mona Lisa showing Leanardo’s iconic woman wearing a collar and tie. This image is in addition to the long series of Mona Lisa variants in twentieth-century art, beginning with Duchampe’s L.H.O.O.Q.1

One problem with a purely issue-based art is that it tends to devalue universal human emotions.1

It’s nonsensical and ignorant. If you’re interested in art and history, I recommend that you skip this book.

  1. pg. 215
  2. pg. 215