All the world in New York City

Two exhibits in Manhattan, taken collectively, offer what might be this year’s most rewarding aesthetic and learning experience.  I stated a while ago that for the first time in a long time (possibly ever), America has a peer country in China.  The contemporary Chinese art overview in the Guggenheim is the single best demonstration of this point I have seen, and the show is further evidence that China already may have surpassed the United States in the visual arts.  Read this NYT review: “…a powerful, unmissable event, and an invaluable window onto a world of contemporary art, politics and history that we still, decades on, barely know.”  This is not complacent art, and some of it was so disturbing it had to be removed before the show opened (NB: the Chinese were not the ones censoring).

At the still underrated Morgan Library, you will find Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection, in two large rooms.  Are drawings and watercolors better than paintings?  Per dollar spent, for sure.  I cannot think of a better, more easily digestible survey of the brilliant visual intelligences behind the last few centuries of Western art.  This NYT review also has quality visuals.


"(NB: the Chinese were not the ones censoring)."

Limiting animal cruelty isn't exactly "censorship" in my mind. Whatever you happen to think of the piece, the primary intent of those objecting to it was to protect the dogs, not the minds of the humans viewing it.

Well said.

The exhibit was never going to show any live dogs so that argument doesn't really work. Just a video of two dogs running on treadmills.

It was going to show live pigs, lizards, snakes and bugs though. The pigs weren't exactly in much danger either as they were basically just left to stand around and be pigs.

"The other two pieces were videos of past events." So what animals were being protected? Based on the descriptions they don't qualify as art to my mind, but to not call it censorship is simply wrong.

Well, is it "censorship" to not show a video of someone being killed or raped or child pornography? The event already happened, you aren't preventing it. You are taking a stand that says you will not be an outlet that encourages such actions.

I guess we're really arguing over a vocabulary word. So call it censorship, but an eminently moral and defensible kind.

John, you're not suggesting that we stop the gladiator contests or high school concussion sports, are you? What about the First Amendment ("Freedom of assembly in the arena")?

BTW, thanks in advance to everyone for not posting pics of whatever canine crimes were involved here.

I'm making no comment on animal cruelty or human gladiatorial contests. I'm simply suggesting that "censorship" usually implies that one party is limiting the exposure of another party to certain ideas for political, social, or ideological reasons.. Whatever you think of animal rights activists, I genuinely believe their intent here was protect the animals involved, not limit the audience's exposure to undesirable ideas.

I guess if you want to reach, you could argue that limiting exposure to animal cruelty is, in part, an attempt to prevent the normalization of the same. In that way it's sort of "censorship", though it's probably a secondary consideration.

I observe criticism of the Han Dynasty as well as Mao in the art, but isn't there an inconsistency since China's embrace of the international order and the wealth and power it has produced is also an embrace of the Han Dynasty and the wealth and power it produced and a rejection of Mao? More of a question than a statement. I suppose different artists have different views about Han and Mao.

No, because Chairman Mao unjted China and expelled the foreigners.

Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT helped to drive out the foreigners....

Maybe the "mad satrap", as Burgess used to call him, had some minor role, but it is clear that Chairman Mao's efforts and the foolishness of the Japanese military clique attacking America were the determining factors for the fascist invader's defeat. As much as I disagree with the red bandits, it is clear that, as the old song goes, "Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China".

"The contemporary Chinese art overview in the Guggenheim is the single best demonstration of this point I have seen, and the show is further evidence that China already may have surpassed the United States in the visual arts"

If modern art = visual arts, then the Chinese can have it!

Not to mention there isn't really any breakthrough, even the name of their artist colony is a knock off (east village...). Cheap chinese knocks off continue.... Starting to wonder if Tyler has been replaced by a cheap chinese knock off of himself.

There is no doubt that by virtue of demographics alone, China will produce great artists.

And there's no doubt that Shanghai will come to contribute to contemporary/hip/avant garde transgressive art the way New York, Berlin, Paris, etc. have contributed.

And the growing middle classes of China will buy art, much as emergent middle and merchant classes have done all throughout history.

I am curious as to the standard(s) implied, in the sentence: "China already may have surpassed the United States in the visual arts." Surpassed on what grounds? Surpassed in what areas? Video art? Installations? Sales? Gallery quality?

Speaking truth to power, of course.

Chinese artists consistently challenge their political system and raise questions for the Chinese people to consider.

or they flee to the West.


I am constantly mystified by Tyler's admiration for the dregs that pass as modern art in the last few decades. This is one case in which dead artists have a near lock on quality with little of value in most of the celebrated visual arts today. I would give up 10% of my salary to make every last bit of contemporary art disappear.

Contemporary art can be great. If you go to Chelsea, and you have eyes, you will have a good time looking at something. The stuff that gets put in museums seems to need to infuriate people to be noteworthy. Go look in a few galleries. Where people are making stuff to sell to people to put in their homes rather than edgy garbage for museums, you're going to find a lot more pleasant and pleasing works.

The view from the Whitney is amazing. The view inside is a million times worse than anything on found within five blocks of 23rd street.

You mean like Thomas Kincade?

So that is it: America kowtows before the red bandits.

With brushes. (Or more accurately these days, a keyboard.)

According to famous Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, "a revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another." He also said political power grows out of the barrel of a gun". Now it seems painting a picture is a revolution and power grows out of a brush.

It is sad to see American bowing before the red bandits.

The artist in the pictured painting has less talent than the average US high school art student and far less than the average Italian painter circa 1500.

The face and hand of the girl in the background are atrocious.

are you talking about the gauguin?

If so, his Polynesian paintings seem better.

Bob from Ohio - The artwork you are criticizing is worse than atrocious. That is some brutally bad brushwork there. I don't care how famous Gauguin was, that is terrible stuff. Well, nice color contrasts, though, and the background architecture was not completely botched. Still, this watercolor reminds me of a review by a good critic of a translation of Homer by Lawrence (the Seven Pillars of Wisdom guy, not the angry little Northern England guy): "I would" the critic said "decline to be the conquerer of Arabia if a condition of that conquest were to be the author of this abomination" (that is nowhere near close to the original language of the review, but is in the ballpark).

The Chinese have learned to make pretentious crap, call it art and sell it to the self-regarding and the money launderers. I wouldn't call it progress but I might call it a descent into cynicism.

The Chinese fascist regime is supported by malefactors of great wealth.

In a just and fair world, you would be the Art critic for the New York Times.

We do not live in a just and fair world. Also the New York Times is obviously doomed no matter how much poor Mexican phone users prop it up.

Those banned exhibits sound pretty neat, with the exception of the pig sex.

"China already may have surpassed the United States in the visual arts." That's no great achievement. The US's contribution to the arts is, Mark Twain aside, her popular music. And much of it is very fine too.

John Singer Sargent was praised by Paul Johnson as the best portrait painter since Van Dyck. Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, Inness, Eakins, and many others (including the greatest painter of polufloisboios okeanos ever to have lived, Sanford Griffith) - and these names are only from the earlier generations of artists born in the eastern states of the United States - are all painters of amazing insight and genius. If you disagree, fine, we can agree to disagree.

sorry - wrong universe - not sanford griffith, the astronomical observatory guy (who you have never heard of) - Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880).

On aggregate level what fraction of pieces in the Louvre and other major European art museums are American? I never though the US was regarded as an artistic superpower but apparently American ethnocentrism knows no limits.

Also, I took a look at some of the works in that museum. Some of them were very funny like the one about dropping an Han vase on the ground. That reminds me of Roger Scruton's documentary on conceptual art (in why it is crap).

I think one of the Sargent masterpieces is in the Louvre - the one with the lantern in the garden. (Actually I think that is in London ... so maybe there are no American masterpieces in the Louvre (well, there is the Whistler, so there's that). All this makes me sorry for our French cousins - there are dozens and dozens of French masterpieces in DC and NYC, and poor Paris, just a Whistler or two in return....). Well - - I have no doubt that - just limiting ourselves to oil paintings - there are a 1,000 or more Russian and Swedish paintings of genius and there is probably not a single one in the Louvre. Dream better, wherever you are! I have had the good fortune to live in a city where there are at least 200 American paintings of genius on public display - DC - ( I am a big fan of art of genius, it makes me happy, I also like bad paintings but it makes me happy to see a painter doing, on those rarer occasions, exactly what he or she wants to do) and I am not an American ethnocentrist. Come on, give me some credit. I love French art, but we are all human, there is not a single country on this planet that does not have beautiful landscapes, and pictorial genius can grow anywhere. Seriously, the fields of Inness may or may not be better than the fields of Courbet - but I have spent a lifetime looking at this world, and I think, in my heart of hearts, that Inness had more heart - but of course it is not a competition. I am far from being an American ethno-centrist. I just like it when a painter paints the world the way it should be painted, by the way. I wish I could paint - there were certain afternoons in Northern California, in the 70s, or in my beloved unappreciated upstate NY, in the 70s-80s, which, if I could paint them even remotely close to how I saw them (California mid-day sunlight (the heart melts with happiness), the primeval light over the Great Lakes (and the happy faces of the people who lived there), I would be very very happy ( not rich, though, if I could really paint the way I wanted to I would only sell enough paintings to scrape by).

Tyler's comment about watercolors and drawings made me think of two of my favorite exhibitions that I've seen: works by Sargent but including watercolors and drawings, not just his epic portraits. And wood engravings by Winslow Homer. Great stuff, and eye-opening regarding the artistic possibilities in media that don't get the same publicity that oil paintings do.

Wow! In the first link, "June 1994" stimulated my Weiwei, appreciated, but the photo is clearly Photo-shopped, which is too bad.

The second link is about master drawings and watercolors; isn't it dangerous to view these? My understanding of watercolors such as by Turner is that they fade when exposed to light, so arguably they should not be viewed by the hoi polloi (a Greek word meaning, literally, 'the many'), but by connoisseurs like TC. TC has written about art (three books that I know of), and knows minutiae about art, not just Amate paintings but obscure things like the outdoor modern art museum in Marfa, Texas. Marfa's Chinati art museum, Hay-Zeus! It's hardly even in Google's first page like the Ft. Worth art museum is. It's like those chess grandmasters who know 'book openings' that number in the thousands, obscure variations going thirty moves deep that an amateur like me has never seen even once. It's amazing.

Bonus trivia: Ars longa, vita brevis - The aphorism quotes the first two lines of the Aphorismi by the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates.

"I stated a while ago that for the first time in a long time (possibly ever), America has a peer country in China"

Well, from 1945 to about 1975 the Soviet Union seemed a credible competitor to the United States. As was the British Empire during the 19th century.

Well, 40 years + qualifies as "in a long time". I hadn't been born yet. "Possibly ever" is, of course, patriotic exaggeration.

I did not realize that you were so young. God bless you, I did not know how young you are. I pictured you as an elderly Paraguayan with an unusual sense of humor, not as a "not even 40" truth seeker.

I am in my early 30s, but I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. I've seen six currencies and two constitutions. I've seen the Soviet Union collapse. I've seen the tanks crushing democracy hopes at Tiananmen Square. I've seen eight impeachment proceedings. I've seen three vice presidents becoming presidents of Brazil. I've seen an American presidential hopeful saying he didn't inhale marijuana. I've seen computers become ubiquitous. I've seen floppy disks replaced by CDs, DVD, flash drives and cloud computing. I've seen cell phones become a common vision. I've seen telephone tokens replaced by telephone cards and payphones replaced by cell phones. I've seen the press in its death throes. I've seen eight World Cups. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by social media.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Correction: two impeachment proceedings.

It's pretty funny, the same man who wants trigger warnings before assigning Ovid, lest it disturb his little snowflakes, turns around and accuses people who oppose animal cruelty of censorship.

"The idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone/All centuries but this, and all countries but his own."

Better than us at the visual arts we're good at? They make better porn than we do?

I hope this comment gets censored but one thing that turns me on is Asian and Caucasian women pretending to be in love with each other. But such porn is hard to find that's tastefully done. I did find some but it's rare (most porn stars only work with their friends, and I suspect most porn stars are racist just like most ordinary people are). Most of this mixed race porn was from the former Soviet republics where there are a lot of such ethnic races, cutesy of Stalin's ethnic cleansing. I found a Polish porn star with a Thai woman clip years ago it was spectacular. A fruitful example of East-West fusion in the visual arts.

Well, maybe it was not censored - God forfend that Tyler read all the comments here .... but, on the bright side, anyone can say they are "Ray Lopez". Porn, "Ray", as much as it has an interest for so many people at the end of the work day, or when the spouse has been especially distant, is no more than a sad subset of "lechery", just like eating bad food fast is a sad subset of gluttony. Much better to turn away from porn - every single time you are tempted --- it is not art and it is not necessary to the living of a good life - it is much better to turn towards the real rewards of life - perhaps, at the minimally satisfactory levels with which I am so familiar, just a nice humble date and a nice kiss with a not very attractive, but not completely unattractive, slightly overweight person of the opposite sex who will be made happy by your decision to live, in those moments (and in the moments you spent thinking about those moments), a real life, as opposed to living, once again, the life of a porn consumer, living, for those sad porn-watching moments that cannot be retrieved, the wasted life of a lecherous voyeur ... as a French writer said, after he had spent the entire afternoon preparing a ratatouille for his friends, the only real tragedy is to not become a saint. And, to tell the truth, he was right.

I wasn't aware America was supposedly the world's leading power in the visual arts. Also, china being a country of 1.4 billion people is more than a peer, when it finishes developing the US would be to China as much as a peer country as the UK is to the US.

It's more complicated than that. The reasonable expectation, based on the experience of Europe and Japan, is that China would reach a per capita GDP about 3/4 of the U.S., and hold there Of course China is much larger, so total GDP would be higher, but the surplus available for geopolitics might not be as large. A somewhat unprecedented situation.

Another reasonable expectation, based on Chinese history, is that it will devolve into civil war with bloodletting on an epic scale. We'll see.

Europe has achieved parity with US in GDP per hour worked actually. Japan has not, mainly because of government policy of supporting zombie firms.

Chinese labor force is 5 times the US, so the difference in size is so large as to not make the US a potential peer, the US is just a small country next to China. And the "surplus available for geopolitics", well, right now China has greater geopolitical power potential than the US even though China is far from being fully developed. It doesn't exert that power because it is not in it's interest.

GDP per hour worked was really high in the Depression, too, which is why it isn't a very meaningful statistic.

Your definition of meaningful statistic: "the statistic that confirms my ethnocentric world views".

When you run out of arguments, call your opponent a racist.

"I stated a while ago that for the first time in a long time (possibly ever), America has a peer country in China."

Thanks, Trump.

Animal cruelty? There's no shortage of that in the US.

"When it comes to publishing in the world’s leading scientific journals, the United States is in a league of its own."

but that being said, I may go to the Guggenheim.

"world’s leading scientific journals" are what exactly? The journals they consider the "top" are all published in English. Let's try seeing which countries have more scientific publications in the top Chinese language journals. Measuring scientific research is a rather subjective endeavor.

I like measuring stuff using things that are objective. Like motor vehicle sales or electricity consumption. These are the figures for 2016:

Motor vehicles: 1st China 28.0 million, 2n US 17.8 million, 3rd Japan 5.0 million.
Electricity: 1st China, 6.14 trillion kwh, 2n US, 4.35 trillion kwh, 3rd India, 1.40 trillion kwh

And going by geography, the US is a more material intensive economy than China which means that given a similar level of aggregate surplus I would expect the US to buy more motor vehicles and consume more electricity. Therefore these statistics underestimate the difference in size between the Chinese and the US economy.

If they're doing it right then they're talking about the most highly cited journals.

Also, owning motor vehicles does not show you're at the leading edge of science. Mass use of motor vehicles is almost a century old now.

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