economics of art

“It was in the early 1950s that Picasso’s earning power and wealth became fabulous to this degree. The decisions which so radically affected his status were taken by men who had nothing to do with Picasso. The American government passed a law which allowed income tax relief to any citizen giving a work of art to an American museum: the relief was immediate, but the work of art did not have to go to the museum until the owner’s death. The purpose of this measure was to encourage the import of European works of art. (There is still the residue of the magical belief that to own art confirms power.) In England the law was changed – in order to discourage the export of art – so that it became possible to pay death duties with works of art instead of money. Both pieces of legislation increased prices in salerooms throughout the art work.”

(John Berger, The Success and Failure of Picasso (1965), p. 4)

the passion of duchamp

Marcel Duchamp retirant

Marcel Duchamp retirant, à la requête des cubistes, son Nu descendant un Escalier du Salon des Indépendants.

Marcel Duchamp, Gabrielle et Francis Picabia

Marcel Duchamp, Gabrielle et Francis Picabia, Guillaume Apollinaire assistant au théâtre Antoine à une représentation d’Impressions d’Afrique de Raymond Roussel.

(both images from La vie illustrée de Marcel Duchamp, avec 12 dessins d’André Raffray, written by Jennifer Gough-Cooper & Jacques Caumont, published by the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou in 1977.)

the state of things, 1955

“—No I, it’s just, listen, criticism? It’s the most important art now, it’s the one we need most now. Criticism is the art we need most today. But not, don’t you see? not the ‘if I’d done it myself . . .’ Yes, a, a disciplined nostalgia, disciplined recognitions but not, no, listen, what is the favor? Why did you come here?”

(Gaddis, The Recognitions, p. 335)


Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?

What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.

     Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

     Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place
     What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye

     Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

     Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

     What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.

(T. S. Eliot, 1930)

disorder, mental, strikes me; i

Disorder, mental, strikes me; I
Slip from my pocket Dante to
Chance hit a word, a friend’s reply
In this bar; bare, dark avenue
The lunge of headlights, then bare dark
Cross on red, two blocks home, old Sixth
The alive, the dead, answer, ask
Miracle consciousness I’m with
At home cat chirps, Norwegian sweater
Slumped in the bar, I mind Dante
As dawn enters the sunk city
Answer a one can understand
Actual events are obscure
Though the observers appear clear

(Edwin Denby, from “Later Sonnets” in The Complete Poems.)

edwin denby by jerome robbins

(photo by Jerome Robbins)


“So the notion of a book needs defining. The concept employed here is simply this: a book is something that unfolds itself. It is always offering portions of its self, withdrawing others, suggesting still others. Emerging, present, receding: there is how a book is. It is a manufactured thing. It works in certain ways; it cannot work in others. It has pages. There is the embarrassingly primitive essence of it.

We do not do nearly enough with what we have invented. Our sense of event, of plot, ought to be keyed to that, to the simple fact that a book is a thing of pages, and to the fact that a page will turn.

The turning of a page is an aesthetic event; or at any rate, it should be. Anyone who writes will know how oddly crucial it can be that a certain page end with a certain word, that the next one begin with a certain other.”

(Eugene Wildman, afterward to Anthology of Concretism (1969), pp. 161–162)