Arguably the most discussed piece of art criticism published since the 1960s, ‘Art and Objecthood’ written by American art historian (and poet) Michael Fried (1939-), and published in the June 1967 issue of Artforum magazine, has been variously described as ‘world dividing doxology’ (Caroline Jones) and ‘a theoretical wedge’ (Rosalind Krauss). What is clear is that the ideas it addresses are remarkably durable. ‘Art and Objecthood’ comments upon and agonizes over what is perceived as the major paradigm shift between modernism and postmodernism, in art and in wider cultural terms. If the legacy of the 1960s is multi-faceted, one key part is this: the so-called autonomous art object was challenged and replaced by contextual or relational works and meanings. By contrast, Fried’s essay argues in very strong terms that art ought to require specialized tools—critical, historical and aesthetic—and that these are worth fighting for.
The contributors to this issue of Journal of Visual Culture analyze the impact of ‘Art and Objecthood’ and assess its divergent traces rather than its canonical receptions. The articles consider its influence internationally within art criticism, philosophy, film studies, theatre, international modernism, new media, and art education.
– Alison and Joanne
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