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Reflections from the Bottom of a Brillo Box: A Theological Inquiry into the End(s) of Art

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Abstract This article asks after the theological import of the two end of art theses proposed by Arthur Danto and Donald Kuspit respectively. In tribute to the coming thirtieth anniversary of Arthur Danto’s essay “The End of Art” and the tenth anniversary of Donald Kuspit’s book The End of Art, I take up here their respective theories in an attempt to go beyond the surface of their ideas and to ask after the depth of the end(s) of art. Their theses point to a crisis of reflexivity in the respective artworlds they describe and that this crisis is the result of the loss and failed recovery of spiritual depth. Danto’s end of art thesis offers a truth that tells a lie—that there was never depth there to begin with—while Kuspit’s offers a lie that tells the truth—that that depth can be recovered. Danto’s thesis speaks to early postmodern art’s loss of spiritual depth while Kuspit’s addresses late postmodern art’s failure to recover that depth. Taken together, their ends of art present the lying-truth of an irretrievably lost sacred and the true-lie that the sacred in the arts can be recovered.

Affiliations: 1: Texas Christian University


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1. Bourdieu Pierre Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste 1984 London Routledge and Kegan Paul
2. Brokis Victor The Life and Death of Andy Warhol 1990 New York Bantam Books
3. Danto Arthur C. After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History 1997 Princeton NJ Princeton University Press
4. Danto Arthur C. The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art 1983 Cambridge MA Harvard University Press
5. Dillenberger John , Dillenberger Jane On Art and Architecture 1989 New York Crossroads Publishing Company
6. Horowitz Gregg , Huhn Tom The Wake of Art: Criticism, Philosophy, and the Ends of Taste 1998 Amsterdam Gordon and Breach Publishing Group
7. Kierkegaard Søren " The Sickness Unto Death " Fear and Trembling and Sickness Unto Death 1954 Princeton NJ Princeton University Press
8. Klemm David "“Theology of Culture as Theological Humanism.”" Literature and Theology 2004 Vol 18 3 239 250 [Crossref]
9. Klemm David , Klink William "“Dialogue on Theological Models: Construction and Testing Theological Models.”" Zygon 2003 Vol 38 3 495 528 [Crossref]
10. Kuspit Donald The Critic is Artist: The Intentionality of Art 1984 Ann Arbor MI UMI Research Press
11. Kuspit Donald The End of Art 2004 Cambridge Cambridge University Press
12. Kuspit Donald "“Reconsidering the Spiritual In Art.”" Blackbird: The Online Journal of Literature and the Arts 2003 Vol 2 1
13. Lang Berel , Danto Arthur The Death of Art 1984 New York Haven Pubns
14. Tillich Paul What is Religion? 1973 New York HarperCollins

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