9.5 Theses on Art and Classby Ben Davis
In 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, Ben Davis takes on a broad array of contemporary art’s most persistent debates: How does creative labor fit into the economy? Is art merging with fashion and entertainment? What can we expect from political art? Davis argues that returning class to the center of discussion can play a vital role in tackling the challenges
In 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, Ben Davis takes on a broad array of contemporary art’s most persistent debates: How does creative labor fit into the economy? Is art merging with fashion and entertainment? What can we expect from political art? Davis argues that returning class to the center of discussion can play a vital role in tackling the challenges that visual art faces today, including the biggest challenge of allhow to maintain faith in art itself in a dysfunctional world.
“Just when it seemed that contemporary art writing and the subject of real-life politics had permanently parted ways, along comes the young New York critic Ben Davis with a book that brings them together. No cheerleading here, no swoony prosody, no easy kiss-offs; just smart, ardent, illusion-puncturing observation and analysis on the intersection of art, commerce, andthe elephant in the art-fair VIP loungeclass. None of this would matter much if he didn’t tell us why we should care, but he does. Under all his excoriations lies a faith in art as an agent of transformation toward a post-neoliberal, post-greed society that could be, should be.”
Holland Cotter, art critic, New York Times
"Like watching an expert pole-vaulter ply his craft, witnessing this critic reach for first principles in this day and age constitutes its own reward... On 9.5 Theses, the verdict is crystal: This is one helluva pamphlet."
Christian Viveros-Faune, The Village Voice
"...a riveting manifesto..."
New York Magazine
"By reminding artists where they really stand, Davis hopes, in the end, to put them on firmer footing, both politically and creatively."
Dushko Petrovich, BOOKFORUM
"Davis is an intellectually clearheaded critic dishing out some tough truths, often backed up with statistics, to the rarefied 'art world.' . . . The book reframes the production and sale of art in tough terms, which is why the collection’s centerpiece, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, should be required reading for art professionals. In this first book, Davis proves himself a critic to be reckoned with."
"Written beautifully and for all of us... this book has a high purpose that many attempt and few fulfill. It is a compelling and convincing reminder of why art matters and what's ultimately at stake."
Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“9.5 Theses on Art and Class is the first book I’ve read by an art critic that spoke to the world I lived and worked in as an artist. Incisive, irreverent, and intellectually fearless. A truth-bomb of a book.”
Molly Crabapple, artist
“Bracing, provocative, exasperated, and good-humored, Davis is skillfully committed to getting the best out of art and art theor and the world.”
China Miéville, author, The City & The City
“Davis is deeply attuned to contemporary art and the contradictory ways it is expressed and contained within culture more broadly. More than a book of political essays, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class offers a fresh theory that is useful to anyone wrestling with the challenges of what art is or can do.”
Lauren Cornell, curator, New Museum
In this audacious new collection of essays, critic and Artinfo executive editor Davis seeks to expose the decisive role of class in the contemporary art world. According to Davis, the often antagonistic economic relations among artists, curators, gallerists, and dealers barely figure in art criticism, which too often ignores the economic infrastructure surrounding artworks or simply conflates the art world with the art market. Offering an alternative approach that is at once critical and pragmatic, Davis emphasizes the striations of class cutting across the domain of art, while recognizing the difficulties artists and critics face in challenging them. Hence, he rejects the idea that artworks can themselves be politically efficacious, calling instead for concrete, collective action outside of museums and galleries. While such an unapologetically Marxist intervention is welcome, some may question the definition of class upon which Davis's theses rely. For instance, he flatly defines artists as middle class by virtue of their individualized and creative labor, neglecting questions of wealth, economic security, and cultural prestige. VERDICT Certain to appeal to anyone interested in the vexed relationship between contemporary art and class.—Jonathan Patkowski, CUNY Graduate Ctr.
- Haymarket Books
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- 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Meet the Author
Ben Davis was born in Seattle, Washington. He currently lives and works in New York City where he is Executive Editor at Artinfo.
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