9.5 Theses on Art and Class

Overview


9.5 Theses on Art and Class seeks to show how a clear understanding of class makes sense of what is at stake in a broad number of contemporary art's most persistent debates, from definitions of political art to the troubled status of "outsider" and street art to the question of how we maintain faith in art itself.

Ben Davis currently lives and works in New York City where he is Executive Editor at Artinfo.

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Overview


9.5 Theses on Art and Class seeks to show how a clear understanding of class makes sense of what is at stake in a broad number of contemporary art's most persistent debates, from definitions of political art to the troubled status of "outsider" and street art to the question of how we maintain faith in art itself.

Ben Davis currently lives and works in New York City where he is Executive Editor at Artinfo.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this provocative essay collection, Artinfo executive editor Davis’s thesis makes the relentless theoretical debates over art and politics seem tangential. “There are no formal or aesthetic solutions to the political and economic dilemmas that art faces—only political and economic solutions,” he writes. An old-fashioned Marxist, Davis examines class and inequality to address problems that bedevil contemporary art (the distortions effected by scandalous amounts of cash, for instance), problems that he claims are also those of society at large. Davis is an intellectually clearheaded critic dishing out some tough truths, often backed up with statistics, to the rarefied “art world.” For example, he attributes the underrepresentation of female artists in galleries and collections to the gender pay gap and the absence of an “activist-oriented women’s rights movement.” He condemns what he aptly calls “aesthetic politics” as a delusion and an “excuse not to be engaged in the difficult, ugly business of organizing.” His claim that visual art is essentially a form of “middle-class labor” dispels the lofty romance that obscures the social position of artists. 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. (July)
From the Publisher

“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, and—the elephant in the art-fair VIP lounge—class. 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."
Publishers Weekly

"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

Library Journal
09/15/2013
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608462681
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books
  • Publication date: 7/9/2013
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 616,640
  • Product dimensions: 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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