Where Did Modern Art Come From? Radical-Thinking Artists and World-Changing Ideas 

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Duration 01:03:07

Courtauld Institute of Art

Jacky Klein is an art historian and Associate Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art master’s program. She previously worked as a curator at several leading London galleries (including the Tate), and is the author of a bestselling book on British artist Grayson Perry and co-author of several other titles, including Alfred Cohen: An American Artist in Europe, Body of Art, and What is Contemporary Art? She lectures each year in Venice on Peggy Guggenheim and leads tours of her art collection at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni.




Monet lampshades, Van Gogh wallpaper, Picasso mugs, Jackson Pollock silk scarves, Guerilla Girls tea towels … it’s easy to think of modern art as an effortless lifestyle adornment. But each great leap forward in art was accompanied by – if not the direct result of – radical ideas and world-changing manifestos. This lecture charts the rise of radical thinking in modern art, from its origins in the 1870s – sparked by the choice of a single word – to the revolutionary movements of the early 20th century and the conceptual experiments of the 1960s, unearthing truly radical thought in everything from an apple to a bicycle wheel. We’ll look with fresh eyes at some of the greatest modern artists, including Monet and Cézanne, Picasso and Duchamp, Donald Judd, and Carolee Schneeman, to rediscover the progressive thrust of their work, and to re-examine how they were, in their very different ways, attempting to create entirely new worlds.


Recommended Reading:
Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art?, by Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi
The Contemporary Art Book: The Essential Guide to 200 of the World’s Most Widely Exhibited Artists, by Charlotte Bonham-Carter and David Hodge
Radical Art and the Formation of the Avant-Garde, by David Cottington
Art Since 1900, Volume 1: 1900 to 1944, by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, et al
Art Since 1989, by Kelly Grovier
Contemporary Art: World Currents, by Terry Smith


Discussion Questions:
1. Is the greatest art in any era always the most radical?
2. Is the commercialization of art, in your view, something to be celebrated or resisted?
3. Who is the “father” of modern art: Cézanne, Picasso, or Duchamp? Why do you think so?
4. Is breaking with tradition essential for the development of art and culture?
5. Does radical art always tend towards abstraction, or can figuration be equally revolutionary?
6. What do you think the next radical leap forward in art will be?





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Susan Backer

Yea! Modern Art!

Wow so much information in a short time. Articulate, charming and was able to convince me that each artists’ conception of what their art is, even an empty room with a light going on and off every five seconds, is art! Bravo!

2 years ago
Maggie Olmstead

Well done

I learned some things, although I’m still a little mystified about why an artist would want to remove themself from their work. Why display only the mind and not the hand? They’re not separated from each other. Well, at least I won’t dismiss all of this out of hand any more. Mostly.

2 years ago
Maggie Olmstead

Too broad a subject

Trying to cover 150 years of art in less than an hour is an impossible task. Too many schools of art were breezed over or left out completely. It would have been better if the subject had been cut down to a more manageable size; for instance: focusing on just a few artists and their work; changing the subject to “The path to abstract art”; or explaining “Why conceptual art isn’t all just a pile of garbage created by a bunch of lazy art school dropouts.”
That said, Ms. Klein clearly knows her stuff, and I’d like to hear other lectures by her.

3 months ago
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