Art and Scholasticism

#58- Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word: The History of Tastemakers and Influencers

Scott and Karl are back at it again, this time with Tom Wolfe and his book, The Painted Word. Wolfe is a mid-century American writer and the inventor of New Journalism. He’s known for straddling multiple genres at once, reporting back to his readers on a world we ultimately couldn’t see without him.

In The Painted Word, Wolfe provides a critique of modern art and the world that surrounds it. In a way only Tom Wolfe can, he’s able to describe how the art world of the 1970s was controlled by an insular circle of rich collectors, museums, and critics with outsized influence.

For Wolfe, modern art has become completely literary— the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text. To understand modern art, one must know the words of current criticism. In other words, can you know if modern art is any good unless someone tells you?

Tune in to hear an enlightening conversation on the history of taste-making, “Cultureburg,” and the project of modern art. In the process, Scott and Karl reveal their criteria for good art. Do you agree?

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