up arrow Did Conservative Ideology Stunt The Journal’s Art Coverage?


“Critics all over the world are using the News of the World scandal as an opportunity to do what should have been done years ago,” Rolling Stone’s avenging angel Matt Taibbi writes, “which is indict Rupert Murdoch in the court of public opinion.”

Thus begins an ARTINFO piece on how conservatism stunted the WSJ’s art coverage. Rather than an exception to Taibbi’s rule, ARTINFO became one of the many groups piling on in wake of the phone hacking scandal. Certainly Murdoch deserves the notoriety he now enjoys yet there’s something unseemly about the timing of the piece even if I generally agree with it.

The author, Ben Davis, provides examples he feels demonstrate the Journal’s contempt for late modern and contemporary art. He notes a particular disdain for Marcel Duchamp with examples from the onset of the article. Certainly, the Journal’s tastes go beyond representational art but Davis thinks they’ve dismissed anti- and conceptual art with a flippant flip of the wrist.

Perhaps. This certainly plays into the stereotype.

Duchamp’s issue with industrial age capitalism was that it separated the craftsman from the craft. Products were manufactured with interchangeable human cogs. To make this point, he created art that did not require craftsmanship. And with this concept some art world conservatives take issue.

For many conservatives, “conceptual art” is a dog whistle code word for “takes no talent.” It can’t be art, they feel, because its production requires no drawing, sculpting or painting skills. They don’t teach urinal manufacturing at the École des Beaux-Arts.

There’s probably some truth in this piece but was the Journal ever a must-read source of art info under the Bancrofts? Perhaps its growth was stunted by the conservatism of  its new overlords, but chances are its art writers are merely sharing their feelings and not those of the current owners.