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Censorship In Art Essay On Picasso

A local Fox news station has censored the breasts on a cubist painting by Pablo Picasso, prompting bemusement and ridicule from art critics and audiences.

Reporting on the record-setting, $179m auction of Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O), New York’s Fox 5, blurred the breasts of three women in the painting, despite the stylized and distinctly unrealistic portrayal of those women mostly through blocky shapes.

The network did not censor a pair of buttocks.

The New York channel falls under the Fox umbrella network, owned by the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Observers, sometimes conflating the affiliate with the Fox News cable channel, derided the censorship of art.

New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz tweeted: “how sexually sick are conservatives [and] Fox News?”

Culture critic Aruna D’Souza sarcastically quipped: “Glad [Fox] is protecting its audience from Picasso’s smutty mind. Wouldn’t want to scare the children.”

Art history blog Alberti’s Window tweeted: “Glad I didn’t pay $179 million for a Picasso painting that was ‘retouched’ by a Fox News employee.”

On Tuesday, Christie’s auction house sold the painting for $179m, a record for a painting that the auctioneer said could last a decade. The painting, featuring several nude women and was inspired by the work of 19th century artist Eugène Delacroix and one of 15 in a series.

  • This article was updated on Friday 15 May to clarify that MyFoxNY is not a Fox News affiliate. It is owned by 21st Century Fox.

A philosophy professor at Columbia University, Mr. Danto has been the art critic for The Nation since 1984. This is the second volume of his collected art criticism from The Nation to be published - with the addition of work published in several other journals - and it reprints essays from the past four years.

The obvious reason for reprinting ephemeral reviews is a decision that the material is more than reportage and narrative, and that its evaluative analysis is of more than passing interest. Reviewing has become, in fact, criticism when it is perceived to go beyond journalism, beyond the logging of the day by day, week by week. At its best, it exists in its own right, in parallel to the specific exhibition or - as Mr. Danto has it - ''encounter'' that has provided the original pretext for the piece. This extension of the article's life is granted perhaps on account of literary merit, perhaps on account of judgments made in a setting that is more than local, perhaps because the insights expressed have a relevant vitality that goes beyond the short time span implied by publication in a periodical of current comment.

In Mr. Danto's case, the need to put his articles into book form is undoubtedly prompted by the controversy his views as a self-described loner seem to engender in an art world where criticism, we are told, is mostly written by art historians and artists, not professors of philosophy. (This neatly leaves out a significant number of poets, novelists and writers - Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, John Updike and John Ashbery, to name but a few - who have at one point or another written regularly on the visual arts, not to mention such seminal figures as Baudelaire.) Mr. Danto has not shaped his collection by subject, but rather reprinted the pieces chronologically. Therefore, the anthology acts as a chronicle, showing the reader to what extent art issues are shaped by art fare, that is, what is available on the vast menu - table d'hote and a la carte - offered by (in the main) New York public museums and galleries. He continually reminds us of this framework by remarking on the behavior of his fellow museum visitors and recalling conversations at press previews. However, it would be more convenient for the readers if we did not have to dredge from some phrase in the middle of each article exactly where we are, for the book is, as it were, after the fact, no longer absolutely topical but already taking on the patina of the past.

Thus, Mr. Danto's utterly absorbing essay on Andy Warhol, which really proposes a new kind of explanation for modernism (''It is possible - I would argue that it is necessary - to explain the history of art through the past century as a collective investigation by artists into the philosophical nature of art''), is triggered by the Warhol retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1989. This is perhaps the key discussion in this volume, proposing that ''the significant art of this extraordinary period . . . has to be assessed as much on grounds of speculative theory as on those of aesthetic discrimination.'' Mr. Danto goes on in a densely argued essay to conclude that the defining factor of modern times is that we are all conscious of living in history, rather than looking backward at what had been history, and that ours is ''the Age of Warhol - an unlikely giant, but a giant nonetheless.''

Among other felicities, in the section called ''Reflections'' - longer essays published in Grand Street magazine and Modern Painters - there is a spirited analysis of masterpieces and the museum, a discussion of our need for masterpieces, a conclusion that they do exist and a tracing of the ancestry of the modern concept of a masterpiece to one of the circus riders of the French Revolution, the Abbe de Saint-Non. Reincarnated as Citizen Vivant-Denon after the Revolution, he became the director general of the Louvre; he was, Mr. Danto says, ''the first great curatorial impresario, part pirate, part artist,'' whom we find embodied in some directors of great museums today.

Mr. Danto's insights are distinguished by his own broad frames of reference; an occasional and almost overwhelming attachment to, and description of, the sheer captivating sensuality of a particular work, from ''The Kiss'' by Gustav Klimt to Frank Stella's ''Bijoux Indiscrets''; and a determination to make the reader, and the essayist, feel, see and, above all, think. He has thus provided an invaluable vade mecum to the present art landscape.

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