For over a hundred years, the idea of the "avant-garde" has been perhaps the most important and influential force in modern culture, ruling the critical assessment of the significance of an artist or a work of art. If they have been judged to be "avant-garde," then they are worthy of consideration. But very little attempt has been made to explore why the idea of the "avant-garde" carries so much authority, or how it came to do so. What is more, the term remains a difficult one to define, and is often used in a variety of ways.
In this Very Short Introduction, art historian David Cottington illuminates the concept of the avant-garde, exploring its wider context through the development of western modernity, capitalist culture, and the global impact of both. Cottington looks at the relation between "the avant-garde"--that is, the social entity (the "club")--and "avant-garde" qualities in a work of art (or design, or architecture, or any other cultural product), and he sheds light on the meaning of "avant-gardism." Perhaps most interesting, he considers whether--now that contemporary art seems to have broken all taboos and is at the center of a billion-dollar art market--is there still an "avant-garde" at all. And if so, what is the point of it and who are the artists concerned?
About the Series:
Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
Cottington's book is both a brisk history of the idea of the avant-garde and a precise set of arguments about what constitutes avant-garde ... To navigate the waters ahead we will require cultural historians like Cottington more than Amazon reviews, Facebook likes and fleeting tweets. * The Scotsman *
1: Origins: emergence and consolidation 1820-1914
2: Professionalisms and Politics Between the Wars
3: Consumerism and co-option
4: The Avant Garde and Revolution