Kamhi is an independent scholar and critic. The author of 'Who Says That’s Art?' and 'Bucking the Artworld Tide,' she also co?edits 'Aristos' (an online review of the arts) and co-authored 'What Art Is.’
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE / PRURGENT
A “monumental public sculpture” was reportedly unveiled recently in New York’s Hudson River, across from the Whitney Museum of American Art, which spearheaded the project.
But if that phrase conjures up things like the Statue of Liberty or ancient descriptions of the fabled Colossus of Rhodes, you are likely to be a bit flummoxed. This “sculpture,” titled 'Day’s End', is nothing like those monumental figures. It consists merely of a few slender stainless-steel pipes tracing the outline of a former storage shed on a New York pier.
If you knew nothing about the piece and happened to catch sight of it from a passing boat or car, you would never guess it was supposed to be a work of art. You’d probably think it was just the framework for some construction in progress. Hardly what one would expect of a “monumental” work of public art.
Monuments, after all, are meant to remind us of something important. To do that, they must stand out in some memorable way. Moreover, public monuments are meant to remind us of someone or something considered important by many people.
Who or what does 'Day’s End' commemorate? According to its creator, David Hammons, it is a monument to Gordon Matta-Clark.
“Gordon who?” you might well ask. For unless you are a contemporary artworld insider, you have probably never heard of him. So here is a brief tutorial.
According to the Guggenheim Museum, Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978) is best known for his “temporary works created by sawing and carving sections out of buildings, most of which were scheduled to be destroyed.” He called them anarchitecture.
One of Matta-Clark’s temporary works was called 'Day’s End'. He created the piece in 1975 merely by cutting five large openings in the walls and roof of the abandoned shed that then stood on the Hudson River’s Pier 52.
David Hammons’s 'Day’s End' installation pays tribute to Matta-Clark’s piece by outlining its original dimensions.
Neither piece is your idea of art? You’d be hard pressed to find a purported artworld expert to agree with you.
One notable exception is Michelle Marder Kamhi, author of ‘Bucking the Artworld Tide.’ Alone among her fellow members of the International Association of Art Critics, she argues that installations such as the 'Day’s End' projects are neither “sculpture” nor art of any kind. And in her prior book, ‘Who Says That’s Art?,’ she explains why.
Installations, as Kamhi explains, belong to the bogus postmodernist genre of “conceptual art”—which is, in fact, the antithesis of genuine art. In “conceptual” pieces, the idea for the work is considered more important than its execution. In genuine art, however, the concretization of an idea in a compellingly particular form is paramount. The classically inspired Statue of Liberty is a good example.
Moreover, as Kamhi reports, “conceptual art” was actually recognized as anti-art by its inventors. Ironically, however, such anti-art has triumphed in the contemporary artworld.
Evidently, even the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs—which has expended more than four million dollars in support of the Whitney Museum’s Day’s End fiasco—fails to see the difference between an anti-art “installation” and a work of monumental “sculpture.”
Michelle Marder Kamhi is available for media interviews and can be reached through the contact form on her website. All of her books are available through online retailers. For more information, see her website at https://www.mmkamhi.com.
About Michelle Marder Kamhi:
Independent scholar and critic Michelle Marder Kamhi co-edits 'Aristos', an online review of the arts founded as a print journal in 1982, and is the author of ‘Bucking the Artworld Tide’ (2020) and ‘Who Says That’s Art?’ (2014). One of her main interests is art education.
Kamhi previously co-authored 'What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand' (Open Court, 2000)—which dealt with all the major arts and was praised by the American Library Association’s Choice magazine for its “well-documented . . . debunking of twentieth-century art . . . and art theory.”
After graduating from Barnard College, Kamhi earned an M.A. in Art History at Hunter College. Before joining 'Aristos' in 1984, she had been an editor at Columbia University Press, where she worked on titles in its distinguished Records of Civilization series. She was also active as a freelance writer and editor. Among her independent projects was 'Books Our Children Read,' a film documenting a constructive approach to resolving communal conflict over controversial literature in public school classrooms and libraries.
Kamhi is a member of the American Society for Aesthetics, the National Art Education Association, the National Association of Scholars, and AICA-USA (the U.S. branch of the International Association of Art Critics).
Articles by her have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Arts Education Policy Review, Academic Questions, and the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, among other publications.
Kamhi lives in New York City with her husband and colleague, 'Aristos' founder Louis Torres.