The Public Interest

The art we deserve

Alvin Kernan

Winter 2001

LYNNE Munson’s heartfelt description of the decline of “the fine arts,” as they were once known, makes grim reading. In Exhibitionism: Art in an Era of Intolerance, † she traces the appearance since the mid 1960s of what might collectively be called a “Manifesto for a Democratic Art.” This new aesthetic declares that painting, literature, theater, and classical music were not the true arts of democratic America but the moribund remnants of an old authoritarian, bourgeois, capitalist, materialistic art that expressed the values of exploiters.

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