The PICTURE: Outsmarted

The PICTURE: Outsmarted

Arts November 15, 2011 / By Jed Perl
The PICTURE: Outsmarted
SYNOPSIS

What Oscar Wilde could teach us about art criticism.

If Walter Benjamin were alive today, would he be writing a little essay about “Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen,” the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art? It is easy to imagine Benjamin crafting a few intricate, elegant pages, combining a collector’s ardent admiration, an intellectual’s theoretical flights, and a novelist’s sensitivity to the pop-chic ambience at MoMA. I found myself indulging in this little fantasy the other day, as I read “Old Toys,” an essay Benjamin published in the Frankfurter Zeitung in 1928, about an exhibition at the Märkisches Museum, an event that definitely got his imagination going. Benjamin marveled at the works on display, speculated about the reasons for the exhibition’s popularity, and indulged in his quirky brand of Marxist analysis, observing that “[o]nce mislaid, broken, and repaired, even the most princely doll becomes a capable proletarian comrade in the children’s play commune.”

Read more at The New Republic

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