Why Hitler hated abstract art


That’s it? Well thank you for your introduction to the refined world of high art. I guess I have misunderstood everything, But your 20 character response has cleared it all up.

I am curious whether you are an artist or a historian?

Your response suggests that you think DADAists were more like you than me. Hey, I disagree.


Along the lines of “What would happen if he had found another outlet”, I recommend tracking down a copy of The Iron Dream. Norman Spinrad writing under the persona of an alternate Adolf Hitler. It’s a rather horrifyingly successful pastiche, taking the 50’s SF hero defending the universe from the evil aliens and exaggerating it just a bit to become an Aryan ubermensch protecting his people from the evil mutants. It’s a brilliant sent-up of many of the pulp SF tropes which simultaneously takes us on a tour of the mind of a less-than-stable “author”.

(And just to nail it down, the final chapter is an “afterword” essay by a fictional psychologist commenting on the book’s themes.)

Great example of how it takes an unusually good writer to credibly write like an unusually bad writer… while keeping it readable. Quite a tour de force of writing skill. I don’t feel a need to re-read it, but I’ve kept it in my library to lend out to folks who haven’t seen it yet.


I was under the impression that the Futurists and the Dadaists were different groups of people.


Oh, sure. I was talking about the zeitgeist. A lot of pissed off artists after WWI. A lot of pissed off people all over Europe. I have the impression that it changed things in a big way and meant the end of old-fashioned aristocracy. The artists protest probably had a tiny effect outside cultural haunts, but the change in art was profound and long lasting. Somewhat backsliding now, in my opinion.

So, yes, DADA and Futurists were different groups, but both were part of a huge post-war upheaval in culture and futurists got a bad rep for some early sympathy toward fascism. I am speculating, based purely on my experience of the world, that it is a piling-on based on scant evidence and the very competitive and nasty nature of business in art. It has become a sacrosanct story because it tickles people who enjoy seeing someone else go down in flames. To say reality is more nuanced doesn’t make such a re-tellable story, but I feel a need to point this out.


Judging at least by the Wikipedia article on Futurism, (it’s been a long time since art history), you’re right that the political history of Italian Futurism was more complicated than “the Futurists were fascists”. But it’s not a groundless claim, either. The Futurist Manifesto expressed ideas that anticipated fascism.

My point in bringing up the Dadaists was to point out that there were a lot of different art groups, that influenced each other, some of which expressed explicit political ideas, many distinctly antithetical to each other. So I wasn’t sure why you making a point of defending Futurism; I thought you might be using it as a general term for the overall trends in art in the first half of the century in Europe.


This is why I said my fears are based my experience of the world, not specific knowledge of the futurists. I don’t know exactly when my view of academic facts curdled, but they did, I took away an opinion that much of what is considered facts in art history are politically motivated presentation of partial truths. What was the context of this manifesto that everyone likes to point out? Manifestos are regarded as pretty unimportant to actual artists. Talk is cheap. Work is hard. The kinds of artists who produce manifestos are either kidding or quickly forget about it in the face of having to produce good work. Which is an iterative process that reveals that what you think about it matters not a whit.

Editing to add that there is a third kind of artist that produces manifestos, forgettable ones.


You could read the article on the Futurist Manifesto I just linked. Or read the Futurist Manifesto itself.

More broadly, not directly connected to Italian Futurism, you could read An Artist of the Floating World. It’s a pretty good novel.

At least in my experience, many artists are emphatically political, and if you don’t consider their political views, you’re missing much of the context of their work.


Yes, of course. I was indulging in some exaggeration. It is a tricky thing to not become the tool of a moment. Look at Jacques-Louis David.

I think, as an artist, or person, ages the attraction of extreme politics fades as the weight of experience forces one to acknowledge that the world is a fantastically complicated place. Sometimes all that is required to cause this shift is the unwise expression of half formed thoughts, followed by almost immediate regret. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, at least in my good moments.

Honestly I read all that stuff years ago and don’t intend to go back to it. I have made up my mind about the value of the art historical record. Which I explained above. You may have overlooked that.


In other words, you’re pulling it out of your XXI-century anal orifice :smile:

Futurism in Italy was characterised by heavy pro-war rhetoric, and it was enthusiastically embraced by fascist ideology later on. Not a surprise: these “artists” went as far as actually ambushing and beating a rival critic in large numbers, pioneering the sort of violent “many vs one” practice that will become typical of fascism. As others said, quite a few Italian futurists did enlist for WWI, and their main regret later on was that Italy had come out of that conflict with a diminished profile (we “won” only thanks to Allied pressure, barely scraping by, risking huge territorial losses at various points, and ending up with territorial gains everybody thought we did not deserve).

Obviously we are not going to judge the entire movement on a single element (futurism was hugely influential and evolved in forms that, in many ways, dominated XX century arts) and/or on a moral basis, but trying to say that futurists were joking when openly campaigning for war at every turn, is just preposterous, sorry.


Thanks for that. I didn’t want to know it obviously. I still suspect that it is a tilted re-telling for the sake of a good paper. It has been repeated so often that no one can see it any more. Besides academics love to stir shit up.

Of all the areas of academic study the arts are more prone to this than others because of the subjective nature of the judgement involved. Over and over I have seen artists hard work used by historians and critics to prop up their over-excited re-tellings of what happened. I know artists, even some who were already famous in the 20th century! I have opinions based on my interactions with them and my own feelings about how I have been treated. Most of the reading I did in school was texts by artists and compared to texts by critics and historians they proved invaluable in developing a real appreciation for what artists do. I also have my biases against work that is overtly political and uses issues to build credibility. Artists are egotistical animals and are more about career and advancement than saving the world. I also think the Clash was full of shit, for example.

You know, obviously this is my axe to grind and I will keep talking about it here because I see a lot of faith in academic principles around here that work well in other areas of endeavor but ultimately do not serve art or most of the humanities. Historians of art fall back on putting art in context because there just isn’t much to say about art, otherwise. This is something good artists understand and so keep the historical narrative at arms distance. Of course there is a huge class, now, of artists who swallowed the whole thing without blinking and go through life treating art like any other academic discipline. There used to be a different path for artists through the university. It has faded and been replaced by an academic model that has not served art very well and may well fade away as time marches on. I think artists will move away from the academy once again as the full effects are noticed. As it is we have a huge split in the art world among academic, commercial (fine art) and grant based art. I look forward to watching the split progress. I love change.

Your response lacks a charitable spirit. I am not an academic, but I am an artist. An artist has to make up one’s mind about these things for oneself. Academic truth is valueless to me. As I said, it is always filtered through an agenda that makes the artists beliefs, intentions and even accomplishments against ridiculous odds into details in a story about something else. This leads to cherry picking, distortion and out right fabrication. How do you decide when you have enough information to say you have a clear picture of what really happened? I suspect you are just as skeptical when someone from outside your field offers opinions about the motives and success or failure there.

I had a wise professor who loved to start his first class by reading the dictionary definition of “sculpture.” He would read it out loud to the class and let them discuss it for a few minutes and then he would say.“I know this definition is wrong because I know this field. What this makes me wonder is how seriously I should take anything else in this book.”

That is how I feel about art history.


OK, I wrote that long reply to toyboat and turned around and found this text popping up on my facebook feed from one of our most highly respected big shot artists. I was not bold enough in my assertions:

True facts: By Richard Prince “More shit list. (Andthis isn’t even fair). Art Forum. It sucks. Okay your ads are all right and yes, you did write about Liz Larner, (finally) but that’s about it. Who are you writing for? October? Better question… what are you trying to hide? I need a fucking dictionary or some CIA cipher to decode your language. “Check out the big brain on Brad”. Fucking relax will you? Art News… the worst. I just read a review of my work in the your magazine and you said good things about it. Do you know how that made me feel? Terrible. At least in the past you ignored what i did and when and if you said anything at all you dismissed my work in a sentence or two, describing it as “awful” and “not worth a second look”. Stick with the insults and I’ll take you off the list. Art Review…I hate your power lists. I use to be on them and now I’m not and I’m thankful for not being included. Your fucking list is moronic and embarrassing. And if you ever put me on again and I will sue your stupid asses for as much as the law allows. Your idea of power is inconsequential to someone like me. The only reason you exist is because the lights are on in my studio. I have fucking valet parking in front of my studio. That’s fucking power assholes. Frieze Art Magazine, (for the life of me I open it up and I have no idea what I’m looking at). Your magazine is confusing. The graphics are all over the place. I’m not sure if I’m looking at an ad or an article. Way to much video and sound art. Artists aren’t good with video and sound. Charlie Fucking Bronson and Burl Ives. Write articles on them. That’s sight and sound. Artists aren’t professionals. We’re loners and lazy and anti-social and try to get away with as much as we can. I can hardly plug in my Apple. ArtInfo.Com… There’s no information worth reading on your stupid ass site and yes I realize you fucking idiots sometimes follow what I say and sometimes even re-publish my blather and crap, ( I would hope by now you would come to realize that it’s Bird Talk)… but I’m not going to shut up just because you continue to exist. (Just to let you know… I hope you fuck off and die and go out of business and leave the art world to me. Why me? Because I am the fucking art world).”


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