Art Business

César Aira’s Take on Contemporary Art Comes Up Short

On Contemporary Art by César Aira (image courtesy David Zwirner Books) Originally delivered as a speech at a 2010 colloquium in Madrid, César Aira’s On Contemporary Art — published as part of David Zwirner Books’ “Ekphrasis” series — delineates features that have become all too familiar wherever artworks are interpreted, acquired, archived, or exhibited. For Aira, “Contemporary Art,” though not quite the enemy, refers to the emergence of an ahistorical time period when “there are no more Picassos, no more anguish about influences.” The authentically modern artist creates in perfect indifference to history — an attitude that can be traced back to the modernism of Duchamp. In the first section of On Contemporary Art , Aira reflects how, “in 1967, in a bookstore in Buenos Aires … I bought the book Marchand du Sel , the first compilation of the writings of Marcel Duchamp … This book … contained a transparent fold out of a photograph of The Large Glass (1915–1923) and has since become a valuable collector’s item — so much so that I had to buy a pocketbook edition so I could stop fondling it and be able to keep it in good condition in case I […]

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