In an obituary for the New York Times, Ken Johnson described Arthur Danto (1924–2013) as “one of the most widely read art critics of the Postmodern era.” Danto, who was both a critic and a professor of philosophy, is celebrated for his accessible and affable prose. Despite this, Danto’s best-known essay, “The End of Art,” continues to be cited more than it is understood. What was Danto’s argument? Is art really over? And if so, what are the implications for art history and art-making?
Danto’s twin passions throughout his life were art and philosophy. He initially embarked on a career as an artist (much of his work is now part of the Wayne State University art collection) before pursuing an academic career in philosophy. In 1951, Danto began teaching at Columbia University, earning his doctorate the next year. He was an art critic for