‘Believing is seeing’: Tom Wolfe on Modern art

Tom Wolfe by Yousuf Karsh (1990), Gelatin silver print

The gymnastic novelist and journalist Tom Wolfe, who died on Tuesday (16 May) in New York, aged 88, was a popular, savvy, if also controversial commentator on art (as well as a sharp dresser). In The Painted Word (1975), his nose-thumbing critique of Modern art, its critics and collectors, Wolfe is certainly glib, full of generalisations and questionable assumptions. And yet his underlying thesis, that visual art had degenerated into chic art theory and was otherwise meaningless, expressed what many people felt, and continue to feel, at the

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