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Transgressions: The Offences of Art
by Anthony Julius
University of Chicago Press, 2002
Cloth: 978-0-226-41536-9
Library of Congress Classification N72.E8J85 2002
Dewey Decimal Classification 701.03

Since the mid-nineteenth century, artists have compulsively rejected received ideas in order to test and subvert morality, law, society, and even art itself. But what happens when all boundaries have been crossed, all taboos broken, all limits violated?

Transgressions is the first book to address this controversial subject. Here Anthony Julius traces the history of subversion in art from the outraged response to Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe to the scandal caused by the grant programs of the National Endowment for the Arts a century and a half later. Throughout the book, and supported by the work of such artists as Marcel Duchamp, the Chapman brothers, Andres Serrano, Damien Hirst, Gilbert & George, Paul McCarthy, Jeff Koons, Hans Haacke, and Anselm Kiefer, Julius shows how the modern period has been characterized by three kinds of transgressive art: an art that perverts established art rules; an art that defiles the beliefs and sentiments of its audience; and an art that challenges and disobeys the rules of the state.

The evidence assembled, Julius concludes his hard-hitting dissection of the landscapes of contemporary art by posing some important questions: what is art's future when its boundary-exceeding, taboo-breaking endeavors become the norm? And is anything of value lost when we submit to art's violation?

Transgressions is not a comfortable—still less a comforting—read, but it has a powerful urgency that makes it an essential document for anyone involved in our cultural life at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

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