The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Miserable Level of Discourse (1990)

New York Times, August 12, 1990. Letter to the editor.

With regard to Michael Brenson's article "Is Quality an Idea Whose Time Has Gone?" [July 22], the art world is truly moronic. How can any self-respecting professional say that quality and content in art are opposed or exclusive of each other? How can the director of the Pompidou Center in Paris say that he has eliminated the word quality from his vocabulary? Was it ever part of his vocabulary? Isn't he embarrassed? Doesn't art have quality and content? Aren't they possibly the same thing? What kind of art does he like, art with more content? Does this mean he likes big realist paintings better than small abstract paintings, or what?

We really do have a miserable level of discourse in this business. It's like street interviews on TV. "You're for Quality? Well, hey! I'm for Content!" There is no definition of terms, no systematic argument, no intricacy of reasoning. There is only a self-important, self-referential little bunch yakking at each other in unreadable magazines about the latest thing in self-righteous power-tripping. That's why people in real professions, such as science and medicine, or law, or even politics, think we are so weird. It's appalling.

The Times noted: "The writer is chairman of the department of art and art history at the University of Miami.