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978-0-520-21861-1 / 0520218612

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About the book:

What is art? Who defines it? And why is high art so remote from most people? With the same puckish humor and critical genius that made them the bêtes noires of Soviet cultural commissars, the Russian émigré art team of Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid takes on not only the billion-dollar American art industry but also capitalism's most venerated tool: the market research poll. With the help of The Nation Institute and a professional polling team, they discovered that what Americans want in art, regardless of class, race, or gender, is exactly what the art world disdains--a tranquil, realistic, blue landscape.
Painting by Numbers includes the original questionnaire and reproductions of the "most wanted" and "most unwanted" paintings the artists made based on American survey results and on polls they commissioned in ten other countries--including Russia, China, France, and Kenya--representing almost one-third of the world's population. Essays by JoAnn Wypijewski and noted art critic Arthur Danto, as well as an interview with the artists, explore the crisis of modernism, the cultural meaning of polls, the significance of landscape, and the commodificaion of just about everything.

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