writer, art critic
Just when it seemed that contemporary art writing and the subject of real-life politics had permanently parted ways, along comes the young New York critic Ben Davis with a book that brings them together. No cheerleading here, no swoony prosody, no easy kiss-offs; just smart, ardent, illusion-puncturing observation and analysis on the intersection of art, commerce, and—the elephant in the art-fair VIP lounge—class. None of this would matter much if he didn’t tell us why we should care, but he does. Under all his excoriations lies a faith in art as an agent of transformation toward a post-neoliberal, post-greed society that could be, should be.
The book’s analysis of how capitalism divides artists from their allies in the struggle makes it a valuable wake-up call.
Bracing, provocative, exasperated, and good-humored, Davis is skillfully committed to getting the best out of art and art theory—and the world.
Radical critique of the art market, creative labor, aesthetic political output, curating, and criticism—with teeth.
While Davis is clearly having fun slicing up contradictions and revealing the hypocrisies papering over them, he doesn’t get in the way of his ideas. He’s the rare critic who enjoys ideas more than being right. The great twist is that he is right, and in big but precise ways that he articulates accessibly, writing both for art friends and organizing comrades. Refreshing doesn’t begin to describe it... We should hold town halls on this book.
Like watching an expert pole-vaulter ply his craft, witnessing this critic reach for first principles in this day and age constitutes its own reward... On 9.5 Theses, the verdict is crystal: This is one helluva pamphlet.
By reminding artists where they really stand, Davis hopes, in the end, to put them on firmer footing, both politically and creatively.
Davis is deeply attuned to contemporary art and the contradictory ways it is expressed and contained within culture more broadly. More than a book of political essays, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class offers a fresh theory that is useful to anyone wrestling with the challenges of what art is or can do.
Davis’s passion for art is obvious, and his intellectual curiosity for a wide range of topics makes this a thoroughly interesting read that’s sure to generate further discussion.
Davis, a young art writer who has served as an editor and writer for such online publications as Artnet and Artinfo, produces work that is measured, earnest and idealistic. He takes on big subjects, handling them with clarity and aplomb. These topics include the relation of art and politics, the real meaning of postmodernism, the nature and nurture of creativity and, most extensively, the meaning of class in the contemporary art world.
Davis is an intellectually clearheaded critic dishing out some tough truths, often backed up with statistics, to the rarefied ‘art world.’ . . . The book reframes the production and sale of art in tough terms, which is why the collection’s centerpiece, 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, should be required reading for art professionals. In this first book, Davis proves himself a critic to be reckoned with
Written beautifully and for all of us... this book has a high purpose that many attempt and few fulfill. It is a compelling and convincing reminder of why art matters and what’s ultimately at stake.
9.5 Theses on Art and Class is the first book I’ve read by an art critic that spoke to the world I lived and worked in as an artist. Incisive, irreverent, and intellectually fearless. A truth-bomb of a book.
[a] slim, urgent book about an increasingly standardized, commodified life.
Damn, you can’t doubt the class system of the arts after Ben Davis tells it like it is. The art world’s screwed up, guys, and it needs to change.
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