Farewell to an Idea by T.J. Clark
Modernism was always troubled by its epoch and this tension helped produce some of the most wonderful pieces of modern art. As soon as non-representational art began to dominate the art world the importance of art as critique grew. The critical element inevitably allied itself with those movements that defined an emancipatory project and, in modernism's time, in our time, that project was socialism. With what has been seen as the end of the socialist possibility with the fall of the Russian empire and its Eastern satellite states, and the subsequent confirmation of the bankruptcy of Official Marxism, modernism no longer had a project of realisable utopia to link itself to. Modernism has ended, like Marxism, without reaching its goals. But did they depend on each other? Was the fact that they were coterminous merely a coincidence? How did they interact? What was the nature of their mutual engagement?
T.J. Clark's Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism is a beautiful, vital, polemical volume, peppered with stunning reprints, that charts the conversation that these meta-narratives had, investigates the art that was produced, and questions and improves our understanding of what modern art really is.