National Review / Digital
Null, Spacy

The <I>Levitated Mass</I> stone (AP)


A spokesman for the museum defended the project, of course. There’s not much of a future for telling the press, “I know, I can’t believe it myself. The entire course of Western art, utterly spent. I saw it coming, I have to admit — I did my doctorate on a rusty I-Beam stuck in the desert — the Mote in God’s Thigh, I think they called it. Years later we found out it just fell off a truck. Ever since then it’s all been a joke for me. I sit in the office and try to appreciate a Norman Rockwell ironically, as a form of commercial Christianist-paradigm-reinforcing propaganda, but that doesn’t even work anymore.”

Sorry. As I was saying, a spokesman defended the project, noting, “We are putting more people to work here in L.A. than Obama.” Way to set the bar high, champ. (Note: If Obama’s a benchmark of poor job creation among L.A. museum directors, he’s really toast.) But the man’s right. If the American economy ever picks up again we will be perfectly positioned to lead the competitive global rock-relocating industry — or would be, if the moving company weren’t Korean. But then we’ll find that China is producing cheaper boulders, blasting them out of mountains instead of finding le rocher juste — the art equivalent of human-organ trafficking — so perhaps we should compete with the Europeans, who are much less inclined to crude huge projects than we rude Americans, and prefer to push around small rocks with the handles of espresso spoons by means of understated gestures.

Who funds the artist in his other projects, such as an immense unoccupied city built on private land in the desert? The Lannan Foundation, one of those organizations that give money to artists to do socially important things, like put on a Howard Zinn play about Marx. (Really.) Who founded it? J. Patrick Lannan, an arts patron — but more to the point, a member of the board of directors of ITT for 36 years. Wikipedia describes him as a businessman and financier. It is silent on his enthusiasm for Marx.

Speaking of Karl: Would the Occupy Wall Street crowd applaud Levitated Mass or be appalled? That’s a lot of money that could feed the poor or erect a guillotine for bankers or fund simultaneous nationwide drum circles to raise consciousness about the need for awareness. (Last week’s drum circle was intended to raise awareness about consciousness.) On the other hand, it’s art, and modern art is the one theology whose tenets cannot be questioned. The Occupiers should take the long view: In 50 years all that nasty evil money will be in the hands of the heirs, and they’ll fund a documentary on your noble cause. Unless everything falls apart, that is. Then we’ll all be in the negative space.

October 31, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 20

  • Bobby Jindal is leading Louisiana’s revival.
  • Celebrating a remarkable Supreme Court tenure.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Tracy Lee Simmons reviews James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser.
  • William Tucker reviews The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, by Daniel Yergin.
  • Michael Novak reviews The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan, by Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C.
  • Eli Lehrer reviews The Collapse of American Criminal Justice, by William J. Stuntz.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Ides of March.
  • John Derbyshire laments the passing of ‘supererogate’ — and more.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .