This book is an introduction to the history of the concept and the institution of (fine) art, from its ancient Southern European roots to the establishment of the modern system of the arts in eighteenth century Central Europe. It highlights the way the concept and institution of (fine) art, through colonialism and diaspora, conquered the world. Ryynänen presents globally competing frameworks from India to Japan but also describes how the art system debased local European artistic cultures (by women, members of the working class, etc) and how art with the capital A appropriated not just non-Western but also Western alternatives to art (popular culture). The book discusses alternative art forms such as sport, kitsch, and rap music as pockets of resistance and resources for future concepts of art. Ultimately, the book introduces nobrow as an alternative to high and low, a new concept that sheds light on the democratic potentials of the field of art and invites reader to rethink the nature of art.
Max Ryynänen is senior lecturer of theory of visual culture at Aalto University Finland.
Preface: Know Your Enemies
Introduction: Why Should Kids in the Suburbs Learn the Aesthetic Hobbies of the Eighteenth-Century Central European Upper Class?
Chapter 1: The Central European System of Art
Chapter 2: Diaspora, Colonialism, Overshadowed Alternatives
Chapter 3: Highbrow as Cultural Appropriation
Chapter 4: The Lively Arts: Kitsch, Ice Skating and Other Attempts to Foster the Beautiful
Chapter 5: A New Art Form”: How Rap Music Knocked on the Door of the Art System in the 1990s
Chapter 6: Nobrow
A bold, refreshing cultural critique of the system of the fine arts. Reading this book will transform your thinking about art. Absorbing and informative, here is a book with personality.
In his book On the Philosophy of Central European Art, Max Ryynänen embarks into the much needed labor of rethinking and redefining categories of the Central European artworld that have stood partly unchallenged for too long or dealt with without the necessary depth. He questions these class-driven, ethnic, and hierarchical conceptions of art as they imply the superiority of “fine arts” presupposing others as inferior, rough arts . Ryynänen revises the conception of nobrow which disputes the high brow–low brow classifications of art in a didactic and easy to read text that will certainly ignite further discussions.