Tom Wolfe, social satirist and best-selling author, was on hand the evening of November 28 at the Asia Society in New York to give the second of this year’s four “Distinguished Lectures on American Art and Culture of the Twentieth Century” sponsored by the Whitney Museum’s Department of Public Education. The series’ three other speakers are Leo Steinberg, J. Kirk T. Varnedoe, and Robert Hughes. That Wolfe is not as serious—or, to use the Whitney’s term, “distinguished”—a thinker on art as his fellow lecturers was a fact not lost on the small audience in attendance, comprised almost entirely of Whitney members and art-world people. Nor was it lost on the Whitney sponsors themselves. Russell Connor, the Whitney’s Head of Public Education, facetiously remarked in his introduction that, as he spoke, the movie people were backstage negotiating with Wolfe for the...


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