From time to time an exhibition comes along that so vividly encapsulates the bad taste, the bogus ideas, and the purblind vulgarity that have been such pervasive characteristics of the art world of the Eighties that the show becomes, in effect, a land of Baedeker to contemporary cultural horrors—to horrors, that is, that are offered to us under official sponsorship in the name of art. Admittedly, we are nowadays treated to so many shows of this kind that serious opinion will inevitably differ as to which of them may rightfully be considered the worst. My own vote, pending further investigation, goes at the moment to a grisly little spectacle called “Morality Tales: History Painting in the 1980s,” which opened the season at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery and Study Center in New York and which has now begun its dispiriting, two-year tour of no less than eight North American museums.


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