Like many cultural institutions in New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has suffered a sharp decline in attendance since the terrorist attacks of September 11. This has had some regrettable consequences, including some planned layoffs at the museum and the postponing of a much awaited exhibition devoted to the early twentieth-century Russian abstract artist Kasimir Malevich.

But just as many a dark cloud has a silver lining, so the Guggenheim’s sudden drop in customers has had at least one salutary result: the indefinite postponement of an exhibition of work by the contemporary performance and video artist Matthew Barney. Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic for The New York Times, has declared that Barney is “the most important American artist of his generation.” But talk is cheap. Take a look at Barney’s rebarbative performance pieces; then ponder what the chief art critic for our paper of record wrote. No wonder E. H. Gombrich worried about loosening tongues.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 20 Number 4, on page 3
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