It was the early Eighties when I was invited to Washington D.C. to engage in a conversation about the National Endowment for the Arts. To my great surprise and delight I encountered two friends at this meeting, the founders of The New Criterion, Sam Lipman and Hilton Kramer. It should not be a surprise to the readers of this publication that these men of extraordinary erudition dominated the proceedings.

It was agreed that the three of us would share a cab to the airport and ultimately a flight back to New York. I was seated in a middle seat between them. The conversation reverted back to the day’s events: Should the NEA receive government subventions? Is it good for the arts? Does the marketplace value genuine art?

After about five minutes it was clear I was a human ping-pong ball being hit from the left...


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