“A tract for the times”. As Reith lectures de 1960 por Edgar Wind
In the last months of 1960, the art historian and philosopher Edgar Wind delivered that year’s BBC Reith Lectures, which made him a well-known public intellectual. Under the title of Art and Anarchy, Wind criticized throughout six lectures several aspects of modern art, including its marginalization and formalism, the practice of connoisseurship and the scepticism towards knowledge, the effects of mechanization upon creativity and the artist seclusion from society. Wind’s critiques, even though the end result of a lifetime of historical research and philosophical speculation on the artistic phenomenon, were formulated in response to contemporary events (i.e., the European artistic system, Britain in special, in the late 1950s and early 1960s). According to Wind, Art and Anarchywas a tract for the times. This article describes the reasons why Wind was invited by the BBC to deliver the 1960’s Reith Lectures, examines the aims of his critique vis-à-vis the artistic developments of those years, and evaluate his position as a public intellectual questioning the assumption that a wide diffusion of art was intrinsically good for society. Our main hypothesis is that Wind, by choosing Art and Anarchyas the title of his lectures, was engaging directly, albeit in an ironical sense, with Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy.
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