The Invention of Non-Art

Friday February 6, 2015
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

“The Invention of Non-Art” a public talk by Thierry de Duve

Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory presents:
“The Invention of Non-Art” a public talk by Thierry de Duve

Often seen, together with other Dadaists, as the inventor of non-art and anti-art, Marcel Duchamp was in fact the messenger of a sea change in the art institution: he brought us the news that, between 1880, the date of the last Paris Salon under the aegis of the Ministère des Beaux-Arts, and 1917, the date of the first exhibition of the New York Society of Independent Artists, the art world has switched from the Fine Arts system to the “Art-in-General” system, in which we still live.

In the “Art-in-General” system, art can be made from anything whatever. As a result we are often incapable of identifying a given object as a work of art before appraising it as good or bad art, and the phrase “this is art” then becomes an aesthetic judgment. In the Fine Arts system, by contrast, aesthetic judgments are phrased as “this painting is good,” “this piece of music is sublime,” and the like. How did we move from “this painting is good” to “this thing is art,” historically, and theoretically? I shall argue that the move implies an earlier transit through the negative aesthetic judgment, “this is not art,” and that the concept of non-art resulting therefrom is not an invention of the Dadaists; rather, it is an involuntary by-product of the binary structure of the aesthetic verdicts cast at the 19th century French Salon.

12:00 pm
Friday, February 6, 2015

Space is limited for this lecture – please RSVP to

Audain Art Centre
Room 1002
6398 University Boulevard
Vancouver, BC

Historian and philosopher of art, Thierry de Duve is Professor Emeritus from the University of Lille 3, and was Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, for the fall semester of 2013. His English publications include Pictorial Nominalism (1991), Kant after Duchamp (1996), Clement Greenberg Between the Lines (1996, 2010), Look—100 Years of Contemporary Art (2001), and Sewn In the Sweatshops of Marx: Beuys, Warhol, Klein, Duchamp (2012). He is presently finishing a book of essays on aesthetics, forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.